Older people and web facts

Infographic showing the proportion of people using various aspects of the internet. It’s often assumed older people are unable to cope with technology and the world wide web. This stereotype is incorrect. Keep in mind that people who pioneered computers and the internet are in their sixties. So the generation that started it all is actually quite active.

Perhaps if everyone over 60 were not collectively termed “the elderly” we might start to see stereotyping improve. Nevertheless, Axesslab’s blog page, Real Facts about the Elderly and the World Wide Web puts things in perspective, at least in the United States. Here are some key points: 

    • People in the baby boomer generation spend around 27 hours weekly online.
    • Of the group aged over 65, seven out of ten go online daily.
    • 82% of those in both groups run searches online related to what they’re interested in.
    • Two-thirds of seniors use the web to access weather and the news
    • 57% shop online.
    • 44% want information about food and cooking.
    • 43% use it to play games.
    • Almost half go online to check for coupons, daily deals, and discounts.

There’s a handy infographic with statistics on the Medalerthelp webpage, but watch out for the pop up ad in the body of the text. It shows the results from a comprehensive survey in lots of detail. The picture above is just one section of the infographic.

Editor’s note: Regardless of the people who do use the Internet, those who don’t are seriously disadvantaged as more businesses and government services move to digital mode. 

Designing technology for neurodiverse users

a drawing of matchstick figures in all different colours standing in a line.Neurodiverse people already know they need to be involved the design of emerging technologies from the very beginning and throughout the process. But this isn’t always recognised by designers. A new paper supports their claims and concludes that neurodiverse users should be engaged as active participants “front and center in the research and design process”. The ten researchers involved in the project say that Human Centred Design works better than the principles of user centered design. You will need institutional access for a free read from SpringerLink. However, it is also available on ResearchGate.

The title of the paper is, Designing Technologies for Neurodiverse Users: Considerations from Research Practice

Abstract: This paper presents and discusses the perspectives of ten investigators experienced with design of technologies for and with neurodiverse users. Although the advances on emerging technologies improved their potential to assist users with neurodiverse needs, existing methods for participatory design, usability tests and evaluation have been created for, and validated with, able-bodied users. User-centered design methods are not always well-suited to meet the unique needs of neurodiverse individuals. Therefore, to involve neurodiverse users iteratively in the design process, investigators need to adapt traditional methods from HCI to successfully conduct user studies. Through an online questionnaire, we identified the experimental designs commonly adopted and the major problems investigators face during recruitment, data collection, analysis and design. Based on the analysis of the investigators’ experiences, we provide nine recommendations to conduct studies with neurodiverse users, aiming at engaging them as active participants front and center in the research and design process.

 

Web designers are diverse too

Part of a computer screen showing code.The diversity of users is often discussed in relation to universal design and accessibility. But what about the diversity of designers and their preferences? A research team in Norway checked this out with software designers and found there are “significant differences in team members’ preferences, particularly for those with different roles”. So, software teams should not choose a single method for all team members when it comes to creating accessible web designs. 

The research report covers an evaluation of methods preferred by developers and those testing for different impairments. Developers preferred more technical methods and personas. Testers who use the WCAG* walk-through regularly did not rate this method highly, perhaps because they find it tiresome. This indicates a need for a different method to be developed.

The title of the paper is What Methods Software Teams Prefer When Testing Web Accessibility, by Bai, Stray & Mork.

*WCAG is the World Content Accessibility Guidelines which are international standards published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Editor’s Note: It is likely that this line of questioning applies to other design fields too.

 

Choosing colours for websites

Colour diagram showing the three different types of colour vision deficiencyColour vision deficiency or colour blindness affects around 10 per cent of the population. But each person varies in what colours they can see, which is why it is not “colour blindness”.  So what colours are best if you want all readers to enjoy colours on your website? Colour choice is not just a matter of making it look good – it can affect the readability of text and graphics as well.

A small qualitative study looked at two websites to assess their readability and usability by people who have colour vision deficiency. The researcher analysed body text, background and links and found they had an affect on the usability of the websites. The research included designing two websites and then testing them with survey participants. The results should be read in conjunction with the methodology otherwise it won’t make sense. The conclusion section does not provide the specific outcomes.

The title of the article is, The effects of color choice in web design on the usability for individuals with color-blindness.  This is a Masters theses.

 

Plug and Pray? AI and Emerging Tech

Front cover of Plug and Pray report People with disability are often early adopters of new tech, but these new ideas can also come with unintended barriers to users. As we improve built environment accessibility, it is important we don’t fall into the same design traps with digital designs. Plug and Pray? A disability perspective on artificial intelligence, automated decision-making and emerging technologies is the title of a report by the European Disability Forum. There are two versions of this report: the standard full text and an Easy Read version. The Easy Read version is great for non tech people. It is a great way to get your head around the many issues that need consideration without wading through lots of words.

Getting subtitling right

A brightly coloured film strip with the word Video on it.The European Union funded a project to find out more about subtitling and how best to do it for immersive media. Media accessibility usually focuses on users with disability, but this group chose not to go that route. Instead they took a broader section of participants. One of their conclusions fits with other findings on universal design – make it part of the design from the beginning. The findings from this research have recommendations that are good for everyone. One key point is that creation and production processes should have testing that includes users with diverse capabilities. The title of the article is From disabilities to capabilities: testing subtitles in immersive environments with end users“.  With more content being delivered online and the rise of virtual reality and other types of media, this is an important contribution to understanding how best to present current media, as well as media that will be developed in the future. 

From the Abstract:  To illustrate this point and propose a new approach to user testing in Media Accessibility in which we would move from a disability to a capability model. Testing only with people with disability brings poorer results than testing with a broader range of people. This is because subtitles (closed captions) are not just for people are deaf or hard of hearing, but for everyone. This means they should be considered a mainstream feature of video and film production, not an add on feature. The study addresses issues with vision, colour, and being able to navigate digital services to find and use the subtitles. 

Inclusive designing includes technology

A young woman sits at a desk with her laptop open. She has her face covered by her hands and is indicating distressDesigners rarely design to exclude, but sometimes it just happens. Creating digital materials that are usable and accessible means many more people have access. Here is a book chapter that introduces readers to the ways people with disability use technology. It includes specific steps you can take and highlights the benefits of accessible design. Testing by people with disability is informative and should be included in the design process. As always, planning for accessibility from the start is always more cost-effective than fixing problems later. The title of the chapter is, “Designing for Inclusion: Ensuring Accessibility for People with Disabilities”.  You will need institutional access to SpringerLink for a free read. Otherwise there is a payment option. The book is titled, “Consumer Informatics and Digital Health”

Mobile apps, smart cities and older adults

A hand holds a smartphone with various apps showing. A computer keyboard is in the background.With talk of Smart Cities, it is important for older people to be included in digital designs. Twenty-two industry built apps were evaluated in this open access study from Trinity College Dublin. Some were designed specifically for older people, and others for a broader target audience. Text re-sizing and zooming were the main issues. Overall, the apps did not meet accessibility principles of being perceivable, operable, or understandable for older people. The platforms supported accessibility settings, but for older people, finding these settings is a problem.

The article is titled, “Are Mobile Apps Usable and Accessible for Senior Citizens in Smart Cities?” It provides a comprehensive review and good conclusions. It is expected that more people will use mobile apps and computers to accomplish daily tasks and to access important information and services. This kind of study and ongoing research is therefore important.

Abstract. The population in cities is expected to exponentially grow by 2050, and so is the world population aged 65 and over. This has increased the efforts to improve citizens’ quality of life in urban areas by offering smarter and more efficient IT-based services in different domains such as health-care and transportation. Smart phones are key devices that provide a way for people to interact with the smart city services through their mobile applications (Apps). As the population is ageing and many
services are now offered through mobile Apps, it is necessary to design accessible mobile interfaces that consider senior citizens’ needs. These needs are related to cognitive, perceptual, and psycho-motor changes that occur while ageing, which affect the way older people interact with a smart phone. Although a comprehensive set of design guidelines are suggested, there is no evaluation on how and to what extent they are considered during the mobile App design process. This paper evaluates the implementation of these guidelines in several industry-built Apps, which are either targeted at older people or critical city services Apps that may benefit older people, but are targeted at a broader audience.

Website design guides compared

A pair of older hands are placed over the keyboard of a computer.Buried in this paper is a comparison chart of web design features for improved accessibility for older people. Older people have been singled out in this study because they are most at risk of being left out of the evolving digital world which includes e-health and internet based health information. The authors have combed through several guidelines and picked out the main elements that relate to this group because the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are deficient in this area. So they have turned to organisations such as the US-based AARP for the additional design features needed to help deal with motor and cognitive issues, and low vision. The article is in both English and Spanish.

The title isReview of accessibility and usability guidelines for website design for the elderly people

ABSTRACT: By 2050, the growth of the elderly population in Colombia is estimated at 10% and thus a greater demand for special services (such as health services) for the elderly. This justifies the exploration of digital health content as an important source of information for this population. The accessibility and usability guidelines for website design – e.g., TAW and WACG – do not have special guidelines to mitigate the motor, cognitive or visual disabilities characteristic of aging, which become a barrier for this group to consult necessary information for administrative processes that involve health. This review of accessibility and usability guidelines is presented, facilitating the consumption of special contents and generating better interactions with such systems, which will lead to the construction of guidelines based on existing recommendations that allow the development of aspects related to interaction, legibility and usability in digital content for the elderly.

Mapping Access: People, Place and Justice

picture of a Google map with icons for parking and transportCreating access maps using data collected from individuals is part of a Google Maps project. But there is more to this than just knowing how to get from one place to another when you are a wheelchair user. What does it say about architecture and how we value citizens? Codes for architectural compliance do not include the human perspective of how people actually use places and spaces and relate to each other. This point is made in a philosophical article by Aimi Hamraie, “Mapping Access: Digital Humanities, Disability Justice, and Sociospatial Practice“. She covers the history of access mapping and uses a university campus as a case study, and challenges notions that access mapping is just a database of directional information. Hamraie claims she has developed a methodological tool for “excavating the politics of design embedded in the most banal features of everyday built environments”. A good read for anyone involved in mapping, GIS projects and the architecture of digital inclusion.  

Note: This article uses academic language and concepts, but is thorough in discussing all aspects if the issues.