Evaluating The User Experience
Evaluating the accessibility of Web content for people with disabilities requires diverse kinds of expertise and perspectives. Comprehensive and effective evaluations require testers with an understanding of Web technologies, evaluation tools, barriers that people with disabilities experience, assistive technologies and approaches that people with disabilities use, and accessibility guidelines and techniques. The scope of the accessibility evaluation will depend upon the skill level of the website developers in understanding standards, techniques, and user interaction. A standards review in the User-Centered Design process assesses whether a product conforms to specified interface design standard. A best practice inclusion model requires standards that are adopted throughout the entire organization, so as to achieve a good user experience through the interoperability of policies and techniques.
- The developer did not markup/code the web page properly, or
- The browser or media player isn’t handling the markup properly, or
- The user’s Assistive Technology (AT) isn’t handling the markup properly, or
- The user doesn’t know how to use the browser, media player, and user agent keyboard access features, or
- The page is poorly designed and it is a general usability problem for all users, including those without disabilities.
- To get started view the W3C-WAI Accessibility Evaluation Reporting Template
Types Of Adaptable Interfaces
Accessibility solutions benefit people with and without disabilities and are becoming increasingly available in standard computer hardware, mobile devices, operating systems, web browsers, and other tools. People with disabilities access and navigate the Web in different ways, depending on their individual needs and preferences. Sometimes people configure standard software and hardware according to their needs, and sometimes people use specialized software or hardware that help them perform certain tasks.
- Assistive Technologies:
Software or hardware that people with disabilities use to improve interaction with the web. These include screen readers that read aloud web pages for people who cannot read text, and screen magnifiers for people with some types of low vision. Voice recognition software and selection switches for people who cannot use a keyboard or mouse. View the YouTube user experience video
Accessibility Matters: Technologies at Goldman Sachs.
- Adaptive Strategies:
Techniques that people with disabilities use to improve interaction with the web, such as increasing text size, reducing mouse speed, or turning on captions. Adaptive strategies include techniques with standard software, mainstream browsers, or with assistive technologies. A common adaptive strategy among users with low vision, no vision, cognitive and learning disabilities is to resize browser windows. Changes in layout can help in a number of ways. For example, a mobile layout on desktop might benefit users who wish to see less clutter on the page, remove distracting banner adds, and minimize the number of key tabs to get to content. For others, line lengths of text in articles and blog posts might be too long to read. Reducing screen width therefore helps reduce line length. There are also a number of accessibility extensions that can be added to browsers. Extensions can provide a number of features to help navigation such as color filters, visible focus indicators, Caret browsing and spatial navigation.
Video demonstration of Screen Magnification and Reflow in Acrobat Reader
Making technology easier to see, hear and use: Microsoft Accessibility Blog, August 2016
- Keyboard Only:
By people with cognitive, physical, and visual disabilities.
- Touch Screen Only:
By people with cognitive and physical disabilities.
Video demonstration of On-Screen Keyboard Demo
- Mouse and Keyboard:
With software that compensates for hand tremor.
- Voice recognition:
Speech input and other hands-free interaction.
Video demonstration of Dragon NaturallySpeaking in browsing the web
Video demonstration in using Microsoft Word with Dragon NaturallySpeaking
Some Additional Resources
- Axess Lab Videos of people with disabilities using technology
There is no better way to understand the importance of accessibility and inclusive design than learning from actual users with disabilities. Here’s a collection of Axess Labs favorite Youtube videos where people showcase how they use assistive technologies like screen readers, eye tracking, zoom and switches.
- The Market for Accessible Technology: A Research Report Commissioned by Microsoft Corporation and Conducted by Forrester Research, Inc., 2003. People use different approaches to enter text and activate commands. For instance, some people do not use a mouse, keyboard, or both, while others use specific configurations for keyboard and mouse, or use alternative hardware or software altogether.
- The potential of adaptive interfaces as an accessibility aid for older web users: Loughborough University Institutional Repository. This paper discusses the difficulties in matching people with less severe, but multiple, impairments with the most appropriate accessibility features at a given time, and explores the role of automated or semi-automated adaptations as a solution for this problem. Supporting effective and enjoyable Web usage by people with sensory, motor and cognitive impairments requires more than just accessible Web content. There is an additional task of matching people with an accessibility solution that best accommodates their particular needs – which, especially for older Web users, may fluctuate in severity, number and combination. Lack of awareness of one's own accessibility needs and the solutions that may exist to accommodate them may lead to a reduced quality Web browsing experience or even abandonment. This paper also considers the potential ethical issues of automated and semi-automated accessibility adaptations on the wellbeing of older Web users, and how these might best be managed in a suitably sensitive way.
- Towards ubiquitous accessibility, capability-based profiles and adaptations: Loughborough University Institutional Repository. The continuing proliferation of mobile devices, content and applications presents barriers to the mainstreaming of Assistive Technologies (ATs), despite their potential utility for users in demanding situations or with minor-to-moderate impairments. This paper proposes that user profiling based on human rather than machine-oriented capabilities, coupled with a shift from conspicuous ATs to considering a broader range of adaptations presents opportunities for platform and AT vendors to support many more users. However there has not been a standard, consistent and, most importantly, straightforward way to deliver these benefits. This delivery gap can be bridged by using the semantic web and related technologies, so the potential benefits of the capability-based approach may be realized.
Read about web usage diversity in How People with disabilities access and navigate the Web, and How websites that are designed for people with disabilities benefit everyone.