Archive for the 'accessibility' Category

Designing for People Who Struggle with Reading and Attention

I had the honor of presenting once again at the UPA Boston User Experience Conference. My slides are embedded below, but I encourage you to view the slides on SlideShare, as the transcript of the talk is included in the ‘Notes’ tab below the slides.

Designing for People Who Struggle with Reading and Attention

Imagine you’re almost done with your taxes—but you’re ravenous and the smell of Indian food is wafting through your window, your electricity is randomly turning off for 30-second blips, and the neighbor’s infant is incessantly scream-crying. How successful will you be finishing your taxes? This session included simulations so you can get a sense of reading as a low-decoder, and of completing web-based tasks when you lack the ability to filter out distractions and/or struggle with short-term memory. We observed usability test session video clips of some of the obstacles introduced by interface design choices. You can’t design effectively for low literacy and attention disorders if you don’t understand how these issues affect people as they try to work online. We looked at good and poor design implementations of forms, touch and ajax interactions, search interfaces, and layout choices. I hope the talk helps people improve design for as much as 15% of audiences.

References in Presentation

Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2004). Handbook of self-regulation: research, theory, and applications. New York: Guilford Press.

CDC Data & Statistics | Feature: Developmental Disabilities Increasing in US. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 6, 2012, from

H.L. Chace, 1956. Anguish Languish. by Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.

Resources in Presentation

Captcha Alternatives

Writing and Plain Language


Book Review: Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks

Web Form Design

I heartily recommend Luke Wroblewski’s Web Form Design (May, 2008) for people who create web forms and for those who hire others to create them. The book is structured in three parts: form structure, form elements, and form interaction, and includes a plethora of real-world examples. Whether you’re a novice or expert, walking through Wroblewski’s overview of forms-related issues will provoke your thinking about design choices and their impact. Luke is Chief Design Architect at Yahoo! and blogs at Functioning Form.

Below are some of my thoughts and recommendations in response to the book.

Deepen your understanding of other people’s experiences

Who are we to not bother to ensure the resources we create are universally usable? As you are thinking about making better web forms, deepen your understanding of how design choices affect people with disabilities. Read the entire post: Book Review: Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks

Video of Scripting Enabled Talks Available

Scripting Enabled conferenceScripting Enabled (hacking the web to be more accessible) began in 2008 as a two-day conference started by “developer evangelist” extraordinaire, Christian Heilmann. The first video and transcript of one of the September talks is now live: Denise Stephens on Multiple Sclerosis. Denise describes how her symptoms, and thus needs and abilities, change from day to day—from vision distortion to feeling like she’s “wearing Mickey Mouse gloves.” Denise encourages a universal design approach to account for the unpredictable nature of how the unknown visitor may be using and experiencing technology. While the goal is to create for the broadest possible need, Denise’s story is powerful and useful because it offers glimpses of actual problems she encounters. No matter what our abilities, planners and developers of technology must make it out business to hear as many such real stories as we can.

OpenID: Control, Security, User Experience

OpenID logoAfter first reading about OpenID, I started looking for WordPress plugins to get it working on my site. There were ux issues with each of the plugins I tried. I planned to compare them here, but after some investigation I’m reluctant to recommend OpenID because of control, privacy, and especially security concerns. There is much work already in progress to address these issues. Below I’ll describe OpenID, discuss some of the down sides, and offer a few recommendations if you want to try it out. Read the entire post: OpenID: Control, Security, User Experience

Skip to Content-ment

I have often settled for ‘skip navigation’ rather than ‘skip to content’ because Jaws and Kurzweil stress the second syllable of ‘content,’ as in satisfied. I was reading Sam Hasting’s Pure CSS Skip Links article and noticed that Jaws reads his ‘Skip to Content’ properly. The title case (capital ‘C’) makes the difference!

My primary audience is people with Learning Disabilities (often using a screen reader). Skip links are useful for this audience for the same reasons they are useful to keyboard navigators and screen reader users who are blind. Read the entire post: Skip to Content-ment