Media Access Australia has produced yet another great media guide for including people who have a cognitive disability. The Cognitive Disability Digital Accessibility Guide is designed to provide practical, step-by-step information for designing and delivering effective best-practice web and digital communication. It provides useful information on:
- Guidance on policies and technical standards that best apply to people with cognitive disabilities in an organisational context.
- Creating websites that support people with a cognitive disability.
- Developing documents structured and written in ways that support people with cognitive disabilities.
- Preparing communication messages for people with a cognitive disability.
- Understanding how best to support people with cognitive disabilities in their ability to use computers and mobile devices.
The Guide also covers traditionally-implemented accessibility guidelines of WCAG 2.0 Level AA as well as looking at the increasing relevance of Level AAA requirements. It also delves into the role of affordable consumer devices such as tablets and helpful apps.
Of course, if the design is suitable for people with cognitive disability, there is a very good chance it is going suitable for everyone.
People with cognitive disabilities or impairments include: acquired brain injury, autism, dementia, developmental disability, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and learning difficulties in general.
Your website might be W3C and WCAG compliant for accessibility, but what about the documents you upload? In some organisations operational staff are expected to write material such as fact sheets, promotional flyers, and other documents for uploading to the website. Larger organisations might have an editor or someone in charge of media and communications. But do they all know what is required to make these documents accessible?
Media Access Australia provides Seven Simple Tips for smart Word doc accessibility. While some of the advice looks a bit technical, most of it is fairly basic such as creating Alt-text for images so that a screen reader can identify the picture or graphic. Another good point is not using terms such as “Click here” to go to a link. Instead, embed a hyperlink within the name of the file that is in the text. And the perennial one, avoid jargon. Note that .doc files don’t have the same accessibility features as the newer .docx (Word 2010).
Microsoft has produced a great set of resources to introduce digital designers the the world of inclusive design. You can download separately the manual and activities in PDF, and the informative videos. The website has additional resources of interest including gaming and film making. There is an opportunity to download the text to the videos so that people using screen readers can access the content. Videos are captioned. Microsoft are living the message with their own web design and content.
Media Access Australia has produced a comprehensive quick reference guide for accessible communications. Although the target audience is service providers that deliver support to NDIS participants, it is useful for all organisations that want to make their information accessible. The contents include information on how people with disability access online information, producing and distributing messages, publishing content online, accessible emails, and engaging with social media. Examples of where this Guide may provide useful information include:
- Setting up a new computer for a person with a disability.
- Formatting internal documents in an accessible way to help employees with a disability.
- Creating an accessible website.
- Ensuring that people with disabilities can access important social media messages from a service provider.
The original guide was funded by Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in 2013.
Event organisers not only have to consider physical access – they also have to consider communication access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, while one in six people in Australia have a hearing loss, this aspect of events is often forgotten by event organisers and venue managers. Communication accessibility is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. While some venues claim that a hearing loop is installed, this may not be sufficient, particularly if it is not functioning as is often the case. Also, not all deaf people wear hearing aids with the requisite “T” switch.
Deaf Children Australia have produced a comprehensive set of guidelines for event organisers covering Auslan interpreters, live captioning, and hearing loop technology. At the end of the guidelines is a useful checklist.
People who have a hearing loss often choose not to reveal this aspect of themselves, consequently organisers receive little, if any, feedback about the efficacy or otherwise of hearing loops. People with and without hearing loss often find captioning useful particularly if they have English as a second language, or if the speaker has an unfamiliar accent. More technical detail on hearing loops can be found on the Clearasound website.
The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a comprehensive Toolkit that takes potential purchasers of IT systems through the process of procurement, inlcuding assessing potential suppliers, and overseeing the successful implementation of accessibility features. It also shows how to build the skills required to manage the accessibility of the resulting system and user interfaces once the set-up phase is complete. This means ensuring that documents staff produce for uploading to the website also meet the accessibility criteria.
Download the IT Procurement Toolkit here.
To find out how to improve the accessibility of a website, you must find out the current level of accessibility. A web accessibility audit measures the accessibility level of your website against accessibility standards. It should lead to a list of actions to make your site more accessible to all users. This useful resource from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design will help demystify the auditing process, and help identify the actions you need to take.