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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Design for the blind

Accessibility is an important character for user experience, and it becomes extremely challenge when it comes for the blind and visual impaired person.

It was a big challenge and also a great opportunity when I worked on this project for 1+1, a NGO for the blind in Beijing. The idea was to create a website, which enable the blinds to be able to social online, and enjoy audio contents or radio channel from 1+1.

So I conducted some research, found out some facts, which was not as what we by default thought. (#accessibility, #blind, #universal)

1. They do use computer and surf online

Before this project, I did not know how blind person can surf online. They do surf online, but not convenient, because most sites are not designed for them, and it is very difficult for them to "hear" the content or "read" the letters one by one.

2. They do not use a mouse

Of course it will be almost impossible for them to use a mouse, even for the visual impaired, low vision person. Instead, they will use the "tab" to move the focus and the screen reader will read the content for them. Also, they are able to use the keyboard, and many of them do not have to use a keyboard with braille, some of them even can type very fast.

3. They do not click

Of course since they do not use a mouse, they also do not click; instead, they will use the enter key on the keyboard after the button is selected by moving the tab key.

So after all the facts found, how shall I proceed to solve the problems and design an accessible site for the target users?

1. A simple web layout allow them to navigate

Since they do not use a mouse, it is difficult for them to move the focus freely, we want the web layout simple enough that they can easily use tab key and arrow key, and go to any place of the site.

2. Everything is "hear-able"

For those who do not have a screen reading software installed on their computer, we also provided a voice reading feature.

Besides, because the screen reader can not read graphics, all the non-text objects have been provide text labels, and graphic text can’t be enlarged in the same way as ordinary text. This way, even a button or an image will be read by the screen reader to the users.

3. Allow visual impaired to enlarge the texts

For those visual impaired with low vision, first, we provided simple icon for them to easily enlarge the fonts. Furthermore, we also provided a dynamic magnifier, so they can move this magnifier and read the enlarged letters one by one.

4. Design proper contrast

Some visual impaired people has a significant decrease in contrast sensitivity — that is, the eye's ability to differentiate between similar shades and levels of brightness. Nowadays, many beautiful sites are using subtle gradients and slight shifts in value to create nice graphics, however, that may cause a difficulty for our target users. Hence, we designed very simple and clean visual with strong contrast, and we even provided three different color contrast for them to switch at their own favorites after done some research.

Accessible design is a design process in which the needs of people with disabilities are specifically considered. Accessibility sometimes refers to the characteristic that products, services, and facilities can be independently used by people with a variety of disabilities. UW

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