Digital Access and Usability

Layers in designing a website compared to a M&M with HTML at its core, CSS, Javascript and packages for accessibilityThe Interaction Design Foundation understands that accessible design is not just for people with disability, but about how all users engage with design. Aside from recognising that World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C-WAI) should be considered at the start of the design process, they also offer other helpful tips in making your website user-friendly in their article, Accessibility: Usability for all. Here are some examples of their tips and advice: 

  • If you use a CMS, choose one that supports accessibility standards. Drupal and WordPress, for example, support these. If you’re going to amend a template rather than create one for the theme, make certain that the theme was designed with accessibility in mind. It can save time, effort and money.
  • Use header tags to create headings in your text; ideally, ensure that you use CSS to make this consistent throughout the site. Try not to skip from one heading level to the next (e.g., H1 to H4, rather H1 to H2); this can confuse screen reader software. Users with more severe vision impairments may access your site using a refreshable Braille display or terminal, which depends on screen readers.
  • Use alt text on your images; if you use images to enhance content, then a screen reader will need to explain them— that’s what the alt text is for. However, if your image is purely for decoration and adds no other value (other than looking good), you should skip the alt text to avoid confusing someone having the site content read to him/her.
  • Have a link strategy. Screen readers sometimes stutter over links and stop on the first letter. That means it’s important not to have “click here” links scattered through the text. The best link descriptions have a text description before the link and then a unique name for the link. (E.g., “Read more about the Interaction Design Foundation, at their website.) Consider offering a visual cue (such as a PDF icon) by links to make it clear what the link will deliver. Use underlines on links (they help color blind people distinguish links from text). Highlight menu links on mouseover to assist with locating the cursor.
  • Choose colors carefully; if in doubt, test your color schemes with some color-blind people. Color blindness is an incredibly common disability, and the wrong palette can make it difficult for a color-blind person to read your text or navigate your site. You also need to ensure that you provide high levels of contrast between text and background; older people, for example, can find it hard to see text unless the contrast is high.
  • Don’t refer just to the color of something when giving instructions; “click the red button” isn’t helpful to a color-blind person. …

Read the full list on the Foundation’s websiteScroll down for the section on website design. There is also good information on other design ideas.   

Mobile banking for everyone

two male icons showing how a disability can excludeBarclays Bank has been a leader in inclusion and accessibility of their branches and now taking the next step to mobile banking. The short video below explains clearly how inclusive design is good for everyone as well as the bank’s profits. The video ends with a call to action: “Accessibility – make it your mantra”. Mark McLane from Barclays Bank will be speaking at the AND national conference on diversity in Melbourne in May. There is a great line-up of speakers.

 

Media and Communications

Front cover of the guideMedia 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. The original guide was funded by Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in 2013. The website has more useful guides.

Time for the inclusive revolution

book cover showing outline drawing of an older couple with an iPad tabletThe sub title from the e-book “Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility: Time for a revolution!” says it all. The book includes chapters from UK, Denmark, USA, Slovenia and Norway. The theme is the digital age and how to include everyone. It covers the economic case, putting people at the centre of the design, keeping it simple, and user testing.

In the foreword CEO of BT Retail, Gavin Patterson, says, “The experts interviewed for this book have given all who are involved in developing technology food for thought. It sets out the opportunities, challenges and impacts that communication solutions present to users, to help ensure that what we develop in the future does not end up excluding people whose lives we actually set out to improve. “

Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility is published by the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge and is free to download. Several well known authors are featured, including Valerie Fletcher, Roger Coleman, Ger Craddock, Hua Dong, and Baroness Sally Greengross.

Seeing Red – or is it Green?

Colour diagram showing the three different types of colour vision deficiencyNot everyone experiences colour in the same way, yet the use of colour in illustrations is rarely questioned in terms of universal design. If people with Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) are not included when illustrations, charts and images are designed, what colours should a designer use to include the 8% of the population with CVD? There are three types of CVD as shown in the image: green blindness, blue blindness and red blindness. People with CVD also have other difficulties in discerning some types of text, shapes and lines.

Preparing Images for All to See explains in detail how people with different versions of CVD experience colour. The article also gives some great guidelines for illustrators, map makers and others who communicate using coloured images. Included is a summary of the most frequently cited best practices for publication, presentation and instruction. Here is a synopsis of their recommendations.

  1. Select graphic styles for accessibility and use bar charts instead of pie charts 
  2. Distinguish items by more than color. Use circles and squares and solid and dashed lines. 
  3. Red and Green usually have the same hue (density of colour) and can’t be distinguished. Dark red–dark green, blue–violet, red–orange, and yellow–green are also not good. Magenta and turquoise are good choices because people with RedGreen-CVD can see the blue component.
  4. Make fonts and lines thick bright and with contrast.  
  5. Avoid rainbow color maps as this is the worst possible choice

You can also find out more about CVD or colour blindness from going to the National Eye Institute website

Three circular charts showing how people with colour deficiency see different colours on the colour wheel

 

 

Web Accessibility

shows six types of social media iconsEver wondered what “W3C” means on websites? Web accessibility is becoming increasingly important as we move ever closer to reliance on computers and other internet devices. Web accessibility is not just a matter for people who are blind or have low vision. The online AFB Access World Magazine gives some background to the W3C organisation and includes easy to read information for making websites more accessible. The webpage begins:

“As society continues to become increasingly more reliant on the World Wide Web for essential products, services, and information, the importance of inclusion and accessibility in the digital arena has rapidly become a right and a necessity. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) plays a leading role pertaining to digital access and the Web. W3C represents an international community consisting of member organizations, full-time staff, and participation from the public related to Web standards. At the helm of W3C is none other than the inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee. W3C launched the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in 1997 with endorsement from the White House and W3C members.”

All webpages, blog pages, or uploaded documents or pictures should be accessible and this information is a good start – not just for website managers, but others who provide newsfeeds, documents and pictures for their website. You can access more information in the ICT and UD section of this website.

 

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling: images of pack shots

Image showing the design and content of good product labellingAs an adjunct to the Inclusive Design Toolkit, the Inclusive Design Team at the University of Cambridge are publishing success stories of inclusively designed products and packaging in a regular bulletin. Included in the latest bulletin is a really interesting demonstration video of e-commerce image recommendations (see below for video). When the shopper is trying to work out the brand, the format, the variant and the size of a product on a mobile phone or tablet, the images just blur and it is often pot luck with choosing. They claim Mobile Ready Hero Images are better than conventional pictures of packages in fast vertical scrolling. The video was made by Cambridge University in conjunction with Unilever. More detailed information and image recommendations can be found on this link.

Woolies supermarket trolley showing two types of handle gripsAlso in this latest issue they have published an article based on the final panel session from the 2016 Australian UD conference, The Economics of Inclusion. It showcases the Woolworth’s supermarket trolley with two types of handle grip and a cup holder.

Note: I found the upright grip good for controlling an empty trolley and the horizontal grip good for controlling a heavy trolley. So having both types of handle was great – very convenient and easy to use! Jane Bringolf

Accessible websites: debunking the myths

Stylised picture of a group of computer monitors in various shades of blueIn a straightforward fashion Cris Broyles addresses five common myths about what you can and can’t do to make websites accessible. So no, they don’t have to be boring with just plain text and no images. Yes, you can use images, videos, and audio clips. And no, it is not enough to ask a blind friend to check the website. And it doesn’t have to be difficult – with the right resources it can be done. 

Cognitive disability digital accessibility guide

Front cover of the cognitive disability media access guideMedia 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.

Media Accessibility Guide

Front cover of service providers accessibility guideMedia 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.