Accessibility for the Aging Population

Aging: Invisible Disabilities, Medical, and Temporary

Age related or temporary disabilities will effect everyone at some point in their life. When driving you need hands free devices. When in a noisy environment you need text and images. If you are not aging, or you can guarantee that you will never have an accident or some debilitating disease, or will never be in an environmental situation where you cannot see or hear, then you need not be concerned about accessibility. In the next few decades we will see unparalleled growth in the number of people becoming elderly. As we age, we experience increasing impairments that affect how we interact with computers and websites. The next few decades will see an unparalleled growth in the number of people becoming elderly compared with any other period in human history. The United Nations estimate that by 2050 one out of every five people will be over 60 years of age, and in some countries the proportion will be much higher than that. Designing products that are easier for older people to use is similar to designing for people with disabilities. That is, websites, applications, and tools that are accessible to people with disabilities are not just more accessible to older users, but to all users as well. Web Accessibility is essential For Some, but useful For All.

  • people using mobile phones, smart watches, smart TVs, and other devices with small screens, different input modes, etc.
  • older people with changing abilities due to ageing.
  • people with temporary disabilities, such as a broken arm.
  • people with situational limitations, such as in bright sunlight.
  • people using a slow Internet connection, or who have limited or expensive bandwidth.
  • Also, the added benefit of helping search engines index websites’ contents better.

Aging Challenges

There is something about great design that allows it to go practically unnoticed. But it doesn’t take much to make things confusing and frustrating, so websites and apps have to be properly coded. Poor layout can be very frustrating, and good design involves good layout, which means a better user experience. This includes clear headings, navigation bars, and consistent styling. Any web user will get frustrated with bad layout and design. Complex layouts also make finding information difficult. So, making websites and apps predictable and understandable makes them accessible to people with cognitive and learning disabilities, and more usable for everyone. Especially for people with lower computer skills.

Without clear notifications and feedback, people are quickly disorientated and confused. Especially error messages which are often complex and confusing. Trying to hit a small target requires lots of effort, but on the Web, we can make areas for clicking and tapping larger and easier to use, which is critical for people with reduced dexterity; And handy on mobile devices especially when we might be moving around at the time. Sometimes customization is a necessity for those with low vision and dyslexia (to be able to adjust the size, spacing, font, and colors without loss of functions or clarity), but is a convenient preference for all users.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing need audio information as captions or transcripts, but others prefer it to better understand content because users can hear the information in audio and see it in text at the same time. For example, a research study found that 71% of students without hearing difficulties use captions, primarily to help them focus and retain information. It is significantly easier and quicker for many users to skim or read transcripts, rather than watched or listened to the video.
Transcripts can be used without needing to download video files. For example, to save data on mobile devices, or can be used offline, printed, or converted to braille.
Captions can be used:
in loud environments where users cannot hear the audio. For example, a bar, an airport, or a concert.
In quiet environments where users cannot turn on sound. For example, in a library, on public transportation, or when others are sleeping.
By people who cannot understand the spoken language well and can understand the written language better. For example, people who are not native speakers of the language.
By people learning to read, including people learning a new language.

One of the advances of technology is voice recognition; Whether it’s searching the Web, Dictating emails, Or controlling your navigation app. Many people with physical disabilities rely on voice recognition to use the computer, but it is also very helpful for many people with dyslexia, and very useful for people who have difficulty reading text. As well as some people who just like to multi-task. Voice recognition could help people with temporary limitations (like an injured arm), and it can also prevent injuries becoming worse (like Repetitive Stress Injury). Likewise, computers can convert text to speech for those people that cannot see the text on this screen for whatever reason.

Not being able to use your computer because your mouse does not work, might be frustrating, but many people use only the keyboard to navigate websites either through preference or circumstance. Whether it’s temporarily limited mobility, a permanent physical disability, or simply a broken mouse, the result is the same for all users.

Aging Resources