How can you use a computer if you are blind?

shows corner of a laptop and a smartphone on a deskHow does a blind person use a computer?  There are lots of ways depending on the type of blindness and individual preferences. When you understand how people who are blind or have low vision use a computer, it makes web accessibility more understandable too. Axess lab has several videos with real life examples:

“There is no better way to understand the importance of accessibility and inclusive design than learning from actual users with disabilities. Here’s a collection of our favorite Youtube videos where people showcase how they use assistive technologies like screen readers, eye tracking, zoom and switches.”

My favourite is Molly with her “Apple orchard” because a first glance she doesn’t look blind, and she is good at explaining.

Videos of people with disabilities using tech

Smart Cities for All

cover of Smart Cities Toolkit.How smart can a smart city be? ‘Smart’ is everything from the footpath to the website. So not so smart if it doesn’t include everyone and join the dots between all the factors that make a city a city.  With digital transformations happening worldwide, the aim of the Smart Cities for All Toolkit is to eliminate the digital divide and improve urban environments for everyone. In the video below, James Thurston talks about the issues cities are facing.

The main part of the toolkit, the Inclusive Innovation Playbook, is detailed and aimed at a policy and planning level. Stakeholder participation and inclusion is an essential theme. Case studies assist with understanding. There is a helpful checklist at the end of the Playbook. There’s a lot to digest, but this means it isn’t a cursory overview with simplistic solutions. It goes much deeper than a digital accessibility checklist. This is about joining the dots across city assets and leveraging them for everyone’s benefit. Other sections of the toolkit cover: 

    • Toolkit Overview
    • Guide to adopting an ICT accessibility procurement policy
    • Implementing priority ICT accessibility standards
    • Communicating the case for stronger commitment to digital inclusion in cities
    • Database of solutions for digital inclusion in cities

“The toolkit supports a range of organizations and roles related to Smart Cities, including government managers, policy makers, IT professionals, disability advocates, procurement officials, technology suppliers, and developers who design Smart City apps and solutions.

Each of the tools addresses a priority challenge identified by global experts as a barrier to the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities and older persons in Smart Cities.”  See also Smart Cities for All: A Vision

James Thurston of 3Gict discusses the issues in the video below.  

Colours for colour blindness

Title of the blog article using light blue and dark blue colours.Colour is often used in charts, maps and infographics, but what if you can’t see some colours? One in twelve men are colour blind, but not for all colours or the same colours. Infographics are becoming more popular as a means of explaining things. So choosing the best colours is to everyone’s advantage. Venngage website has an good guide and lots of tips on making charts more accessible. It shows the three types of colour blindness and compares them with normal vision. Different colour palettes are provided along with templates. The blog page includes links to other resources. Colour combinations to avoid include:

    • Red & green
    • Green & brown
    • Green & blue
    • Blue & gray
    • Blue & purple
    • Green & gray
    • Green & black

Most colour blind people can detect contrast, so as a last resort, if you must use these colours, make the contrast as strong as possible. Patterns and textures also work. The article is titled, How to use color blind friendly palettes to make your charts accessible.  Colour blindness is technically referred known as colour vision deficiency (CVD). 

Editor’s note: The Venngage blog site includes advertising.

 

You understand me? Maybe

Front cover of the toolkit with three overlapping circles, bright pink, purple and turquoise.This toolkit about communicating with customers follows its own advice. The information is written in a straightforward way. Lots of graphics illustrate key points, and the information is very specific, such as when to write numbers as digits or as words. While the information might not be new to some, it serves as a good reviser of current practice. Designed for organisations but good for everyone.

The Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach has sections on written, verbal and digital communication. At 134 pages it is comprehensive. Each section has examples, tips, checklists and links to learn more. The intention of the toolkit is for public service planning, training and informing contractors. But of course, it works for anyone who is communicating with the public. 

Another great resource from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland. Interesting to note that they have chosen colours for the cover and their logo that almost everyone can see – that includes people with colour vision deficiency.

Inclusive Digital Design Poster

A screenshot of the poster showing the principles of inclusive designBarclays Bank has developed a set of inclusive digital design posters. They are based on seven design principles. These principles can be applied to other design fields as well as digital platforms. You can download the A3 poster which gives a quick overview. Or download a more detailed  set of A4 posters. Barclays Bank began investing in inclusive practice many years ago, but they haven’t rested on their laurels. They also encourage their business customers to get on board with accessibility. You can read more about the posters from The Paciello Group website. The seven principles below are explained in more detail:

      1. Provide comparable experience
      2. Consider situation
      3. Provide comparable experience
      4. Be consistent
      5. Give control
      6. Offer choice 
      7. Prioritise content
      8. Add value

Barclays says the Inclusive Design Principles are about putting people first. It’s about designing for the needs of people with permanent, temporary, situational, or changing disabilities — all of us really. The posters are a good quick reference for web and app design professionals.  

 

AI, the web and picture descriptions

A laptop computer on a desk showing several picturesPeople who rely on screen readers or Braille displays like to use the internet in the same way as others. When it comes to images, this depends on remembering to use the alt-text feature to describe uploaded images. While many big websites do include alt-text, smaller ones often don’t – and there are a lot of bloggers. And social media is the biggest culprit.

There are applications designed to describe images, but they don’t do it accurately. The Chrome accessibility team at Google are working on this. The aim is to use machine learning to more accurately describe the millions of images that are yet to be described. The FastCo website has more information.

Applying alt-text to all your images means that screen readers don’t get the image filename or upload coding instead of something sensible. The added advantage is that when the image fails to load on, say, a phone, a sensible text appears instead of the image. Axess Lab has lots more information in a very readable format. 

A font style for everyone

A page showing the font style and other information.The Braille Institute of America has won the Fast Company Graphic Design Award for developing a font suitable for people with low vision – as well as everyone else. On first glance it doesn’t look much different to other sans serif fonts. But the tweaks make a difference to legibility and comprehension. The title of the font is Atkinson Hyperlegible. People who are blind early in life will likely use Braille. But those who lose their sight later in life probably won’t. New technologies are available to this larger group that enable them to retain their independence in everyday activities. The style and size of font is part of the Braille Institute of America staying relevant as the world changes.  

 

Why your website should suit screen readers

two hands on a laptop keyboard.Previous posts have explained how screen readers work, but not the amazing things that happen to people who use them. With free screen reading software by NV Access, screen readers are now available to all who need them. This software is so successful that it’s been translated into 50 languages. This means people in developing countries can also join in everyday activities, study and get a job. The video is 12 minutes, but worth the watch because you see the value of why all websites, web pages, and document uploads should be suitable for screen readers. It’s not just about doing “good works” – it’s about expanding your employee base and customer base. Besides, our obligations under the UN Convention require it. NV Access is a charity with a great story to tell. 

 

 

Open Sesame! Packaging made easy

Exploded view of the package and all its partsIn marketing terms, the packaging is part of the product. The package shape, colour and brand are important in enticing consumers to buy. But all too often we have to get a sharp knife, a pair of scissors and wrestle with the packaging in order to get to the product inside. Microsoft has come up with a nice solution to packaging their Xbox Adaptive Controller – a gamepad for people who might not have use of their limbs. Good thinking – no good having a nicely designed accessible product that you can’t get out of the box! The video below shows the simple but effective design. There is another video on the FastCompany website or see the engadget website. Package designers take note. 

The title of the article is How Microsoft fixed the worst thing about product packaging.

 

Colour perceptions vary across cultures

Three smart phones showing the colour game.Anyone interested in optimal colours for web and phone might be interested in a project that came out of a colour matching game app. The game is based on colour perception. Feedback data showed designers how people perceive colour. With the help of academics they began to analyse the data in meaningful ways. Preliminary analysis indicates there is a variation across countries. For example, Norwegians were better at colour matching than Saudi Arabians. Singaporeans struggled to identify greens, and Scandinavians did best with red-purple hues. Research papers are to follow which could lead to more inclusive colour choices. The article concludes, 

“But the fruits of the project live on in open source. A generic version of Jose’s tools to query the Specimen dataset are hosted here on github. My greatest hope is other researchers find and make use of what was gathered, and that other designers and engineers consider leveraging play in unexpected ways”.

The title of the article on FastCompany website is, Our viral app made less than $1,000. We’d still do it again.

Picture courtesy FastCompany.