Anyone buying or selling online wants the best possible view of the product. Buyers want to see relevant size and shape and key information. Sellers want the maximum number of sales. Making visual information clear, and easy to read and understand is key. Coles supermarkets has devised an image guide for suppliers to make products more readily recognised. So viewing products online with Coles should get easier for everyone. eBay sellers should also note.
The Coles guide is based on work carried out some years ago by the Inclusion Design Group at Cambridge University. This work is updated as they continue their research. The Coles guide is easy to read and gives instructions about images that suppliers should send them. These instructions are good for anyone who has a product or merchandise to sell.
The guide covers the use of 2D and 3D images, out of pack images and lifestyle images. The Coles website will feature a first image with the brand with the option for further images with a click. This gives the opportunity to see front, back, left and right side of the product.
How did you choose the colours for your last website update? Did you choose colours based on your brand logo and text or use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) algorithm? But can an algorithm guarantee good colour contrasts on digital screens? Probably not. Visual perception is personal and much depends on your eyesight. Maybe it means using humans and not algorithms. But we need some form of standard to guide colour contrast when designing web and app pages. The WCAG contrast formula has tried to do that. However, Sam Waller reports there are some deficiencies with it.
This is important information for choosing brand logos and text so it isn’t just something web designers should know. Many website designs are guided by brand colours so choose carefully.
The article has examples of greyscale and colour contrasts and you can decide which work best for you. It’s best to narrow the screen for the coloured examples to limit the number visible at one time.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have guided the whole ICT industry in access compliance. Billions of dollars in digital design are based on these guidelines. It’s formed the basis of ICT procurement around the world. Waller says to check out the examples in his article and give feedback via his LinkedIn article. The screenshots shown are just a sample from his article.
A previous postalso shows how colour combinations make a big difference in contrast and legibility. There also information on colour vision deficiency which Waller also mentions at the end of his article.
Few would argue the moral imperatives for web accessibility but actually doing it is another matter. And it’s not just about the warm fuzzies of inclusion – it’s good for business. Quintin Balsdon and Brian Bestexplain why software developers still don’t ‘get’ accessibility. They even go so far as to say some software developers aren’t even sure what it means. This means you can’t assume your new website will be accessible even if the developer says “it will meet access standards”.
According to Best, some businesses think near enough is good enough. They don’t realise the scale of the issues because they think it affects a really small number of people.
Apart from the moral benefits, accessible software creates a superior user experience for everyone. That’s a big business advantage when 80% of people just don’t come back to a difficult website or app.
Practical tips for accessibility
Balsdon and Best make three points.
Shift your mindset: Acknowledge accessibility is not niche and that it’s an opportunity for innovation.
Process change: Educate your teams about the importance and look at your testing procedures. Code review is not enough – include user experience.
Ask the experts: For example, Open Inclusion’s website has a framework and a network of testers with different access needs.
Every software team should have a network of people ready to discuss designs from the start and test as the software develops.
And another thing…
Non-tech people are happy to engage a web designer to take care of their website. But how do you design a scope of works to get a good job if you don’t know what to ask for? How do you know if the designer really knows about accessibility?
The designer needs to demonstrate understanding of visual, auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical and speech needs of users. If they have a network of people with different access needs and actually practice user experience design (UX), so much the better.
People are gradually getting the hang of putting alt text for their images in Powerpoint slides, but there is more to do. Sheri Byrne-Haber provides adviceon making accessible PowerPoint slides by using the inbuilt accessibility checker. Some of her advice is reproduced below the screenshot of the accessibility checker.
The screenshot below shows an example of the Accessibility checker tab in PPT
Some presenters use only picture slides and in this case it’s essential to provide alt text descriptions. Providing the text of the speech in the notes section increases accessibility. The notes section is also the best place to put long descriptions rather than in alt-text.
Use the master template for repeated images such as company logos. This hides the information from the screen reader so it doesn’t have to swipe through every time. Graphics marked as decorative in the alt text box will allow screen readers will ignore them.
Captioning is essential for videos, but people need to have choice in whether to use it or not. Not all videos need described audio, but first running the video with eyes closed will give an indication. Byrne-Haber’s article has many other useful tips.
Accessibility and inclusion begins with procurement for any project. Often a scope of works is done by a non-expert to get the expert. But if the scope isn’t targeted correctly, the consultants are committed to sticking to the scope in the contract. So, the consultants are “doing the thing right” but not necessarily “doing the right thing” for the intended outcome. Consequently, staff involved in procurement activities need to understand access and inclusion basics. That means co-designing of the scope of works to include accessibility requirements.
“Procurement policies are a critical lever in increasing accessibility. They set out the expectation, standards and criteria for how goods and services will be purchased, and through this the city can ensure the acquisition of universal designed products and services to safeguard the equitable development and participation of all.”
A procurement policy or code of conduct can:
clearly document and ensure compliance with national legislation on accessibility and procurement, or
define a clear approach for ensuring inclusive and accessible services that demonstrates alignment with globally recognized standards, even if national legislation does not exist.
While the focus of the advice is on ICT procurement, the principles are applicable to other types of procurement.
The model policyset out on this website looks very wordy and not an easy read. It’s aimed at city planners and policy makers in the context of smart cities. However, it does set out processes for tendering and contract management. It also includes a section on training, awareness and capacity building for all stakeholders.
The model policy is worded in policy-speak so that cities and local government can copy and paste sections. The website has various Standards in an annexe and includes Definitions and policy references.
The references include the UK Government policy and guide on accessible technology, and another from Chicago. Also included is the G3ict discussion guide for accessibility in public sector procurement.
The model policy is availablein English, Spanish and Japanese. A five minute video with James Thurston explains.
Karen Tamley, “The adoption of a policy like this is going really help your city to make sure that accessibility is part of your DNA”.
Colour contrasts can be deceiving because we are subject to optical illusions. The video below shows how two different shades of grey are actually the same. That’s why you can’t rely on judging contrast by eye. Fortunately there are colour checkers to help with colour choices especially for websites. And why do you need colour contrast checkers? Because more than 8% of the population hascolour vision deficiency (colour blindness).
Colour choice is one factor in readability. Others include using sentence case. Using upper case or capitals does not convey important messages more urgently. The image shows that using upper case to indicate a low bridge did not stop a truck driver from driving under it. Upper case is harder to read because the shape of the words are unfamiliar.
The most accessible websites are those that have an Easy Read option. A good example is the My Allied Health Space. At the top of the home page is the symbol for Easy Read and this is where you click to turn it on.
Thanks to Dr Em Bould, Senior Research Fellow at Monash University for the inspiration for this post. She has great advice on this topic based on her research.
Every time you write something you have an opportunity to consider typography for digital access. What is it? It’s the technique of choosing and arranging type to make written language understandable and readable. The problem is, some typefaces make it difficult to distinguish separate letters. For example, 5AM can look like SAM, clear looks like dear, and turn looks like tum. Fortunately, Vision Australia has some practical help.
Writing for an app, a website, an email, or a presentation requires thought about the most readable typeface or font. And we have to consider things like payment terminals, keypads and logos. Several people might be involved in making and designing typography. For example, human resource teams and brand and marketing teams.
Vision Australia has a one hour digital access webinar divided into handy chapters so you don’t have to consume it all at once. The chapters are:
Introduction to typography
An inclusive lens on typography
What to look for
8 accessible typeface tips
Which font should I use?
Typographic layout and styling
Design with people with disability
8 Typeface Tips
Choose fonts that have more space for lower case letters so that the main body of a lowercase letter has more room.
Choose typefaces that are more open – for example a bigger gap between the end curves of a ‘c’.
Fonts with larger white spaces between letters are really helpful.
Typefaces with joined letters to look like script are confusing and difficult for screen readers.
Some typefaces have letters and numbers that look the same such as upper case “i” and the number “1” and lower case “l”.
Look at the horizontal spaces between all letters in a word of body of text. They can be too close or too spaced.
Limit using ALL CAPS text. This is due to the shape of the letters and the way we recognise text. Sentence case gives the word it’s shape.
Avoid images of text because when you zoom in they get pixilated and fuzzy. Photos of text can’t be read by screen readers either.
One amusing point about screen readers trying to decipher the acronym FAQ’s: if the apostrophe is left out it reads “farq yous”. However, it emphasises the point of testing with screen readers.
Vision Australia’s advice is there is no one right font. You have to consider context, tone, audience and the content. And of course, the advice in the following chapter in the webinar.
An excellent webinar – one of a series that includes mobile app accessibility, online access policies, and more.
We rely on trained professionals to develop websites and social media – they are the experts. But small business owners create their own websites using platforms such as WordPress. So, as our lives transition to digital formats it’s important to know some digital accessibility basics. Creating accessible websites is the first step. But accessible websites need accessible content too. If your Word or PDF documents end up on a website, will they be accessible?
The ICT Quicksheets are designed for developers, but some of these are useful for anyone creating digital content. Gregg Vanderheiden from the Trace R&D Center has also developed anAccessibility Masterlistwhich has more detail on accessible digital design. The Masterlist acts as both information and a checklist for developers and others.
The Masterlist is helpful for anyone engaging a web designer because it shows what needs to be considered. Most web designers know about web accessibility and say they will meet the standards. However, standards are a minimum and tend to get tacked on at the end. Not the best solution – better to be integrated to avoid digital clunkiness.
Here are some of the 33 Trace R&D Center Quicksheets that summarise information:
Citizen action has never been more important and much of this is done online and through social media. This is due to the ease of technology, a pandemic and plain economics. Consequently, it’s important to make online spaces accessible for everyone.
On The Commons Social Change website, Manisha Amin provides some advice form making online spaces accessible. Here are some facts about the Australian population:
These figures don’t include people who have a temporary loss of capability, such as a broken leg.
An inclusive social environment, online or face to face, is created through respect and listening. Being accountable for your own emotions and accepting all experiences are valid are important too.
Online meetings have benefits and drawbacks and not everyone needs the same features. For example, having video on helps people to lip read and see facial expressions. But some people with neurodiverse conditions find video distracting.
Live captioning is better than auto-generated captioning and provides a transcript later. Captioning is also good for people with limited English language skills or find different accents difficult to understand.
The latest CanAxess newsletter features a visual podcast on AI for Accessibility. The team from Global AI discuss how using AI to remove accessibility barriers can help people with cognitive impairments understand content better.
There’s a second video on Inclusive Design 24. This one is about using screen readers to evaluate a website. There is also a link to a repository of downloadable screen readers testing resources.
“Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella said, “… top of mind for me… is how we must make Microsoft products accessible to the more than 1 billion people globally of all abilities… Universal design is central to how we realize our mission and will make all our products better.”