Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a guide for web accessibility techniques. It is split into three parts for: Developers; Designers; and Content providers and editors. One good tip for inserting links in text is not to use “click here”, “more”, “full information” etc. They advise that each link should clearly indicate its destination or function out of the context of the text surrounding it. The information focuses on practical advice and direction for anyone involved in web development, design and writing content. Topics covered include developing accessible data tables, using colour wisely, and writing well structured content.
The advertising industry has some the most creative minds. They have the job of finding the right message at the right time to the right people. But what about people that can’t see that message? People who a blind, have low vision, or colour blindness could be among them. According to the Centre for Inclusive Design blog, there are some 357,000 people who are blind or have low vision in Australia. And it’s not just about advertisements. Simple design flaws can be found almost every day; things like using white text on an orange or light blue background, or grey on light grey designs. The blog site has some easy tips to follow. Axess Lab also has more on colour vision deficiency.
It’s all very well having web designers familiar with the accessibility requirements in their designs, but what about the people who post content on the website? In many organisations staff write their own material and send it to the webmaster for uploading. But is their writing and format also accessible? It is easy to post a document that might have been originally meant for another reader, such as a submission to a government body, but perhaps an Easy English version should be considered for the ease of access for all readers?
The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has some easy tips to follow for those who write content or upload documents.
Another good example of simplifying your text is the Easy English version of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
There are three Universal Principles of User Experience Design according to Christopher Murphy in an Adobe blog. They are: Visual Grammar, Language and Typology, and Narrative Design. Understanding of other principles from psychology, anthropology and economics can be overlaid on these principles. As new technologies are imagined and invented they create problems that have never been solved before. Murphy argues that if you keep the the principles in mind at all times, the solutions stand a better chance of standing the test of time. The article goes on to explain the three principles in more detail. For people who are not involved in ICT some of the ideas and strategies are still relevant to other design disciplines – graphics are used in lots of places.
“As designers working in an ever-changing field, it’s important that we develop an understanding of the timeless design principles that underpin everything we do.” The three principles, “…which should sit at the heart of everything we design and build, are critical and will stand the test of time.”
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 of course, avoid jargon. Note that .doc files don’t have the same accessibility features as the newer .docx (Word 2010).
Most people would not think about making a comic accessible for people with a vision impairment. Comics are, after all, very visual. The article from axesslab has two short videos showing the before and after treatment of a comic strip. The best that has been achieved in this area so far is basic alt-texts that are picked up by screen reader. They tend to just say things like “background”. The accessible comic reads well thought out alt-texts which explain what’s happening visually and what’s written in the text. A bit like audio description for documents. The comic is “100 Demon Diaries” and the article was found on the axesslab website, which is a good example of web design – love the large text.
Most people think of universal design as being something for the built environment, but it is much more than that. Service design is an important factor in access and inclusion. There have been major disruptions in how we shop, get take-away food, share our accommodation and our cars. Universal design thinking processes have a major role to play in service design. This is the thinking of Airbnb and other similar platforms. The article in FastCompany lists a few things to think about. Here are the headings:
- Let a user do what they set out to do
- Be easy to find
- Clearly explain its purpose
- Set the expectations a user has of it
- Be agnostic of organizational structures
- Require as few steps as possible to complete a task
- Be consistent
- Have no dead ends
- Be usable by everyone, equally
- Work in a way that is familiar
- Make it easy to get human assistance
- Require no prior knowledge to use
Some of these aspects could be applied in other situations too.
As the digital age moves ahead we need to make sure we aren’t creating a digital divide between those who are up to date and those who aren’t or can’t be. The canaxess website has three on-line and downloadable fact sheets that provide some of the simplest but effective advice. For example, in Principles of accessible video – don’t set to the video to scroll on opening. In Principles of accessible forms – don’t use an asterisk to indicate a mandatory field – screen readers announce “star”. In Principles of accessible bots – placing in lower right of the screen is difficult for keyboard users. For people who upload information or documents to their website, there are some good tips. For others who know about coding there is really helpful information. There is more information on the canaxess website.
Why is a Word document often preferred by some readers over a PDF document? They are more accessible for more people. Not everyone can see well; can use a mouse, can read English well, can remain focused easily when they read, and not everyone uses assistive technology. And not all PDF documents can be read by screen readers. In a slideshare Tammy Stitz explains some of the issues and solutions. She covers some of the technicalities as well as basics such as colour contrast, reading order and Alternative Text (alt-t). Logical structure, use of headings and placement and attributes of hyperlinks. The slideshare goes on to cover a list of things that need to be checked. Finally you can test the document using PDF Accessibility Checker. There is also such a thing as a PDF Association.
A nicely written and easy to read article on the Axess Lab website explains that the WCAG – the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were only updated to include vision impairments and assistive technologies. But what about hand control? Motor impairments were not included, but this doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. Uusing a smart phone can be very frustrating when bumping to a page that’s not wanted and having to get back again – frustrating for anyone, but more so when it happens all the time. Axess Lab have provided some simple design solutions. See the article for more and for more about WCAG. Axess Lab lives the message and has a really clean site with easy language – a good example for others. Lots of resources here.