Digital Accessibility

Understanding Inclusive Design

Design is not necessarily inclusive. Goodwill and best intentions alone will not achieve expectations; deliberate action is vital. Design is all around us, but for the most part it reflects the perception of the designer, and if the product or service fails needs, then the design concepts are flawed. Good design is a bridge spanning barriers between the delivery of information and the understanding of knowledge impacting life decisions. Which is to say, careful, considerate design can be the bridge between accessibility and usability in creating an effective and memorable user experience. Universal Design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce products and services that are inherently accessible to all people – with and without disabilities.

Universal Design Principles

  • Equitable Use: Equitable Use means everyone uses the same information system, without a separate accessible site or an accessibility mode.
  • Flexibility in Use: Flexibility in Use means people can operate information systems using different input methods, such as touch, speech, gaze, a mouse, or a keyboard.
  • Simple and Intuitive Use: Simple and Intuitive Use means information systems are straightforward, with clean layouts, consistent interaction, and clear information.
  • Perceptible Information: Perceptible Information means content is provided in text as well as visually or audibly, so that the information is accessible using different senses.
  • Tolerance for Error: Tolerance for Error means interactions are designed to promote success and minimize risks, for example, by providing confirmations and feedback.
  • Low Physical Effort: Low Physical Effort means people can efficiently operate information systems using their preferred input device (such as a keyboard).
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use: Size and Space for Approach and Use means the necessary tools to operate a product/service interface are visible and readily available.

Designing for People with Disabilities

  • Vision Loss: Visual disabilities range from mild or moderate vision impairments in one or both eyes (low vision or partial sight), to substantial and uncorrectable loss of vision in both eyes (blindness). It is estimated that about 2.3% of adult Canadians live with vision loss. Some people have reduced or no sensitivity to certain colours (colour blindness), or increased sensitivity towards excessive brightness in colours. These variations in perception of colours and brightness can be independent of visual acuity. It is estimated that about 8 percent of the male population – and about 1 percent of females – experience colour blindness.
  • Hearing Loss: Auditory disabilities range from mild or moderate hearing impairments in one or both ears (hard of hearing), to substantial and uncorrectable impairment of hearing in both ears (deafness). Some people with auditory disabilities can hear sounds but sometimes not sufficiently to understand all speech, especially when there is background noise. This includes people using hearing aids or other approaches to improve the sound. Hearing loss increases with aging. Auditory disabilities affect about 3.2% of Canadians. They rely on product designers to provide captions and transcripts of audio. They also benefit from high quality audio, where the foreground speech is louder and clearer than any background noise.
  • Motor Loss: Physical disabilities (sometimes called motor disabilities) include weakness, limitations of muscular control (such as involuntary movements including tremors, lack of coordination, or paralysis), limitations of sensation, joint problems (such as arthritis), pain that impedes movement, or missing limbs. Physical disabilities, which affect about 11% of adult Canadians, can be a result of traumatic injuries, spinal cord injury, loss or damage of limb, diseases and congenital conditions, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. People with physical disabilities need an alternative to the mouse for input. Product developers must ensure their product is operable with a keyboard. Some of these input devices may be hands-free devices (like a head pointer) to make selections, puff-and-sip morse code, voice recognition, eye tracking with virtual keyboard, and mouthstick. Over 11% of Canadian adults experienced one of the three most prevalent disability types ¬– pain, mobility or flexibility. (It’s estimated at about 9.7% pain, 7.6% flexibility, 7.2% mobility, and 3.5% dexterity issues.) About 1% of people use a wheelchair or scooter as their primary mode of transportation.
  • Cognitive Loss: Cognitive and neurological disabilities involve disorders of any part of the nervous system, including the brain and the peripheral nervous system. This can impact how well people hear, move, see, speak, understand information, and inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information. Cognitive and neurological disabilities do not necessarily affect the intelligence of a person. It is estimated that about 8.5% of adult Canadians have a cognitive or neurological disability (About 3.9% Mental/psychological, 2.3% Memory, and 2.3% Learning).
  • Situation Loss: 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 information systems. Designing products that are easier for older people to use is similar to designing for people with disabilities. That is, products, applications, and tools that are accessible to people with disabilities are not just more accessible to older users, but to all users as well.

Design Goals

With Inclusive Design, we aim to:

  • Impart knowledge, and
  • Create a lived, memorable experience.

Inclusive design goals are based on the four core principles of globally accepted human rights.

  • Dignity: From information to knowledge. (Knowledge is power).
  • Independence: From accessibility to usability. (Usability is enabling).
  • Integration: From passive to active. (Active is inclusive).
  • Equality: From chaos to stability. (Stability provides satisfaction).

Impart Knowledge

There are three aspects to effective communications.

  • The delivery of information: Information is primarily delivered via vision, hearing and/or tactile mediums. If the delivery method cannot reach the target audience, then the information cannot be perceived. For example, we can’t detect the TV/Radio/cellular waves of information passing through us without a appropriately tuned electronic device.
  • The perceived understanding of the information: We are surrounded by information signals, but only those we perceive can we try to understand. If you perceive a message, but it is in a language you do not know, then you cannot understand the information being delivered.
  • The knowledge gained: Only when we understand the information can we gain knowledge and make use of the information through smart decisions. Information that we do not understand is just noise, but meaningful information gives us agency, or the power to know how to act or respond.

Created Lived Experience

A lived experience is gained through an interactive engagement with our environment with the appropriate knowledge.

  • Multiple Means of Representation: An important aspect in the process of learning – which can be defined as transforming information into knowledge – is the way the information is brought to the learner. In learning situations, learners hardly ever interact with the real system they need to understand. Instead, they use a representation that provides them with information about an event, process, or system in the real world. When communicating information it’s necessary to use multiple representations to facilitate conceptual understanding within context. You might draw a picture for someone, verbally describe using words, or create a mathematical equation.
  • Multiple Means of Expression: Information is expressed in many different ways. Ideas are transformed into words, through the choice of those words, phrases, syntax, pace and intonation. An emotion or feeling might be manifested without words, e.g. tears expressing grief, or laughter as an infectious expression of emotion). It might be communicated through music or painting – a look on a face, indicating mood or emotion, a joyful or stoic expression.
  • Multiple Means of Engagement: Engagement entails being fully occupied, or having full attention. Learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn. There are a variety of sources that can influence individual variation in affect including neurology, culture, personal relevance, subjectivity, and background knowledge, amongst other factors.

Digital Accessibility Standards