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.

7 tips for smart Word doc accessibility

Graphic of Microsoft Word with a cartoon person scratchng their head 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).

Digital Divide: Age and Equity

Two hands of an older person are poised above the keyboard of a laptop computer.Older people are getting left behind in this digital world, especially if they are women and don’t live in a major city. The Conversation reports on the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) which measures which social groups benefit the most from digital connection, and which ones are being left behind. The score is based on access, affordability and ability to manage digital devices. While regional areas don’t have the same access to internet services as cities, there are programs that can help older people get internet-savvy. Telstra has its Tech Savvy Seniors program and the federal government has a Be Connected Program, and there is the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association. There are others listed in the article including an internet cafe set up by Umbrella Multicultural Community Care. The title of the article in The Conversation is, The digital divide: small, social programs can help get seniors online.  

The ADII also measures how things change over time for people depending on their circumstances. After all, Australia’s digital divide is not going away. 

Communication strategies for inclusion

Two green statues, one a man the other a woman sit facing each other in a gesture of communicating with each other.There are lots of reasons why some people have difficulty communicating. It can arise from a brain injury, a stroke, or a condition such as motor neurone disease. Inability to communicate easily often means that people avoid social situations due to feeling inferior. The Conversation article, We can all help to improve communication for people with disabilities, lists some of the simple things that remove the barriers to communication. They range from the kind of devices used by Stephen Hawking, to just giving the person time to finish what they are trying to say. Speech is just one aspect of the issue, hearing is the other. There is useful information under each of the headings in the article:

  1. Remove communication barriers
  2. Prepare for communication success
  3. Build a conversation together
  4. Use communication aids and alternative strategies when you talk.  

Easy Read good for everyone

Front cover of the document. The title is in red text and the graphic is a stylised Aboriginal dot picture in greens and yellowsIf you haven’t seen an Easy Read version of an official document, have a look at the Easy Read version of the National Disability Strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People with Disability. The Australian Government is working towards better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  An Easy Read document for people who don’t actually need an it is great for getting a quick grasp of the content when reading time is short. Once again, something originally designed with a small group in mind suits a lot more people. The Australian Government’s web page has links to full PDF and Word versions, and there are audio versions as well. 

Captioning – how is it done?

Front page of the video - deep yellow background with white text and an Auslan interpreter is standing readyThe Australian Government has produced an interesting video showing how captioning is done. It is a behind the scenes look and captioners tell how they do it. You can see them at their desks in action. One point of interest is that programs made overseas often have captions, but they don’t always come with the program when a network buys it. Intellectual property rights become problematic and in the end it is often quicker and cheaper to re-do the captions here in Australia. So that might account for why SBS is more likely to have uncaptioned programs than some other networks – unless they are subtitled of course. It is worth noting in live captioning situations that the captioner has to be able to hear the speaker and manage the speed of their speech. Good reason to speak up, speak clearly and not talk too fast. Good for other listeners and lip readers too! There is a second video showing how to turn captions on.  Note: automatic captions by Google can’t interpret speech properly and there is no punctuation. Some people call this “craptioning”.