Web Accessibility and Older People - not as straighforward as you think?


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An overview of age related accessibility issues, research and best practice in web accessibility for older people, and an argument why we need to consider social issues relating to ageing and focus on reducing cognitive difficulties in completing web-based tasks.
Presentation given at a11yLDN, 21st September 2011, City University, London.

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  • Dana Chisnell and Ginny Redish’s review of usability for older adults available as a PDF from: http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/ucd/older-users-design.shtml
  • Guidelines on designing web sites for older people from: National Institute on Aging’s “Making Your Website Senior-Friendly” Guidelines (2010) – http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/website.htm WebCredible’s articles on older people and web usability: http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/web-usability/older-users.shtml and http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/ucd/older-users-design.shtml Jakob Nielsen on usability for older web users http://www.useit.com/alertbox/seniors.html – and Nielsen Norman report with 46 usability guidelines ($125) http://www.nngroup.com/reports/seniors/ (both 2002) -
  • “ Two cultures” – discussion on developer/practitioner awareness and use of other accessibility-oriented research guidelines in comparison to WCAG http://www.computing.dundee.ac.uk/staff/dsloan/twocultures.htm
  • WAI-AGE project web site: http://www.w3.org/WAI/WAI-AGE/ WAI-AGE literature review of older people and the Web: http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wai-age-literature WAI-AGE – Developing web sites for older people - how WCAG 2.0 applies: http://www.w3.org/WAI/older-users/developing.html
  • Design meets Disability: Graham Pullin (2009) MIT Press. ISBN-10:  0262162555
  • Web Accessibility and Older People - not as straighforward as you think?

    1. 1. Older people and web accessibility – not as straightforward as you think? David Sloan @sloandr 21 st September 2011 a11yLDN, City University, London
    2. 2. (Good to be in the warm south!) http://www.flickr.com/photos/kreidphotography/4258012264
    3. 3. Overview: <ul><li>Web accessibility and older people </li></ul><ul><li>Existing best practice </li></ul><ul><li>Current and future research directions </li></ul>
    4. 4. Older Web Users and Accessibility: it’s important! <ul><li>Population increase in UK – projections for mid 2008-2033 </li></ul><ul><li>Source: Office of National Statistics </li></ul>
    5. 5. Two main UK policy challenges: <ul><li>Encouraging older people to become web users ( lots of attention so far – Race Online etc ) </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting older web users in sustaining access, minimising disengagement ( less attention ) </li></ul>
    6. 6. Age-related accessibility issues <ul><li>Sensory: Vision, Hearing </li></ul><ul><li>Motor: Dexterity </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fluid intelligence (relating to processing and reasoning, aptitude for learning, working memory, visual attention) </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Understanding age-related accessibility issues <ul><li>Chronological age is not a reliable indicator of capability or performance. Also consider: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aptitude </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Attitude </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Chisnell and Redish (2004) Designing Web sites for Older Adults: Expert review of Usability for Older adults at 50 web sites. </li></ul></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Understanding age-related accessibility issues <ul><li>Issues highly individual , in terms of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The accessibility issue(s) a person may have </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The way in which these issues were acquired </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The rate that these issues change in severity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The impact of these issues individually and in combination </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Understanding age-related accessibility issues <ul><li>Some capabilities are less prone to decline over time: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Crystallised intelligence – knowledge acquired through learning and life experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May help explain older people’s relatively high success levels in ill-defined search tasks </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Research and development <ul><li>Lots of HCI and cognitive science research on ageing and technology use </li></ul><ul><li>Output from organisations supporting older people – e.g. US National Institute on Aging </li></ul><ul><li>Some commercial interest in sharing findings (Nielsen-Norman Group, WebCredible) </li></ul>
    11. 11. Output? Lots of guidelines! <ul><li>Some of them extremely prescriptive; some at odds with modern web development </li></ul><ul><li>Some may introduce new issues </li></ul><ul><li>Sign of a gulf between ageing/technology research and the people designing the technology? </li></ul>
    12. 12. WAI-AGE: trying to bridge the gap
    13. 13. Social nature of accessibility and ageing
    14. 14. Social acceptability of accessibility solutions <ul><li>Some are mainstream, and accepted…some are not </li></ul>
    15. 15. Ways forward: for authors and developers <ul><li>Follow WCAG; look at age-related guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on reducing cognitive load – usability is key </li></ul><ul><li>Be sensitive to additional needs of older people – involve older people throughout user experience design </li></ul><ul><li>Be sensitive to perceptions and awareness of “accessibility” </li></ul>
    16. 16. Ways forward: Supporting changing access needs <ul><li>Simplifying the browsing experience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>HTML 5 Form elements; AJAX for usability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Desktop and mobile apps – remove the browser UI! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Accommodating age-related capability change </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Capability detection and gradual accessibility adaptation – e.g. SUS-IT project http://sus-it.lboro.ac.uk </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Better involvement of accessibility in part of older people browsing skills acquisition </li></ul>
    17. 17. Ways forward: Involving older people more effectively in web 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><li>Understanding more about how older people acquire and apply skills to use the Web </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethnography of older people as Web learners and users </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cognitive modelling of specific behaviours </li></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>Focus on reducing cognitive demand on browsing </li></ul><ul><li>This problem won’t go away unless we all work to evangelise and practice UCD with older people (including our future selves) </li></ul>
    19. 19. Acknowledgments <ul><li>Paula Forbes (photos) </li></ul><ul><li>Sergio Sayago (insight from ethnography with older web users) </li></ul>
    20. 20. THANKYOU! <ul><li>email: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>twitter: @sloandr </li></ul><ul><li>blogs: www.58sound.com --- blog.dundee.ac.uk/eaccessibility </li></ul><ul><li>work: www.dmag.org.uk --- www.computing.dundee.ac.uk </li></ul>