Artificial Intelligence (AI) can take captioning to another level claims Microsoft. AI for automatic speech recognition removes the need for a human captioner for lectures in universities and elsewhere. The Microsoft AI blog articleand video below focuses on deaf students, but more people are taking to captioning on their phones for convenience.
Captioning helps all students by adding another layer of communication and this point is made in the article. The captioning is turned into transcripts and students have a reference to read after the lecture. They can also have the lecture automatically translated into several languages.
This is a detailed article and covers automatic speech recognition, translations, and a growing demand for accessibility. This technology is not expected to take over from Auslan or ASL as they are languages in their own right. However, this is another example of how technology is helping humans by taking over from humans and bringing the advantages to more people.
Note on the image at the top: The image shows Dr Ger Craddock at the inaugural Australian Universal Design Conference in 2014. A captioner sat in the room to caption real time. Speaker names and place names were given to the captioner beforehand to prevent errors.
When choosing a web developer to update your site, don’t assume they know all about accessibility. The guidelines for web accessibility are often treated like tacked on ramps to a building. That is, something you think of after you’ve done the design. To ensure accessibility of your site, it pays to know how web design decisions are made. And you don’t need to be a tech person.
A paper from the United States spells out the development process to show how accessibility gets missed. The authors report that one study found that more than 70% of websites contain multiple barriers to accessibility. Another study found that almost all homepages didn’t meet the basic web standards for accessibility.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a general guide for developers. But they are not the total answer because they are more about code compliance than accessibility. Hence, design briefs need to include usability testing early in the concept stage.
The process often begins with brand, customers, and the message to be communicated. This stage rarely involves accessibility concerns. Designers make assumptions about users – usually people like themselves – for the next steps. Designs are reviewed by art directors and brand creators. Colours and font choices are considered at this stage but without reference to accessibility.
If the design team lacks diversity this is where design justice becomes design privilege. Before any coding takes place, images, animations and graphics are created to show what the site will look like. Users are not involved in the testing at this stage. The key issue with web accessibility tools is that they look at code, not these mock-ups.
Priority is brand message
The prototype stage would be a good point in the design process to begin user testing. It is as this stage colour, font, layout and other critical access features can be addressed. However, communicating brand message takes priority. Responding to the needs of less privileged and less able users is left for coding checks rather than usability checks.
The authors conclude that considering accessibility early in the process can bring greater usability for all. However, industry development processes often result in accessibility being an afterthought. Standards are not enough to meet the needs of all users. Consequently, industry’s internal processes need to change.
The title of the paper is, Addressing Accessibilty as Advocacy. The authors use the term “special needs”. The article is easy to read and not tech-based. It is more about advocating for social justice in the digital world.
Choosing an IT designer
The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a comprehensiveIT Procurement Toolkit. It takes potential purchasers of IT systems through the process of procurement, including assessing potential suppliers, and overseeing the successful implementation of accessibility features. It also shows how to manage the accessibility of the system once the set-up phase is complete. This means ensuring that documents staff produce for the website also meet the accessibility criteria. Each section ofthe Toolkitis provided separately. It includes:
It’s not just a matter of fairness. Technology is generally better for everyone if it’s designed for people with disability. People who are blind use the same smartphones as sighted people. They also use computers by using screen readers. But screen readers can’t improve the way websites are designed. The thing is, a website that causes problems for a screen reader is likely to be more difficult for anyone. So designing for disability is designing technology for all. That’s universal design.
An article in The Conversationexplains the issues in more detail. One of the issues for web designers is that prototyping software is not compatible with screen readers. Consequently they can’t get blind users to test their designs. It also means a blind designer wouldn’t be able to make mock-ups of their own.
The researchers said that accessibility is the hallmark of good technology. Many technologies that we take for granted were developed around disability. The article concludes that no matter how much empathy a designer has, it doesn’t replace the benefits of technology built by people who actually use it.
The title of the article is, “Why getting more people with disabilities developing technology is good for everyone”.
A related post is Kristy Viers, a blind user, showing how she uses her iPhone.
Access to information during the COVID-19 pandemic became even more problematic for some users as everything went online. So what can UD, UDL and Accessibility do to help to combat ableism?
An articleby John L. O’Neill discusses Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning and Inclusive Design. In this context, the concept of Inclusive Design has a focus on the digital world. He covers the history of each, much of which will be known to UD followers. O’Neill argues that all three can be combined in innovative ways to ensure access to information. This is logical because each has the same goal – inclusion. He uses a case study where he merges the UD principle of perceptible information, the tenet of multiple means of representation from UDL, and adaptive systems from Inclusive Design. This perspective is given the title of “Abilities Design”.
O’Neill claims ableism underpins barriers and that undoing ableism is not a form of charity. Legislation that requires access and accessibility does little to change ableist attitudes.
The title of the articleis, Accessibility for All Abilities: How Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning, and Inclusive Design Combat Inaccessibility and Ableism.
Editor’s Note: I am not sure that inventing another design category based on inclusion takes us any further forward. However, it is an example of how designers new to inclusive concepts can use existing frameworks to help their design process.
From the Abstract
Discussions about accessibility surged at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as people became more dependent on accessing information from the web. This article will explore different disability models to understand the oppression of people with disabilities. It will examine how the different principles and methods of Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning, and Inclusive Design can be combined in innovative ways to ensure that all citizens have access to information without barriers.
2020 has been a year of digital connectedness. Many of us relied on the internet to keep working and stay connected to family and friends. Access to virtual health services turned out to be important too. But access to the internet and digital connection wasn’t available to everyone. It’s assumed that older people are unable or unwilling to use digital communications. The assumptions by others about the capabilities of older people doesn’t help. It reinforces a negative mindset in both older people and their younger family members.
Understanding older people’s relationship with the internet was the subject of a survey in rural Queensland. 1500 households were surveyed and asked about the general adoption of internet use. Within this survey, respondents were asked to indicate their understanding of older people’s relationship with the internet. Researchers found three general assumptions: older people aren’t interested in the internet, and they generally can’t use it. However, family members did believe the internet would be useful for older people.
If family members act on these assumptions they are unlikely to assist older members of the family to use the internet to communicate with others. If society continues to assume older people incapable or disinterested in internet communications it will lead to reinforcing the digital divide.
The researchers conclude that distinctions should be drawn between older people in rural areas and the tendency to apply urban norms to this population.
Participation is thought to build and sustain individual and community resilience. What constitutes participation today significantly involves networked digital communications. With Australia’s ageing population set to increase exponentially, and with a growing concentration of older people living outside of larger cities and towns, a need exists to address how participation in later life is understood and facilitated. Coupled with the need for regional communities to find relevant change processes that build resilience, this multidisciplinary paper highlights variations in perception about older people’s digital abilities in regional Queensland. Following the general increase in appeal of digital devices to older people, defined here as those aged over 65, the paper suggests that how older people’s digital connectedness progresses is foundationally influenced by the speculative, antithetical and potentially ambivalent perceptions of others. In doing so, we seek to understand rural connectedness in later life through a suite of literacies informing digital participation.
It’s all very well saying that information is available to everyone, or that government processes are designed to be transparent. But how many people can access the scientific and long-winded sentences in these documents? Even the abstract below on this very topic needs interpretation into everyday words. It’s easy to talk about universal design. However, academics often make research on accessibility and inclusion inaccessible and exclusive. How about more walking the walk, and talking the talk? We need universal design for data access.
This is an important aspect of inclusion. It helps people with disability and others to see how data are used, and to give them a voice. Information is power. The article includes recommendations for discussion on how to improve the situation.
Open Data are increasingly being used for innovation, developing government strategies, and enhancing the transparency of the public sector. This data is aimed to be available to all people regardless of their abilities, professions and knowledge.
Research is showing, however, that open data, besides being physically inaccessible to people with special needs, those are also semantically inaccessible to people who lack data science expertise.
In order to identify specific accessibility challenges associated with open government data portals and datasets, we conducted an analysis using seven principles of Universal Design.
In total, nine challenges are identified based on issues discovered. Three challenges are identified on the web portal interface level, namely: dataset filtering and categorization, access using a keyboard, and breadcrumb and back navigation.
The other six challenges are identified on dataset level: dataset previewing, dataset size, dataset formats, dataset purpose, dataset labelling, and dataset literacy. For each challenge, we propose recommendations as a means to incite a discussion about the features that open data should possess in order to be widely accessible, including people with disabilities and those lacking data science expertise and knowledge.
Why do some people appear unable to take in what is happening around them in an emergency? Being able to act quickly requires a good sense of the situation – situation awareness. However, not everyone has situation awareness in an emergency. Consequently they find decision-making difficult and fail to act appropriately. A Norwegian study has investigateda universal design approach to mitigate “situational disability”.
In an emergency, sight, hearing, use of hands and ability to concentrate can all be impaired. Smoke, dust, cold, noise and paralysis from fear can affect anyone’s ability to think clearly. Smart phone apps are a good way of reaching people quickly with important information, but do they account for likely cognitive and physical changes?
The issues and solutions for situational disability are outlined in a technical paper from Norway. It raises our awareness that individuals are likely to behave in unexpected ways during a disaster. With an increased rate of climate-based disasters, and the move to digital information systems, this is a timely study. The underlying concern of how people respond is an important one. The paper shows that universal design principles can guide the way in accommodating situational disabilities.
The full title of the article is, Towards Situational Disability-aware Universally Designed Information Support Systems for Enhanced Situational Awareness.
With the right supports and understanding adolescents with autism can make a significant contribution to software design. Applications for people with differing needs is a challenge for designers. So going directly to the users and working with them is the best solution. An Australian study did just that and found that once participants felt safe they readily engaged in the workshop activities. Participants also learned from their input and engaged with the iterative design process. The agreed overall goal of all stakeholders was to devise a platform where adolescents with autism could interact and socialise. Designers usually start out with goals in mind, but they used an open-ended approach so that participants could explore their needs to determine their goals for the software. The outcome was a co-designed app for smartphones and smartwatches.
While this article is about software design, the processes and learnings are relevant to other design disciplines. The article uses the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder”. However, the notion of autism being a disorder is challenged by many people with autism. The article is titled Co-designing with Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: From Ideation to Implementation. It is open access and the researchers are based at James Cook University.
Abstract: Most co-design-based Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) research is conducted with children and does not involve the participants directly. Studies have shown that people with ASD can take on the co-designer role in early phases of the software design process. We present a longitudinal study that investigates how adolescents with ASD participate as co-designers in an iterative software design process. In this work, we conducted seven co-design workshops with six adolescents with ASD over eight months. The team exchanged ideas and communicated through group discussion and drawings. Our findings suggest that: (1) parents, community group and fellow participants play a pivotal role in supporting a longitudinal ASD co-design study and (2) adolescents with ASD are also able to make better design decision over an iterative software design process. These findings should be considered when engaging adolescents with ASD as co-designers in a software design process.
Higher education institutions teaching interaction design are not producing graduates skilled at producing accessible interaction experiences. An article from Norwayreports on the investigation of study programs to see what level of interaction design is included. Few programs include universal design expertise. And graduates are not necessarily conversant with legal and ethical accessibility responsibilities. This is a concern given that we live in a digital world and we all need accessible user experiences. An important finding and it would be good to find out if this is the case in higher education institutions in other countries.
In a nutshell, interaction design is about shaping software so that the end user understands where to find information.
Abstract The interaction designer plays an important role in facilitating high-quality interactions and accessible user experiences. Currently, interaction designers have diverse and often interdisciplinary backgrounds, in which may create recruitment challenges for the industry. It is also a likely contributory factor to reported challenges on student recruitment to interaction design (IxD) programs – and consequently the reported industry shortage for IxD skillsets. Thus, we need to better understand the interaction designer’s expertise and skills. Facing this fact, the present study provides analysis of Norwegian higher educational (HE) programs within IxD. We investigate in-depth what characterizes the programs, and describe their current content, focus and organization. Overall, the programs educating interaction designers are quite heterogeneous. One of the main finding is that few programs include adequate universal design expertise, and graduates are as such not necessarily conversant with their legal and ethical responsibilities as IxD professionals. We also find a discrepancy between online program presentation and actual content. The paper concludes that added work is needed to alleviate an inadequate articulation of IxD expertise, graduates skillsets, and better support academic and industry recruitment.
It’s often assumed older people are unable to cope with technology and the Internet. Like all stereotypes, it’s incorrect. Keep in mind that people who pioneered computers and the internet are in their sixties. So the generation that started it all is actually quite active.
Perhaps if everyone over 60 were not collectively termed “the elderly” we might start to see stereotyping improve. Nevertheless, Axesslab’s blog page, Real Facts about the Elderly and the World Wide Web puts things in perspective, at least in the United States. Here are some key points:
People in the baby boomer generation spend around 27 hours weekly online.
Of the group aged over 65, seven out of ten go online daily.
82% of those in both groups run searches online related to what they’re interested in.
Two-thirds of older people use the web to access weather and the news
57% shop online.
44% want information about food and cooking.
43% use it to play games.
Almost half go online to check for coupons, daily deals, and discounts.
There’s a handy infographic with statistics on the MedAlertHelp webpage, but watch out for the pop up ad in the body of the text. It shows the results from a comprehensive survey in lots of detail. The picture above is just one section of the infographic.
Editor’s note: Regardless of the people who do use the Internet, those who don’t are seriously disadvantaged as more businesses and government services move to digital mode.
Mobile Apps and older people
With talk of Smart Cities, it is important for older adults to be included in digital designs. Twenty-two industry built mobile apps were evaluated in a 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 for people of all ages.
From the abstract
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 the needs of older people. 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.