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Accessible Technology: Where Do You Start?


Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 on our series on accessible technology as we support GAAD next week, May 21st.  Support Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

It’s estimated that approximately 20% of people could benefit from accessible technology. It’s a challenging topic since different people have different needs and many businesses are unaware of how to account for these needs. Some users identify as being disabled and others don’t. Visual, hearing, and mobile impaired users are just a few examples of people that need accessible technology.  

Seniors are also a rapidly growing group that requires better accessibility.  Even the average user needs accessible technology options occasionally. Environment surroundings such as a sunny day or a loud, busy area interferes with mobile app use. Since mobile app interference is situational, most users can benefit from accessibility options. Depending on the severity of the disability, people may rely on built-in device features or assistive technologies. 

Examples of assistive technologies are: screen readers, brail displays, dictation software, zooming software, and special keyboards and pointer devices. You can make sure your product works with these assistive technologies by adhering to known standards.

Accessibility Awareness Day is coming up! Check out these vids to see how people with disabilities…

Captioned Video

Rikki Poynter has a hearing impairment and explains her special need for captioned video in “YouTubers, You Need to Closed Caption Your Videos! ”

Screen Readers

If you’ve never seen someone working with a screen reader, check out this video of Colleen. She explains the basics of how she uses JAWS, the most used screen reader for visually impaired users.

Refreshable Braille

For another example of accessible technology, see how Bruce uses Refreshable Braille:

Accessible Technology and the Elderly

A growing group of people who need accessible technology is the elderly. The statistics on population age are startling. Every month more than a quarter of a million Americans turn 65. 40% of the population of Japan will be over 65 years old by 2050. Accessible technology will greatly improve the quality of life for current and future senior citizens.

To learn more about accessibility and the elderly, watch this interview with Andrew Arch by Jonathan Hassell.

Others: Cerebral Palsy and Complete Paralysis

Read how Glenda http://blogaccessibility.com/surf-a-gb-with-glendas-thumb/ (diagnosed with “cerebral palsy athetoid quadriplegia”) uses accessible technology on the Internet. Due to her illness, Glenda’s physical movements are jerky and involuntary, making it difficult to type. She’s limited to use one thumb to type on her keyboard.

Marie-France is almost completely paralyzed, but thanks to assistive technology she can tell her story: http://www.als-testimony.org/videos/mp4.videos-en.html

Accessible Technology and Your Product Development Process

It’s challenging to come up with every situation where every impairment is covered by accessibility design. The W3C has come up with a set of guidelines to help you make your site accessible the “web content accessibility guidelines” also known as: WCAG 2.0.

One additional way to keep accessibility in mind during the design process is to integrate impairments and disabilities in the personas you use. You can read more about accessibility in user-centered design using personas at UIAccess.com:  http://www.uiaccess.com/accessucd/personas.html

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 on our series on accessible technology as we support GAAD next week, May 21st. Support Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

About the author:

Ryan O'Connor

Ryan has helped build compelling experiences for startups and Fortune 500’s around the globe, a passion he draws from his endless curiosity of psychology, computer interaction, and company culture. A published author and mentor with an M.S. in Human Factors, Ryan is on a mission to help companies discover the balance of creating delightful digital experiences while achieving business goals.