While following WCAG 2.0 standards is a great step to making sure your website is compliant, it’s not the only step. I’ve talked about user testing in other posts, and let me just reiterate that it’s a really important way to figure out what works on your site and what doesn’t. If you are changing your site to make sure it complies with the standards, then it makes sense to try it out and determine if your modifications are actually effective.
It might be intimidating at first. After all there are so many modifications that people can use to help them access web content, how do you even know where to start? Thankfully, the UK Government has done some of the work for you!
In an article called (quite logically), Results of the 2016 GOV.UK assistive technology survey, the UK Government looked into how people were accessing their website. The survey ran for six weeks and received over 700 responses. Basically, the survey sought to understand what devices, browsers, and accessibility programs users are employing when they access the website. So what technology are most people using?
Top Assistive Tech
- Screen Magnifiers – 30%
- Screen Readers – 29%
- Speech Recognition – 18%
- Readability – 15%
Ok, so what we can learn from these stats is that a lot of people are having the text either made bigger via magnifiers or having the text read to them. They are also employing speech recognition and readability programs to access the content on gov.uk. Let’s take a closer look at the top 3 programs that are being used in each category.
No matter how well you can see, you’ve probably squinted to read something on your phone or computer at some point. These helpful programs will enlarge the text on your screen (much like the UserWay widget does) so that you can see it better.
I use a screen reader all the time, so it’s my favorite type of assistive technology. Basically, these programs take what is on the screen and reads it back to the user.
Did you know you can control your computer just by talking to it? Users can install software to help them give verbal commands to do everything from typing documents to navigate websites.
- Dragon Naturallyspeaking wins hands down
These programs help users to improve their literacy and comprehension and are typically packed with various helpful features.
- Read and write
- ClaroRead (listed as ClaraRead on the uk.gov site)
What Does this Info Mean to ME?
If you’re a website designer or owner, it means that those are some key programs you need to make sure that your website works well with for your users. Consider when you see an online survey, how often do you complete it? If you are like most people, not very often. The sample size of this survey means that there were several hundred people willing to weigh in on the type of assistive technology they used. They are literally handing you a cheat-sheet to use to help your users get the most out of your site. Don’t let the efforts go to waste.
Instead, install these programs, test them out, see or hear what they do. It’s going to take some time and effort, but it’s really important. You will gain a deeper understanding of how users interact with your content and learn what flaws you might have on your site that you hadn’t previously considered.
Too close to your content to be a fair judge of what needs to be changed? Then just pick a website and use the assistive technology on that content. Make notes about what frustrates you, what the site designer could have done better, and what works really well using the assistive programs. This will help you to get insight on things you might need to change as well without combing through your own material.
Assistive technology has its challenges and flaws just like any other system. While it isn’t perfect, it is the only way that millions of people can access digital content. Creating a website that considers its users takes time and effort, but it’s a really important thing to do. Also thanks to the people at gov.uk for even thinking to put the survey together in the first place, let alone share the results.