Designing for all: Part 1
Fri, 31 Jan 2020

How designing for the disabled makes things better for everyone.

Designing for disabilities

When creating a website we design it so that people with disabilities can use it as easily as those without a disability. 

Such design considerations may include:

  • Descriptions of images for those who can't see
  • Subtitles for a video for those that can't hear
  • Large buttons for those with shaking hands or reduced fine motor skills
  • Save functions, clear navigation, plain English and visual reassurance for those with anxiety.


Designing for everyone

However, we're all disabled in many contexts and circumstances. 

Whilst we may not all have a permanent disability, we may have a 'temporary disability', such as a hearing infection or a broken arm. How would you binge watch Netflix if you couldn't hear? Or send texts if you couldn't use your hand?

What's more common however, is to suffer from a 'situational disability'. This is something that probably happens to all of us on a daily basis.

A situational disability is what stops us from going about our normal day to day tasks because of a certain situation. A few examples include not being able to type a text whilst walking because you can't hit the keys properly or not hearing your phone ring because you're in a noisy place. 


Situational disabilities

Take a look at the video from Barclays on the homepage. It's just over a minute long and does a great job at illustrating some common 'situational disabilities'.

The same design techniques we use to support those with a permanent and temporary disability, also benefit those with a situational disability.

Take a look at these common examples...


You have a broken arm, and are struggling to browse the internet on your laptop

With a broken arm you'll quickly learn that the computer mouse and trackpad both require fine motor skills that you no longer have. It might be tempting to say you'd use your other hand, but that's a lot harder than you think. Give it a go now - try and open a new email, type a message and send it - it would get very frustrating, very quickly.

Accessibility modification: allows users to navigate a website using keyboard controls, rather than a mouse or trackpad.  

This will also help: users without hands, the visually impaired or blind or those with hand tremors.


Your child is using you as a climbing frame whilst you're trying to report a pothole online

This happened to our very own website manager, Chris Burkill. He wanted to report a pothole on our website using a contact 360 form, but because he couldn't hold his phone still enough to press the tiny buttons - he couldn't fill it in. As a result, we increased the size of all form buttons.

Accessibility modification: larger buttons are much easier to target correctly.

This will also help: those with hand tremors, such as Parkinson's.


You're trying to renew your passport online whilst listening to songs from Frozen 2 at full volume 

This happened to me. I had a small window in which to apply online, and nobody else to look after the children whilst I did it. Because of the noise and constant requests for drinks, snacks, toilet breaks etc… I got easily distracted, kept forgetting what I'd already inputted, began doubting I'd entered the correct information and worried I wouldn't get through it before the form either timed out or I admitted defeat and gave up.

Accessibility modification: Keep pages short, navigation clear and text descriptions simple. Offer a save function for peace of mind, and reminders of the information that has been supplied.

This will also help: those with anxiety who doubt their decision making or those with attention difficulties.


You're awaiting an important call from your child's school but are in a meeting and have to have your phone on silent

We've probably all had to do this at some point. Thankfully, all smartphones come with options to vibrate or flash instead of ring loudly.

Accessibility modification: phone vibrations and flashing alerts.


It's freezing and you don't want to take your gloves off to use your phone

We've probably all been here if we have a touch screen phone. How many of you have used your nose to do basic commands like answer a call whilst wearing gloves? Or is it just me that looks silly?! 

Whilst verbal commands such as 'Call Pete' or 'Send a text to Anna' aren't perfect yet and require a bit of a learning curve, they go some way to helping those who aren't able to use their fingers to control their device.

Accessibility modification: verbal commands.

Who else will it help: those unable to use their hands.


You're bored and on a train and want to listen to a podcast but you've left your headphones at home

You can't play it out loud and bother other passengers, so without a text version of the audio file, you're stuck. It's the same issue with video - without a text transcript or subtitles, you're unable to view it without headphones.

Accessibility modification: a text transcript of the audio file. Subtitles for a video.

Who else will it help: those with visual and audio impairments.


The glare from your phone or tablet screen hurts your eyes 

Do you use your phone or tablet before you go to sleep? Most devices and browsers offer a 'night-mode' option which alter the contrast and brightness to reduce glare.

Accessibility modification: contrast modifications and night time viewing mode.

Who else will it help: everyone! Read this great article on the digital care website about why using 'night mode' can improve your health by improving your sleep and reducing stress. It will also massively increase your battery life!


Designing for all: Part 2

Our next article about accessible design will focus on how you can begin to create accessible documents at work and how they can improve the usability for 'every' kind of reader.

In the meantime, read more about website accessibility in our new section on the intranet. Although still in development, it will include information about the problems disabled users face, how we can all help and the legal requirements of the council.


Other news

Content migration plan - we've been working our way through 3.5k pages on the intranet to work out which pages are no longer relevant and which content we'll need to move to the new intranet. We've also been thinking about the ways you might want to interact with this content, and coming up with new ideas of how to display it.

Policies directory - we're still working towards adding more staff policies to the new directory. We've been in touch with some of the policy owners, but if you own a policy and we haven't emailed you yet, please let us know at intranet@eastriding.gov.uk

Up next

Header - we've reviewed the new style header that we have on the homepage with a view to implementing it across all the intranet pages. We've sent our new concepts to our development team to begin building it.

Search - we're also going to make our new search available from every page, and we're making a few changes to make it easier for you to use.

Knowledge hub - we've got a concept design session planned in to begin thinking about how to make it as easy as possible to get answers to all those 'how do I?' type questions, such as 'How do I find a room at County Hall?', 'How do I report a broken toilet? or 'How do I book onto a training course?'

We have lots of these questions ourselves, but I'm sure you'll have some too. If you want to make any suggestions, please email us and we'll do our best to make sure they are included (intranet@eastriding.gov.uk).

Jenny Syrett, senior web projects manager


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