One area of inclusion and accessibility that often gets forgotten is readability of forms and questionnaires. Academics and marketing professionals regularly use surveys to get information from specific groups of people. Within those groups will be people with varying levels of capability in terms of being able to decipher what’s on the screen or form. And it isn’t all about literacy and reading ability. It’s about the different ways people see and interpret the information. Here are some good tips for making questionnaires more readable from Alex Haagaard in Medium.
Likert scales aren’t great for screen readers because they often interpret them as tables. But much depends on the design of the survey platform. Even if they are screen-readable, Likert scales can be difficult for people who are neurodiverse. People who are autistic or dyslexic struggle with visual tracking across and between rows. This creates the need to exert more brain power to focus on getting the corresponding check box.
Instead of using a Likert scale, use a series multiple choice questions to capture the same information. Creating page breaks to separate distinct sections of the questionnaire also helps with readability for everyone.
Balancing access conflicts
As is often the case, making something more accessible for one group can create problems for another. So it’s important to identify these early and eliminate or mitigate the barriers.
One solution is to provide optional comment boxes where the participant can choose whether to reply in their own words. People who want to quickly complete the questionnaire can skip this.
Haagaard takes things a step further with a suggestion to provide detailed explanations about terms and concepts at the beginning of each section. However, this is tiresome for screen readers and others might find this overwhelming. Participants can be asked at the beginning of the survey if they would like the key information repeated for each section. Those who say no can have the concise experience.
In summary, Haagaard acknowledges that it is unrealistic to assume that anything can be fully accessible to everyone. That means that there will still be occasions where an alternative means of participating is required. This might be an interview or an email.
The title of the article is Making Your Surveys More Readable. This is the third in a series on cognitively accessible survey design.