Microsoft has produced a great document that spells out the need to design inclusively. The way the issues are explained can be applied to any design discipline. This resource is a best practice example of how to present a persuasive argument for designing universally. Here is a sample from the text:
“Inclusive design has a strong heritage in accessibility. There are great examples of inclusive practices from architecture, physical products and public spaces. Yet, digital technology presents new opportunities to expand this expertise in new ways. In this toolkit, we define inclusive design as a set of practices that can be applied to any existing design process. Inclusive is how we design. It’s our tools and methods. In comparison, accessibility offers ways to improve access to what is already designed. A curb cut is still a curb. The cut makes the curb more accessible. Inclusive design gives us ways to design for ever-changing human motivations and needs. And design systems that can adapt to fit those diverse needs.”
Download the toolkit here
why companies should care about web accessibility
Web accessibility is not just for a handful of people who have difficulty with vision or operating a mouse and keyboard. Everyone benefits from designs that are easy to use. A screen that can be navigated quickly and logically is the fastest and easiest for everyone.
But the real reason companies will pick up their act is the threat of legal action by disability advocates. “Companies that fail to design accessibility into their digital experiences face a very real risk of reduced revenues, lost customers and a damaged reputation that can be hard to measure. Target, for example, had to shell out roughly $10m in damages and legal fees to settle a class action lawsuit with the National Federation of the Blind and agreed to make its site accessible to the many disabled customers who had trouble navigating it.” For more go to the article in the Guardian.
Ability Technology has a great website providing solutions to everyday accessibility problems, with computers and mobile phones. Topics include using email, writing, reading, using the keyboard and playing games. There is also a section on environmental controls such as opening doors, operating lights, switches and air conditioners.
Ability Technology also conducts research and papers can be accessed on their website as well.
In this increasingly digitised world, the principles of universal design are becoming more of an imperative in software design. One of the basic tenets of UD is user involvement, but in software design this comes late in the development stage. Damien Gordon and Ciaran O’Leary from the Dublin Institute of Technology report on their study using the principles of universal design to form guidelines for software development. They present the study and the findings using the classic principles of universal design. Well designed graphics assist understanding.
Extract from the Abstract: “An often overlooked element of Universal Design in software design is to consider the software itself, on how it is built, and how it is formatted, using the lens of Universal Design. Given that the reality is that most code will be modified by a developer who may be unknown to the original developer, it is important that code is designed (both in terms of build and format) in such a way that it is future-proofed and therefore universally designed.”
Accessibility guidelines are in place for websites and webpages, but we need to go further and start to consider people with vision impairment who use mobile apps. Making IOS compatible with Braille is the purpose of this study. The authors conclude that a set of development guidelines are needed similar to the web guidelines for accessibility.
From the abstract: In this revolutionary time of expanding tablet use and app development, universal design and accessibility is paramount to the construction of mobile apps. Some issues in accessibility are easily identified and may be addressed at the onset of software development. However, guidelines for software development are minimal (Sapp, 2007), particularly in relationship to mobile app development. Despite efforts to create universally designed software from the onset, many issues with accessibility are unknown until the app is in use. Similarly, teachers, students, individuals with disabilities, technology specialists, parents, and users of a particular device may identify a variety of different needs and options that make an app user friendly. In some cases, the app may be fully accessible, but successful use of the software requires advanced technology skills (Sapp, 2007), and the development team must simplify the user interface. To address ease of use, the opinions of a variety of different users, especially teachers, who have varying experiences and technology skills during development is critical (Falloon, 2013). The purpose of this paper, is to share the research-based, iterative, and organic process of development that authors used to create the iBraille Challenge Mobile App.
Download Methods in Creating the iBraille Challenge Mobile App for Braille Users
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. 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.
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. Unfortunately the website has pale lettering on a white background.
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. Anecdotally, 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 Printacall website.