On several occasions recently I have been asked about how I fully understand the benefits of accessibility for the end users when I don’t have a disability. It’s a question that has been lingering in my mind for a while. I know that I will never fully understand all types of disabilities but there are ways in which we can all gain a better understanding of these users.
Disability organisations are nearly always looking for volunteers, even if it’s only 2 hours per week on your lunch. Try looking for drop in centres or charities in your area and get in touch with them to see if you can volunteer or even just drop by for an hour.
When you are thinking about the user groups you need to recruit for user testing include people with different impairments. Research the charities, organisations, people or companies that could aid finding the users you need. Finding these users will be difficult at first but an organisation will be more willing to help you if you have already worked with them to recruit participants.
There’s loads of cool ebooks, podcasts and videos that can help with understanding accessibility and people with disabilities. Below are just a few that I’ve found recently (add more cool stuff in the comments!):
Speaking up speaking out (SUSO) is a self-help group for adults with learning disabilities and they have a drop-in centre in Macclesfield which is open 4 days a week. A few weeks ago I was invited to an event that was held by SUSO at the ArtSpace in Macclesfield. This event was aimed at challenging misperceptions of learning disability by asking the people who come to the drop-in centre how they feel they are seen by others. Going to the event was very insightful for me and helped me to understand
Another way in which we can try to understand users with disabilities is by using the same technology. Whenever I need to test the keyboard accessibility on a website I will load up NVDA screenreader, turn of my monitor and try to navigate around the website. Or, if I want to understand the affects of colour blindness I use the NoCoffee Chrome add-on. Using the same technology can aid our understanding of how different technologies interact with our websites.
WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and it was created by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The guidelines provide different success criteria (A, AA, AAA) and in order to meet the needs of the different disability groups and situations websites should aim to meet the highest criteria (AAA).
The best way to use WCAG 2.0 is to follow the guidelines throughout designing, developing and testing a website. The table shown below is just one example of how the guidelines can be laid out and used for testing:
The table in the link above includes all the principles, success criteria and guidelines mentioned in the WCAG 2.0 website.
In WCAG 2.0 there are links provided next to each guideline with guidance on how to meet and understand the criteria. On these links you can find a list of recommended techniques to meet each criteria and if you click on a technique WCAG provide an in-depth description; examples; related techniques; external links and advice on how you can test for that specific guideline.
When carrying out a test and filling in the table it is a good idea to include any tips or external links you find that might aid the developers when they are fixing an accessibility issue. Another good idea is to include link any online tools you have used or would recommend.
When using the WCAG 2.0 guidelines in your company try to get all teams to use it, including designers, developers and those testing the site. You can use any table layout or method that you prefer, but try to include all guidelines even if it is not compulsory for you to pass all of the criteria.
The British conference of undergraduate research is a conference held every year that promotes student research of all disciplines. All students who apply and are approved can either present their research in the form of a poster or a 10 minute presentation.
For my final year research project, ‘creating content-rich and accessible websites for people with cognitive disabilities’, I decided to do a 10 minute presentation.
The slides from my presentation can be seen below:
The presentation went very well and gained a lot of interest with people approaching me afterwards to ask various different questions. Although the video is not able to be put online it was filmed for internal purposes and if anyone I know would like to view it don’t hesitate to ask me.
Plymouth University and BCUR put on a great event, very well structured, sociable and fun. There were loads of opportunities to make new friends and talk to other students about their research, especially at the poster presentations. A meal was organised for everyone who attended the event, which took place at a hired out aquarium and was a fantastic night.
Overall, I have really enjoyed working on my final year project over the past year and plan to hopefully carry on it’s development after University. The British Conference of undergraduate research helped me to realise how passionate I am about my work and meet other student’s from a variety of disciplines who are equally as passionate about their work. It was an inspiring experience, it gave me the confidence to speak at future conferences and I highly recommend other students to take part in future BCUR events.
I’m happy to answer any questions about BCUR, my project or send over the presentation video. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org