Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Usability Guidelines: Web Design for Users With Disabilities

Accessibility report available for download from Nielsen Norman Group ...

"The report contains:

* Results of usability tests of 19 websites with users with several different types of disabilities who are using a range of assistive technology:
o blind users using screen readers
o blind users using Braille readers
o low-vision users using screen magnifiers
o motor-impaired users
* Test data collected mainly in the United States, with some additional studies in Japan to ensure the international applicability of the recommendations
o A total of 104 users participated in the usability studies:
o 84 users with disabilities
o 20 non-disabled users who served as a control group
* 75 detailed design guidelines

The report is richly illustrated with 46 screenshots of designs that worked well or that caused difficulties for users with disabilities in the usability tests as well as 23 photos of assistive technology devices. The examples and guidelines are directly based on empirical observation of actual user behavior.

This report addresses the usability of websites and intranets. The report should be used together with the standards for technical accessibility of web pages. Obviously, technical accessibility is a pre-condition for usability: if users cannot get at the content of the web pages, they also cannot use the website. Technical accessibility is necessary, but not sufficient for usability of a design. Even if a site is theoretically accessible because it follows the technical accessibility standards to the letter, it can still be very hard to use for people with disabilities.

The fact that technical accessibility is insufficient to guarantee great usability, ease of learning, and high user performance should come as no surprise. After all, countless usability studies of websites and intranets have documented severe usability problems, low success rates, and sub-optimal user performance, even when testing users with no disabilities. Being able to see everything on a webpage certainly doesn't guarantee that you will know what to do on the page or the optimal way to perform your task. This observation holds equally true for users with disabilities: just because a site is technically accessible doesn't mean that it will be easy or fast to perform tasks on the site.

This report addresses the second level in improving the user experience of websites and intranets for people with disabilities. Yes, you must ensure technical accessibility but you should also ensure good usability, ease of use, and high productivity for employees and customers with disabilities."    (Continued via Nielsen Norman Group)    [Usability Resources]

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