Category: Internet Accessibility

This category contains information about making the Internet accessible. Web Accessibility problems may involve cognitive, hearing, motor, speech, visual, and a combination of disabilities.

Understanding Disabilities When Designing a Web Site

In Digital Web Magazine last month (September 16, 2008), Leona Tomlinson of Agoo IT wrote a great article: "Understanding disabilities when designing a website". While some of the information can be found in many places, Tomlinson distills a broad range of information in one article, making it ideal for sharing with those new to Web accessibility. She also organizes it by disability – including the often overlooked cognitive disabilities. Tomlinson provides snapshot statistics of people with disabilities in the U.K. and the U.S. By showing the data in raw numbers rather than percentages, you get – to my mind – a powerful sense of scope. The comments that follow the article are useful as well. Particularly useful is a reference to Ginny Redish and Mary Theophanes' article "Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work With Screen Readers" (.pdf) originally published in Interactions, this link is the the authors' version and includes figures not in the ACM publication.

Age 50+ Persona for the STC Body of Knowledge

Guest author: Lori Gillen I was asked to prepare a persona on what users over the age of 50 may need to maximize their use of the STC Body of Knowledge portal. The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is currently developing a Body of Knowledge (BoK) portal where Technical Communicators can share their areas of expertise with each other. This portal will enable technical communicators to research specific areas of expertise, such as usability or content management. They will be able to obtain answers to their questions regarding professional development, education and training, and new techniques and technologies. The amount of expertise that they will be able to obtain from this portal is vast. In addition, the Body of Knowledge portal will encompass the entire scope of disciplines that use technical communication, adding value to our profession and showing professionals in other areas of the corporate world that technical communicators accomplish more than just writing. I presented a draft on the AccessAbility SIG discussion list and received some excellent feedback. The text that follows is the actual persona that I presented to the Body of Knowledge Committee.

The Age 50+ Persona

Margy Statler
  • Technical communicator, 16 years
  • 59-years-old, married
  • Bachelor of arts degree, Wellesley College; masters technical and professional writing, Northeastern University
  • Human Factors in Informational Design masters program candidate at Bentley College
  • Senior member of the STC
Margy is a principal technical writer for a healthcare company, and has been an employee there for the past ten years. She is an experienced writer who mentors the less seasoned writers in her department. Her documentation and training department is set up so that members offer their area of expertise to the other department members. To that effort, Margy is enrolled in a Masters program in Human Factors in Informational Design and offers her usability expertise to other members of her group. Margy loves outdoor sports - biking (mountain and road), hiking, kayaking, skiing, and running. She said that riding motorcycles is fun but doesn't provide much exercise. Her bookmarked sites include Google for searching, REI - Outlet (outdoor clothing), weather, MapQuest Music, and Wikipedia. With age, Margy's eyesight is changing and she has trouble reading words on the monitor clearly. To accommodate she sets her default browser font larger and for sites that do not inherit the larger size she uses a magnifying browser plug-in with Firefox. Additional accommodations are bulleted in the section that describes her work environment. Her study partner is hearing impaired and has special accommodations concerning her own computer use. Key Attributes
  • Sixteen years of technical communication experience with ten years at her current company.
  • In-depth knowledge of company products and product history from working on initial and update releases
  • Skill at using Help authoring and publishing tools to produce deliverables
  • Special focus on usability and human factors
Work Environment and Accommodations
  • Listens to music to help her focus on work, because area around her cubicle is noisy and she is easily distracted.
  • Uses widescreen desktop monitor because it's easier to see what's on the screen. In addition, she makes the screen as bright as possible.
  • Prefers to print out content rather than read it on a computer to reduce eye and neck strain.
  • Sends mail using a larger font size (bumps it up around 125%) and bolds items for easier reading.
  • Resets her default font to sans-serif because she finds it hard to read content that is written with a serif font.
  • Turns on captioning when watching online videos to accommodate her study partner's hearing loss.
  • Uses RoboHelp to develop Help files, and is now transitioning to MadCap Flare.
  • Uses Adobe FrameMaker and Acrobat to produce printed documentation.
  • Reads books and articles on usability for class assignments.
  • Conducts usability testing and studies usability and accessibility design practices for school.
Informational Needs/Goals
  • Wants information on trends in the technical communication industry.
  • Wants to know about new tools for streamlining her workflow.
  • Needs to research designing for accessibility for a class assignment.
  • Wants to network with other technical communication and usability professionals.
  • Wants to find accommodations for her husband, also a technical writer, whose fingers tire easily from typing because they are numb from Diabetes
Scenario of Use: Margy Statler
  1. Margy is familiar with STC and naturally turns there first to seek information.
  2. First she looks around the site for any information about usability. The Google search on the site displays results about Usability presentations. [Please note that searching on outside of the STC site produces more direct results on the Usability SIG, eliminating Step 3 below]
  3. She locates the SIG groups after mousing over the whole group of drop-down menus. She sees a link to "AccessAbility" and "Usability and User Experience."
  4. She explores the AccessAbility site to find information to accommodate her eyesight, and her husband's Diabetes. Then she visits the Usability and User Experience SIG site to see if there is any information that can help her with her studies.
Guest author: Lori Gillen