Websites and smart phones are not always user-friendly for everyone, particularly people with cognitive conditions. With information coming to us in various digital formats and platforms it’s important to be inclusive and accessible.
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.
Centre for Inclusive Design (formerly Media Access Australia) produced this guide. Although it was published in 2016, most of the information is still relevant.
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.
How does Braille work with an iPhone? Easy when you know how. A short videoby Kristy Viers shows sighted people how a blind person uses the Braille facility on an iPhone. Fascinating. If only more product and building designers were so inventive.
In theFastCompany article there is a second video showing how Viers uses an iPad to do more complex things. Note that the text to speech is relayed at a speed similar to a sighted person reading. Viers has launched a YouTube channel with more information.
Instead of trying to use the tiny keyboard, she can flip the phone and type with the six dots of Braille. So much faster for her.
Developers responded with thanks to her Twitter posts which offer informal education. The videos are filmed by her boyfriend and uploaded as a single, unedited take. The title of the FastCompany article is, Meet the YouTuber who’s schooling developers on how blind people really use tech.
People can have low literacy skills for several reasons such as a brain injury through a stroke or accident, or a cognitive condition. People with English as a second or other language, and people not used to navigating websites also find Easy Read helpful. So we are not talking about a few people.
This particular website is focused on girls and women with disability. However, the information is good for boys and men as well. Large clear font, graphics, short headlines and few words make this easy to navigate. At the top of the page is a link to turn Easy Read off. But this doesn’t mean lots of words in tiny font. Also very easy to read.
The tabs list key topics: Your Rights, Lead and Take Part, Life Choices, Sex and Your Body, Safety and Violence. The also have a section on the other accessible functionsof the website. It includes other languages, screen readers and Auslan.
At last someone is living the message and has truly joined the dots between people with disability and website design.
Social media platform designers beware. If you “forgot” accessibility for everyone, you will soon be reminded. Then it’s too late and costs more to fix. Costs include lost customers. Twitter found out the hard way when launching “audio tweets” according to a blog article on UX Design. Saying it is an “early version” does not improve the matter for would-be audiences.
It seems Twitter doesn’t have a dedicated accessibility team and that’s where it should start. You can’t tack it on at the end. It’s not the cherry on top, it has to be mixed in with the other ingredients and baked in.
The blog article also discusses Naughty Dog, a game developer that has considered just about everyone. That is, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people who are blind or have low vision, and people with mobility or motor control issues. Their website has a list of accessibility presets.
Courts and justice systems across the world are going through a digital transformation. It’s happening behind the scenes and up front. But are these systems and processes inclusive? A survey in 2018 revealed that court administrators don’t know about the advances in inclusive solutions. With the current pandemic, reliance on technology has increased. So this matter is more urgent now.
Technology is making it easier for court staff. For example, their payment and filing processes. But we run the risk of making it more difficult for people who find themselves the subject of court processes. The survey by G3ict and International Disability Alliance revealed that people with disability face significant barriers in the justice system – digital and non-digital. As a result of this survey, G3ict has come up with an Inclusive Courts Checklist. It lists 10 Core Capabilities and related Enabling Activities.
The ten core capabilities include, a digital inclusion strategy, leadership, budgeting, and a culture of inclusive engagement, diversity and transparency. The checklist provides a short overview of the issues and the survey, and the checklist is presented as a table. The checklist is on the G3ict website where you can find more useful publications.
Elements of this checklist apply to other organisations that are moving to digital processes and practices. This checklist has a focus on people with disability, but could equally apply to people from diverse backgrounds and to people who have little or no experience of digital applications.
“We need to do this for compliance, let’s figure out what to do and then we are done.” What you measure, is what you get and no more so than when standards ask for minimum compliance. It is the same in any field of design.
However, the big tech companies claim they do much better than compliance these days. And it has more to do with company culture than teaching better design.
Accessibility is a fundamental part of good design says Matt May from Adobe. He is an accessibility engineer and was part of bringing Adobe up to speed on this topic. He offers some tips for prioritising accessibility in a magazine article. They could apply to any design discipline:
Take the time to educate all teams on the elements of an accessible product. May ran a training to encourage all teams from design to product, engineering, and even sales, on how to think about and prioritize accessibility.
Introduce a diversity of users to the team to show how different people engage with the tech. Adobe hosts a speaker series where the company brings in a variety of users to highlight how they interact with tech.
Take a holistic approach to accessibility. Adobe’s teams integrate accessible design features in the planning phase to create a more fluid experience for all users.
Focus on what each team can do to improve accessibility, rather than making it all about the business value.
Writing “click here” to link to a web page or electronic document is intuitive for the writer. But not to all readers. This is particularly the case for people who use screen readers. Writing “click here” or “download here” requires the reader to make sense of the words before and after to get the context. This is workable when you can visually read the page. However, a screen reader is a machine and can’t do this for the user.
It’s hard for a user navigating the page audibly if the link text isn’t clear. They can’t be sure where the link will take them. When a link has a focus the link text is announced by the screen reader. If it isn’t created clearly it can be difficult to understand. Link text is clear when it makes sense on its own away from other text.
Websites that don’t work are very annoying. It’s hard to get the information you need when the site is slow to load or badly designed. Now Google Search is in the process of optimising for more intuitive, user-friendly page design in their searches. Perhaps designers could look no further than universal design.
From next year Google Search will favour websites with great user experience (UX). It won’t just be looking for keywords – it will be looking for a good user experience. Google is one of the large companies that is also promoting web accessibility. So access features should be included in their user-friendly mix.
“As part of a new set of best practices, the company will start factoring user experience into its search results, as well as the top stories feature in mobile search. Google is no longer just optimizing for information that’s closest to your keywords, but optimizing for a more delightful web. Intuitive, user-friendly page design is about to become even more important.”
Alt-text is a description of an image that’s shown to people who for some reason can’t see the image. Alt-text mainly helps people with little or no vision, people who turn off images to save data, and search engines. So what should you write?
As more people are getting the hang of writing alt-text, we are seeing a little more finesse emerging. A recent blog post from Veroniiiica explains what to include when describing buildings and architecture.
The type of structure that is being shown, such as a house, church or monument.
For landmarks, mentioning the name of the structure is helpful, such as the Space Needle or a building at a specific university
The general size of the structure – is it a small house or large skyscraper?
The colour and material of the structure, which is especially helpful for historical structures
Any distinctive features
Any text or relevant signs in the image
More specific details about building might include:
The size of the structure, such as the height or number of storeys
The city or country the structure is located in
The scenery and time of day, if it alters the appearance of the structure such as a night view or a rainy day
Depending on the reading audience, you can include the name or description of the architectural style
However, this is not an exercise in prose so don’t try to include everything, but relate it to the accompanying text or purpose of the image. There is more information in the blog.
Make your product more usable by more people in less time. That’s a great aim, and it is the opening line in the IBM Equal Access Toolkit. With many websites remaining inaccessible, this toolkit assists web developers and designers increase accessibility. It comes with Accessibility Checkers and has reporting tools for accessibility conformance.
Non-tech people should also have a look at this Toolkit especially if they are in charge of contracting a web developer for their website. Or when they update their website.
There are five steps: Plan, Design, Develop, Verify, and Launch. The process inolves the whole team regardless of their level of expertise.
The Equal Access Checklist is where it gets technical and links to the WCAG2.0/2.1 Checkpoints. There are four principles underpinning the process.
1: Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
2: Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
3: Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
4: Robust – Content must be robust enough so it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
For an overview, G3ict has a media release explaining why this toolkit is needed. Accessibility is an issue that comes up in legal and policy discussions in many organisations. While many websites have improved their accessibility there is still a long way to go. It is worth noting that a new site might be fully accessible but as new material is uploaded, it isn’t always checked for accessibility over time.