Engineering Web Accessibility for Older People

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Discussion on the importance of browser usability and UAAG-conformance to supporting older web users. Presented at University of the Basque Country, San Sebastian, 24th November 2009.

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Engineering Web Accessibility for Older People

  1. 1. Engineering WEB ACCESSIBILITY for OLDER PEOPLE School of Computing University of Dundee, Scotland David Sloan Donostia-San Sebastian, 24 November 2009
  2. 2. Outline of my talk <ul><li>Why Web Accessibility for older people? </li></ul><ul><li>Ageing and Accessibility issues </li></ul><ul><li>Web Accessibility Best Practice </li></ul><ul><li>Real-world barriers to access </li></ul><ul><li>Actions – who needs to do what? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Introducing myself <ul><li>Researcher and consultant at University of Dundee, Scotland </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A centre of research excellence in information technology for older and disabled people since 1980 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Large pool of older ICT users – as learners and research participants </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Working in web accessibility and user experience since 1999 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>PhD in the impact of web accessibility evaluations on organisations and individuals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Run Dundee University’s Web Accessibility service </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Older people as web users <ul><ul><li>A growing proportion of society </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. by 2020 prediction 19.8% of Spanish population > 65 years old [Eurostat: http://bit.ly/5Uhyqd] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fastest growing group of web users </li></ul><ul><li>Patterns of use </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Email (94%), shopping (77%), looking for health information (71%), news (70%), banking (59%), (CTAM Pulse report Nov 2009 – survey of 65-74 year old web users) </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Older people as web users <ul><li>Age is not a reliable indicator of functional (dis)ability </li></ul><ul><li>Age is a useful indicator of life experience </li></ul>
  6. 6. Older people and accessibility issues <ul><li>Cognition </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Decline in fluid intelligence (short term memory, processing speed, ‘change blindness’) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More severe – e.g. dementia </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Visual </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduced visual acuity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduced colour perception (especially at blue end of spectrum); colour contrast issues </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hearing – reduced aural capability </li></ul><ul><li>Motor impairments (arthritis, tremor) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dexterity in using a mouse: positioning, double clicking </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Dynamic diversity <ul><li>Age-related capability decline is dynamic and unpredictable </li></ul><ul><li>General declining trend over time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>but fluctuations within a day or longer term </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Impact </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Combination of capability changes can make problems more serious </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of awareness of own accessibility needs </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Key design barriers <ul><li>Limited readability of text (font, justification, line spacing) </li></ul><ul><li>Problematic colour schemes </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulty in disambiguation of hyperlinks and other genuine UI controls </li></ul><ul><li>Excessive information on a page </li></ul><ul><li>Changes to content </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of consistency or predictability </li></ul>
  9. 9. Web Accessibility for older people: Best Practice <ul><li>From W3C: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>From other sources, including: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Nat. Inst. on Aging ‘Making your web site senior friendly’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kurniawan and Zaphiris’ Research-derived guidelines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nielsen’s web usability guidelines for older people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>See also the W3C’s WAI-AGE project literature review ( http://www.w3.org/WAI/WAI-AGE/ ) </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Web Accessibility vs Design for older Web users <ul><li>Much research into supporting older people as technology users </li></ul><ul><li>Older people benefit from accessible web design </li></ul><ul><li>But… </li></ul><ul><li>Web accessibility is (currently) not enough to support older web users </li></ul>
  11. 11. Why is web accessibility not (yet) enough to support older web users <ul><li>Web accessibility knowledge (and therefore web developers) tends to assume that users: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Know they have an accessibility need </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have found and implemented the appropriate access technology </li></ul></ul><ul><li>But these assumptions cannot be made for older Web users </li></ul>
  12. 12. Problem: WCAG, UAAG and research-derived guidelines for older people <ul><li>WCAG conflicts with design guidelines </li></ul><ul><ul><li>WCAG/Web Standards model of flexibility - designing to allow user control of display </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Guidelines for older web users are much more prescriptive (on fonts, text size, colours, multimedia) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Why the gulf? Suggestion: because UAAG non-conformance means browsers do not make it easy to support display customisation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>So designers forced to choose whether or not to compensate in their page design </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Problem: additional issues for Web content authors <ul><li>Lack of appreciation of issues ‘beyond guidelines’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>young developers vs older users, so different attitudes to e.g. security, trust </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cognitive impairments vs ‘ignorant users’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lack of encouragement and support? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tendency of legislation, standards and policy to be interpreted as ‘what to do to avoid disability discrimination’ </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Problem: awareness and attitudes of older people to accessibility <ul><li>Lack of knowledge of own accessibility needs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Capability change is dynamic over time </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Difficulty in finding and applying the correct accessibility solution </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Awareness of existence of accessibility features/ATs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Resistance to use of accessibility features even when made aware of them </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Older people are unlikely to self-identify as disabled…or as older people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social and personal attitudes to using an AT </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Ways forward: Developers and content providers <ul><li>Web content authors: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow WCAG </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be sensitive to additional needs of older people </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Browser developers: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Simplified browsing experience – reducing cognitive load is the most important accessibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Improving UAAG conformance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remove the browser? Accessible Rich Internet Applications… </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Ways forward: Supporting changing access needs <ul><li>Accommodating age-related capability decline </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reducing the traumatic change in web use caused by the introduction of an assistive technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Capability detection and gradual accessibility adaptation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SUS-IT project http://sus-it.lboro.ac.uk </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Better involvement of accessibility as part of older people browsing skills acquisition </li></ul>
  17. 17. Ways forward: Involving older people more effectively in design <ul><li>Taking advantage of the ‘crystallised’ knowledge of older web users </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Involving older people in participatory design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User interface paradigms and metaphors that are recognisable and appropriate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>These change over time </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Understanding more about how older people acquire and apply skills to use the Web </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Older people as social actors (Sergio Sayago @ UPF) </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Summary <ul><li>Older web users are not a homogeneous group </li></ul><ul><li>Older web users may have accessibility needs – but may not know it or have the appropriate technology </li></ul><ul><li>This problem may not be automatically ‘solved’ in 10, 20 years time, unless we all work to improve: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the accessibility of our web content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the usability of the tools people use to access and interact with that content </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Acknowledgments
  20. 20. Contact me <ul><li>David Sloan </li></ul><ul><li>Digital Media Access Group, School of Computing </li></ul><ul><li>University of Dundee </li></ul><ul><li>Dundee </li></ul><ul><li>DD1 4HN </li></ul><ul><li>Scotland </li></ul><ul><li>Email: dsloan@computing.dundee.ac.uk </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @sloandr </li></ul><ul><li>Blog: http://www.58sound.com </li></ul>

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