The FastCodesign website has another interesting article about design. Every designer has the principles they work by. So they asked eight prominent designers, “What is the one principle you never compromise on?” The answers are consistent with universal design principles: Good design is both invisible and obvious; Ignore trends; Ban mediocrity, Design to elicit emotion; Articulate your purpose, honestly and explicitly; Users are people not statistics; Design thinking isn’t for designers and; Design for the big idea. See the article for the designers’ explanations.
eBay is another big brand that is embracing digital accessibility. “Digital accessibility is a way to improve your bottom line and avoid litigation, but more importantly it is a way for a brand to become an even better version of itself”, says Mark Lapole. He claims that neglecting to incorporate feedback from people with disability is potentially ignoring 15% of all people who could be interacting with the brand, and therefore participating and contributing to the economy. Mark’s article, Creating a Company Culture that Promotes Accessibility, lists five key points and is published on the Applause blog site. It is a company that specialises in accessibility assessments and user feedback. You can tell he’s taken their advice – the font size on the webpage is large and clear.
For more local advice see Media Access Australia. They have lots of resources to help make the digital world accessible to all.
Editor’s note: Products, buildings, policies, can all become “better versions” of themselves if they do some thinking around inclusion. It doesn’t just apply to websites.
The UK Government has produced a series of six posters to raise the awareness of designers of people with different digital access needs. They cover: low vision, deaf and hard of hearing, dyslexia, motor disabilities, users on the autistim spectrum and users of screen readers. The posters are divided into Do and Don’t to help keep things simple. However, downloading a copy of the poster does not seem so simple, but it can be viewed online. The content of each poster is listed on the webpage titled, The Dos and Don’ts on designing for accessibility.
The dos, that run across various posters, include using things like good colour contrasts, legible font sizes and linear layouts. While there might be some conflicts, such as some people needing bright colour contrast and others not, the guidance also advises to check with users to find the right balance. The posters have been produced in different formats to suit different users.
The Australian Government has produced a short video, Web Accessibility: what does it all mean? The first important point made in the video is that web accessibility is not about disability – web accessibility is about universality. There is no speech in the video. Instead all the messages are delivered by interesting text. At the end there is a link to more information. There is no speech in the main version, only upbeat background music and poster messages in the video below. You can get speech with the video or you can get an audio only (MP3) version. This is a great example of providing information in different formats where the original design is not universally accessible.
Another acronym has arrived: MOOC – Massive Open Online Course. These are unlimited open access courses delivered online and devised for wide participation. So now it is important to think about accessibility of these courses. Enter MOOCAP. This is a joint European project and the name stands for MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership. This project is to provide education on accessible design in ICT. MOOCAP will create free online courses that show how to “create accessible media and content, such as web sites, mobile apps and office documents”. The MOOCAP website itself is a good example of how to do things well. They also offer a wide range of specialised courses:
Accessible Documents Intellectual disability and inclusion Inclusive teacing and learning environments Accessible Gamification Design Innovation: Inclusive approaches Accessible Mobile Apps Assistive Technologies User Interface Personalisation Accessible Web User Centred Design for Accessibility
You can subscribe to their newsletter. There is detailed information on the website on each of the specialised courses. Note: Open Educational Resources are made available under the terms of creative commons. These can be shared as long as they are attributed to the creators.
The Inclusive Design Team at Microsoft have written a thoughtful piece about artificial intelligence (AI) and inclusion. They ask, can AI be racist? What if a software algorithm for facial recognition was based on light skinned people, how would it recognise dark skinned people? Using these questions they discuss how bias in a system can cause design “missteps”. The consequences of these missteps are that trust between the design system and the user is diminished. As the digital world expands, we need to have trust in the technology and programming for it to be of social and economic benefit to us all.
Microsoft says its first inclusive design principle is to recognise exclusion and identify bias, which could apply to any design professional. The articlegoes on to describe five biases: Association, Dataset, Interaction, Automation, and of course Confirmation bias. An interesting article because the digital world touches all of us. So you might also be interested in Weapons of Math Destruction that discusses the role that software and its algorithms play in our lives without us realising it.
There are many resources and articles that remind us of the economic value of including people with disability and older people. Each person with disability can influence the spending decisions of another 12 to 15 people who are colleagues, family members, business owners and other service providers. Making products, services and buildings accessible is only part of the job of inclusive business. The task is completed by creating promotional materials, websites, telephone systems and customer services usable by all. The Accessible Information and Communication: A Guide for Small Businesswas developed by a consortium in Canada. It provides tools for small business operators to help create accessible information and promotional materials. There are checklists to help assess the current situation, some thoughts on organisational commitment and employee training, and some technical information about accessible formats. It also includes an example of an Information and Communications Accessibility Plan and implementation strategies. This is a detailed document that covers all aspects of information and communication. There is no place for “fine print”. The guide was developed in Canada by GAATES* but the content is applicable anywhere. There is also a web-based version of the document.
* Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES).
Smart phones have changed many things about the way we live.There are apps for almost anything. Some are of particular benefit to people with disability and create greater convenience and independence. Smart phone owners will be familiar with Google Maps for navigating both short and long distances. The maps also contain additional information about parking, places to eat, toilets, and more. For people with wheels, knowing the level of accessibility is critical to their journey and destination planning, whether its a holiday or a local restaurant. Google is encouraging people to sign up to their mapping project that will expand their database of accessible places, spaces and points of interest. You can find out more about this projectand see two really interesting videos. One is a wheelchair user in Chicago, and the other is in Indonesia – she uses a modified motor bike to get around. There is also a short introductory video with the key points.
Of course, parents with strollers or anyone with wheels, or with difficulty walking will find this map information useful, so this is taking us closer to a universally designed world.
Barclays Bank has taken a new set of inclusive design principles developed by The Paciello Group, and made them their own. They’ve styled them into two posters that make it easy to see how to design for all. While these seven principles are aimed at the digital world, the principles can be applied to other fields of design. You can download the A3 poster which gives a quick overview. Or download a more detailed set of A4 posters. Barclays Bank began investing in inclusive practice many years ago but they haven’t rested on their laurels. They also encourage their business customers to get on board with accessibility. You can read more about the article from The Paciello Group website.
Which icon does what, and where will the video end up so that it can be found again? Hampus Sethfors in an Axesslab article, uses the example of trying to download a TED Talk on a smart phone for viewing later. He explains why icons are ruining interfaces He argues icons need labels otherwise users give up after a few unsuccessful tries and become unsatisfied with the app. Sethfors says, “Icons are like abstract paintings. They get different meanings for different people. It’s all through the eyes of an observer. And that ambiguity is really exciting with art. But not so much in user interfaces.” Saving space at the expense of usability is not the way to go. Sethfors also uses Instagram, Gmail, and Apple apps as examples of what not to do. He goes on to look at icons on a washing machine dial, and then to icons that really work. You can really see the difference.
People who design these things make a lot of assumptions about previous experience with instructions and ways of doing things.