Digital accessibility, accessibility and inclusion
At GRRR we believe it is important that digital services are accessible to everyone. That is why we work for and with initiatives such as Studio Inclusion and Code Diversity and Inclusion, we share knowledge knowledge at symposia and we invest in research. For example, Doris de Jager is currently working at GRRR on a web accessibility survey on the user experience (UX) of visually impaired users (blind or visually impaired) users. We interviewed Doris about her research and her motivations.
What is your research about?
My research is about the influence of web accessibility on the user experience (UX) of visually impaired users (blind or visually impaired). The web and all its content plays a central role in our society. Unfortunately, access to this web content is not obvious for people with a functional disability. Since web content is largely visual, it is especially difficult for visually impaired users to access web content. To increase this accessibility, developers can use the WCAG guidelines (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
Research now shows that those guidelines do not reach what they are intended for. They are too focused on findability and not enough on the full user experience. So it looks too much like a checkbox culture: “Yes, the page is findable for people with a visual impairment; WCAG check!” We should aim at creating a meaningful web experience for all visitors. I am now investigating how we can get there.
So it looks too much like a checkbox culture: "Yes, the page is findable for people with a visual impairment; WCAG check!"
What do you want to achieve?
If I can contribute that users with a visual impairment have an equivalent UX as users who can see it, I would be very happy with that.
How do you approach such a survey?
By means of user tests with visually impaired users, I want to gain insight into how web content is used by them and which potential problems they experience. I want to supplement this knowledge with interviews with which I want to gain in-depth insight into their experience with the web and how they would like to see this improved. I will process these recommendations in a prototype and test them again. With this I want to test whether these recommendations really make for a more pleasant UX.
What is your personal motivation to deal with this subject?
In 2020 there will be a law that requires government organizations to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. As a result, more and more websites (and apps) are forced to make their content more accessible. However, we are still a long way from achieving this goal. I recently spoke with a blind man in his late twenties, who told me that he only used the web for necessity. He could not remember a moment of a positive experience with the web. I find this bizarre since his peers are probably on the web all day long, in a digital world that he cannot experience. For these reasons I think it is important to conduct this research. I think web accessibility and a pleasant UX for the blind and visually impaired can make a world of difference and increase their digital inclusion enormously!
How did you end up at GRRR?
Well, actually my brother tipped me (shout out to Chiel)! He told me about a digital agency that is committed to sensible business, something that immediately appealed to me! I did user research for the Rutgers Foundation and I think it is great to work for meaningful businesses. After I had looked at the website I immediately called the office to ask if they were looking for a research intern. A week later I had an introductory meeting in which we talked very openly about the interests of GRRR and my interests, we found a topic and now I am here!
What do you want to do next?
When I have completed the research and obtained my master’s I will go diving first for 3 weeks in the Philippines. After that I want to work as a UX researcher or designer (preferably a combination!). It also might be cool to expand my research at GRRR with different users with different functional limitations. Visually impaired people are of course not the only group of users with limited access to the web, so it seems interesting to map their needs too!
Is sufficient information available on this subject? Are many people working on it or is it disappointing?
Several studies have shown that there is a relationship between UX and web accessibility, only insight into what this relationship is and (more importantly) how we can improve this in concrete terms is missing at the moment. Web accessibility is currently too much about functionality, while the web has much more to offer than that. There is still (too) little research on this topic which can contribute to a more positive user experience for visually impaired users. In particular, concrete areas for improvement that developers and designers can get started with are missing. The problem is clear, but how we can solve it is still a mystery. I do notice that it is a subject that is very popular among developers and designers. I get a lot of questions about my research and if I want to share insights. I think that many developers and designers do want to make their web content more accessible, but it is disappointing how many websites and apps actually are. Accessibility is usually not the main priority.
Want to know more about our research on accessibility?
We like to exchange ideas. Please contact Doris if you have input or feedback about her research.
- Research Intern
Doris de Jager