The great thing about the internet is that everybody can find any information they want. Everybody? Really? When building websites, we often tend to forget the elderly and the disabled. Granted they might not be your number one target, they still have a lot to teach us about acessibility!
Here are a few things they taught me during my years of working on a software for the elderly.
A good font is a readable font
To make a website readable, choosing the right font is essential. The first step in accessibility is to use Sans serif fonts, way easier to read when you have trouble with your sight.
To take it a step further, we need to pay attention to letter & word spacing and line height. People with dyslexia or visual impairment for instance are more comfortable reading when the words are sufficiently spread apart.
Also, an interesting option is to offer your user the possibility to increase the size of the text.
Contrast is your friend
The WCAG defines norms of accessibility for websites. When it comes to color contrast, the guidelines define two norms: AA & AAA, the first one being the bare minimum, the second being recommanded for people with visual impairment.
In my experience, contrast is especially important when it comes to text with no other visual indicators (icons, images…).
To check if your text passes of fails WCAG reccomandations, many tools exist. My favorites are ColourContrast.cc (which also comes as a Chrome extension), and ContrastChecker which even tells you if your text is readable for color blind people.
Size does matter
I remember a user feedback for this exact problem: the user kept clicking on the “back” button, instead of the “save” button. The reason? They were too small and too close to each other.
Our users being mainly elders: a lot of them had tremors, so they had trouble clicking on the right buttons.
As you grow old, it is natural to have small tremors in your hands. Tremors make it difficult to tap or click on small elements, especially when they are too close to each other. Make sure your buttons, field forms or any important clickable element is big enough.
Lucky for us, solutions are being developped to offer our disabled users an alternative. In France for example, FACIL’iti adapts websites to the main common disabilities (visual impairment, parkinson and dyslexia).
Like these solutions, a growing number of official websites offer “accessibility” options to their users.
Make your structure reader-ready
A valuable thing I learned while my company software was audited by a visually impaired help organization, is how important the HTML structure is.
Screen readers such as Jaws will essentially analyze the structure of your website to read it to the user. If it has poor structure, the screen reader won’t be able to differentiate a menu from a title or a paragraph.
Having a well-constructed website is essential, especially if you want people with visual disabilities to use it!
Besides the general structure of your pages, don’t forget to make a good use of placeholders in your forms and alt attributes for your images.
When something important happens on your website or app, your user needs to be informed. Sound can be helpful. It is especially helpful to people with visual impairment.
Notifications, chat, pop-up… Any event that is going to derail the user from his / her “normal” browsing needs to be immediatly understandable. Adding sound to those events can be a good solution. Careful though: use sounds sparingly!