Handbook for accessible graphic design

Front cover of the handbook. Bright yellow with black text.Graphic design covers all kinds of creative design and visual communications. The accessibility of graphic design is not always considered in the production of websites brochures or Word documents. Fortunately there is a great handbook for accessible graphic design.

Graphic design covers creative design, visual communications, applied design and technology sectors. So the handbook covers typography, digital media, web accessibility, Office documents, accessible PDFs, print design, environmental graphic design, colour selection and more. It’s written for an easy read and has a logical structure. At the end is a list of publications, links to websites and tools to help. This excellent resource comes from Ontario, Canada.

There are so many little things that graphic designers can do to make their creations more accessible. The guide unpacks them to show it can be done with little, if any, extra effort. The title of the guide is, AccessAbility 2: A Practical Handbook on Accessible Graphic Design.  

 

Accessibility in UX Design

Infographic showing three groups of disability: permanent, temporary and situational.
From the Microsoft Inclusive Toolkit

The Web Accessibility Guidelines aren’t just for web designers and tech people. We all need to have an overall grasp of what they are about. As we do more online it is important we don’t make things inaccessible by mistake. Claire Benidig introduces the concepts of accessibility in UX design using the guide from Microsoft.

Cognition, Vision, Hearing, Mobility and Mental Health are all covered in an easy to read way. So, non-tech people can understand.

If we know about the basics of web accessibility, we can give a decent brief to a web designer. Then we will we can check if the Web Accessibility Guidelines were built in. Many designers still think of accessibility as an add-on feature.

Claire’s article is titled, Accessibility in UX Design.  She says that accessibility is not confined to a group of users “with some different abilities”. Anyone can experience a permanent, temporary or situational disability. An example of situational disability is having just one arm free because you are holding a baby or the shopping. 

Microsoft inclusive design principles state:

“Exclusion happens when we solve problems using our own biases. As Microsoft designers, we seek out those exclusions, and use them as opportunities to create new ideas and inclusive designs.”

Inclusive online meetings: Preparation is key

two laptops are open on a desk and one has several faces of people who are online.There’s been a few articles about working remotely and participating in online meetings. But there are a few nuances, little things, that need attention so that meetings are inclusive. An article from the Commons Library says it is not about the technical details. Rather, it’s about the culture and processes particularly for mixed face to face and online participation.

The article covers:
– Meeting preparation
– Collaboration tools
– Meeting process
– After the meeting

Some of this is basic, but the transitions in and out of lockdowns means more hybrid meetings – some face to face and some online participants. This is not easy for participants. Internet dropouts and other tech problems such as poor sound add to the mix of issues. This is where the chair’s role is very important because body language and facial expression are all helpful in making sure everyone gets to contribute.

Hosting hybrid online meetings is also covered by Blueprints for Change.  It has some Tips and Tricks.

For hybrid meetings, everyone in the room should be on camera. This can mean a rearrangement of the room and careful placement of the camera. 

“In a hybrid meeting environment people who are on screen should be assigned a buddy who is in the physical room. Their buddy regularly checks in with them, talks to them on breaks, makes sure they can see and hear at all times. Buddies might even bring them to break/snack conversations so they don’t miss the in-room side conversations.”

 

Colours that are accessible

Colour diagram showing the three different types of colour vision deficiencyColour is an important part of designers’ creative work. When it comes to colour accessibility the creative path takes a few twists and turns. That’s because people who say they are ‘colour blind’ are not all the same. Most can see some colours, but not all of them. So how can designers choose colours that are accessible, especially in digital communications?

Adobe has a blog page that explains the importance of choosing colours. Four images show the three different versions of colour vision deficiency, which are:

    1. Protanopia: Referred to as “red weakness,” this variation of red/green color blindness results in individuals being unable to perceive red light.
    2. Deuteranopia: Also known as “green weakness,” this type of red/green color blindness renders people unable to perceive any green light.
    3. Tritanopia: People who suffer from blue/yellow color blindness have difficulty distinguishing between blue and yellow colors. This form of color blindness is far less common than its red and green counterparts.

Graphic designers will appreciate the colour wheels and ways to avoid a conflict of colours. Examples of good colour choices show that designs can still be attractive as well as functional.

Manisha Gupta says in her article Color choices that are accessible

“Color is a foundational element in any creative work. When I took the challenge to design the Color Accessibility feature for Adobe Color, it wasn’t a linear path. While I was conducting research and learning more about accessibility, I realized there was no single tool that holistically helps a designer make a choice of colors that are color-blind safe — a choice that impacts roughly 300 million people globally. This made the case for bringing accessibility into Adobe Color even more compelling, and it is one reason why Adobe wants accessibility to be part of every creative’s process right from the beginning of a project.”

You can try out the online Material Design accessible colour tool that provides information on colour contrasts for visual material. 

Zoom communication and dementia guide

The Zoom logo in blue against a white background.Adjusting to online platforms for our work and social life during the pandemic was relatively easy for many. But for some, the situation isn’t so easy. This can be the case for people with dementia or those who get confused easily with anything tech. Zoom is relatively easy to use, but it is good to get some help. Dementia Australia has developed a useful guide and fact sheets that are useful for everyone.  

Using Zoom – Guidelines for meetings is a straightforward guide to getting started with a meeting on Zoom and joining a meeting. It includes meeting etiquette and using the Zoom toolbar functions.
Using Zoom – Participating in meetings is a comprehensive guide to the whole process of meeting from getting started to when things go wrong.
Zoom tips – How to join a meeting is a step by sept guide with pictures of screenshots.
Zoom tips – How to get the best out of the experience has several dot points that will help all participants in a meeting.
Zoom tips – On holding a dementia-friendly meeting has helpful dot points for running a meeting with people with dementia
Zoom tips – Tools and examples has examples from other help sheets with some good key points and how to use a phone to meet.

Let’s Talk brochure is a general guide for including people with dementia in conversation.

In a media release, Dementia Australia reminds us that there are an estimated 459,00 Australians living with dementia. Most live in the community and need to use technology to stay in touch with family and health care professionals. 

Editor’s note: For all professional meetings, remember that live captioning helps everyone get the message. It’s inclusive practice. The big advantage is the transcript that follows. It’s essential for webinars especially if they are made available after the event. It’s about being inclusive.

 

Screen readers and web content

A computer page showing JAWS for Windows screen reader home pageIf you haven’t seen it in action, screen reader technology is not what you might expect. Experienced users listen at a speed most of us couldn’t contemplate. But screen readers are only as good as what they are given to read – it is a machine after all. The way web content is written, described and placed makes a difference to the efficiency of the reading device and the user.

Axess Lab has a four minute video of a how a screen reader works.  If you haven’t seen this before it makes for fascinating viewing. In the video Marc Sutton explains some of the basics. The Axess Lab website also has advice for the more tech side of things as well for desktops and mobile readers.

Web designers might do all the right things in designing the site pages, but sometimes it is the document uploads where things fall apart for screen readers. For example, when you insert a table into a document, have you ever thought about how a screen reader might decipher this? Marc Sutton shows what happens and how to make it more accessible.

Vision Australia has a YouTube clip with a Jaws user explaining how it works for her. Nomesa blog site has additional information. 

Screen readers work with the computer’s operating system and common applications. It relays information either by speech or Braille. The majority of users control things with the keyboard, not the mouse.  If web pages are well structured, screen readers can interact easily. There are good reasons why websites should suit screen readers

 

What is user experience?

Graphic of a male sitting behind a computer screen with the words web design on the wall behind him.Technology has advanced to a point where almost anyone can set up a website – no coding experience needed!  It’s easy to get carried away with glitz, glamour, flashing signs and a swinging carousel of images. This is where user experience, or UX, comes into play. And let’s not forget web accessibility. Many of us have something to do with a website. So whether we contribute to one, manage one, or are commissioning one, there are some basics to know.

First some statistics. Seventeen per cent of users will not return after just one bad experience. Forty-eight per cent of users are annoyed by sites that aren’t mobile friendly. 

The DreamHost blog has two articles, one explaining how UX works, and the other is about web accessibility. It’s a pity they weren’t joined up into one article. Accessibility is not an optional add-on. It should be considered from the outset of the initial design and be a continuous process for ongoing content. 

While the UX article focuses on “target audience” and forgets this audience might need accessibility features, it has some useful advice. No need to get too bogged down with detail here. It covers navigation, content, animation, and responsiveness.

The article, 10 ways to make your website accessible is a good start for anyone new to the concept. It covers many of the basics such as colour choice, adding descriptions to images, and text size. Avoid tables for presenting data because screen readers can’t read them unless they are coded correctly. An accessible site expands the potential audience and helps with search engine rankings.

See also Web accessibility techniques: A guide and the section on ICT guidelines on this website for more information. 

Editor’s note: We do our best with accessibility and rely on in-built coding with the free software we use to keep the site running. We receive no funding to run this service. However, we welcome feedback if you find specific difficulties with this website. 

Colour contrast checkers for web

The colours of the rainbow arranged as a wheelAlmost anyone can create a website or add content these days. It doesn’t have to be an IT specialist. One the most basic accessibility features is colour contrast. No matter what level of vision we have, we all need contrast. But how much contrast is enough? And what about colour combinations?

Vision Australia has a colour contrast analyser and instructions on how to use it. The analyser is a tool for checking foreground and background combinations. It also has a function to simulate certain vision conditions such as colour blindness. There is more information on their webpage. The contrast information is also useful for printed material.

For the more tech people, the Axess Lab website has links to seven free tools that help you measure color contrasts that meet the contrast requirements in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). With almost everything in life being linked to the internet, it is important to make sure sites are fully accessible. Colour contrast is important for many with low vision, but accessibility does not have to equal boring. By going to the website you can see more on each of these seven free tools: 

Editor’s note: I recently saw a page with two sentences in large font, all upper case, in light green against a white background. Note that upper case is also difficult to read – it doesn’t make the information any clearer to the reader. Light green isn’t great either.

Cognitive disability digital accessibility guide

Front cover of the cognitive disability media access guideWebsites 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.

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.

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.

iPhone in Braille

Kristy Viers is sitting in a T shirt and shorts with an iPhone in her hands.How does Braille work with an iPhone? Easy when you know how. A short video by 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 the FastCompany 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