Designing Inclusive Digital Experiences for Neurodiversity by Sara Boback

What is Web Accessibility and Who is Missing?

Sara Boback

Hi again! Let’s jump right in…

What is Web Accessibility?

Personally, I like this definition. Web accessibility means creating web products and web services that are designed for users of all abilities.

So, who are we designing for?

The list is endless, when we think about our designs and who we should be including. We should be considering a wide range of persons and perspectives when conducting our research, designing and testing with the aim to ensure everyone has access to information. To start some considerations could be with:

  • Persons who are visually impaired or blind
  • Persons who are hard-of-hearing or Deaf
  • The elderly
  • Non-native English speakers
  • Temporary or situational disabilities
  • Users who have cognitive and learning disabilities
  • Persons with mobility impairments
persons with disabilities - shows a person with one arm, an arm injury, a new parent, a deaf person, an ear infection and a bartender
An example of a persona spectrum from Microsoft Design’s Inclusive Design toolkit

The Gap

In reality, in the design of websites and applications, many different perspectives are missing. The gap, I’m focusing on for my research project, however, are those with developmental or learning disabilities. Unfortunately, this gap persists as persons with disabilities are rarely included in research or planning work in designing websites, and additionally in my experience designers and developers are unaware of best practices and needs that persons with disabilities may have. Currently, there is little emphasis or focus is placed on designing websites to be usable for neurodiverse individuals and my research focus will be on how websites, web-applications and documents can be designed and built to enable individuals with autism, ADHD or dyslexia to have improved access to information.

What do we know now?

There has been research done that generally is accepted as web accessibility best practices to improve access broadly. I’ll outline some considerations below;

Choosing Accessible Colours

It’s important that the text colours we choose, have sufficient contrast against the background. This also applies to links!

image example of high contrast and low contrast text. low contrast text is barely visible
High contrast and low contrast text. Can you imagine trying to read the low contrast text? Its painful!

Simple Organization

Having a logical and linear layout is shown to help generally with information consumption. Additionally, breaking up content with bullets, headings and sub-headings improves structure of the page, and can aid those navigating with assistive technology in navigating more effectively.

An example of two layouts - one of which is more streamlined and easier to follow on the eyes
Two layouts – the left layout is more streamlined, whereas the right has content more broken up

Descriptive Hyperlinks

Creating descriptive hyperlinks can help with understanding context and the resources being linked to.

Contact us hyperlink vs. click here
Imagine selecting the “click here” hyperlink. How would you ever know where it would take you?

Videos

The use of captions and audio descriptions for videos greatly improves to access. Additionally, providing a descriptive text transcript assists with providing an alternate means of content access.

Video example with description and text transcripts
The video shown includes a transcript as an alternative!

Helpful Forms

Forms can be one of the trickiest things, but everything goes back to clear and simple information design.

  • Mandatory form controls should be clearly identified as required
  • Provide clear instructions to prevent errors
  • Error messages provide clear suggestions to fix errors
Form showing mandatory fields with an asterisk
This form indicates required fields, which is helpful.

Great – thanks for stopping by and checking out some of this information. Pop on over to my next page to learn more about my research efforts this year!

Sources:

Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit – Persona

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Inclusive Spectrums by Sara Boback is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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