Accessible Interface Design
It's been another big week for accessibility issues & Drupal (and we're just barely at Wednesday). Got another patch committed to Drupal 7 (thanks Angie), but found another couple of bugs to add to the Accessibility Improvement's list. I taped a video of a friend of mine with Cerebral Palsy (Al Shain) trying to create an account and log into Drupal. That was certainly educational, and I've tossed it all up on Youtube with annotations for usability issues.
I just came back from a great talk by Mark McKay, who is the Tech Lead of Interaction Design Group at Industry Canada. There was a lot of the presentation I liked (and fortunately it will be available on his blog soon). First, getting some stats can always be useful. "60-80% of people suffer from hearing loss and or vision loss as seniors", that's a lot of the population and a lot of boomers are already starting to see this. "10% of population lives with a disability and has an unemployment rate of 60-80%", that's a lot of talented people who aren't able to participate in society. I liked Mark's analogy of a screen reader as a stream of information. You need to be able to jump between parts of the stream to be able to understand the context with which it makes sense. Sure, screen readers can spit out number of links, header lists, but the more effort is put into the layout and content the easier it will be. These landmarks provide navigation points to help users create a mental model of the content. Also found it useful to know that the 'h' key jumps you to the first heading in a page in most screen readers. Consistency & predictability are important to build that picture of the information.
Managing Fields and Links
Good Content Still Bottom Line
Final point was the importance of Plain Language for communicating. Many people in our communities are either cognitively impaired, have low literacy skills, or are coming to this site and reading it as a second language. Simple, clear, transparent text is very important.
About The Author
Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.