The problems users of assist technology face, when browsing the web

By: September 30, 2020
Brian Dalton will speak at this year's UXDX conference in Dublin

Have you ever found it difficult navigating your way around a website? If you have, it’s most probably down to the site’s bad user experience or UX.

Now, imagine that you are blind or visually impaired and are trying to navigate around the web. The importance of good UX becomes even more relevant.

Brian Dalton is a website accessibility QA tester and consultant and is a keynote speaker at this year’s virtual UXDX conference on October 6-9.

Brian is the QA accessibility lead tester for both Aer Lingus and InterAccess. He tests websites and user interface components to ensure they meet the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. He is also blind and a screen reader user.

Here we discuss digital accessibility, the importance of ‘baking in’ accessibility into the start of every product’s life cycle, and what designers and product managers should consider when they are building websites and apps.

“I use a screen reader to explore websites,” says Brian. “A screen reader does what it says on the tin; it’s a piece of software that reads the screen and gives a speech and Braille output. I use JAWS which is software made by Freedom Scientific. I’m also now a beta tester for the company.”

What are the typical problems Brian faces with websites and apps that don’t have accessibility at their core?

“Typically it’s four or five things that disrupt my user experience,” says Brian. “Unlabelled links are the first thing that comes to mind. If the text says ‘click here’ that’s not much use. It should say ‘click here to find out more about such and such’. The call to action for links should be clear.

“Another common accessibility issue I find is when certain fields on the screen are not labelled properly. If, for example, you are buying something or booking something online, there are certain form fields you must fill in to complete your purchase. If these fields aren’t labelled, I will often get to the buy button but not be able to complete the sale because I don’t know what fields are essential to fill. Screen readers should be able to interact with all form fields.”

Buttons are also an issue; they should be labelled in the right way. And then there are the dreaded calendar dropdowns. “These can be very difficult,” says Brian.

If someone is entering the field of UX or building sites and digital products, what advice would Brian give them? “It’s simple. Accessibility should be baked into everything right from the start; it should be in your culture. It’s complicated and expensive to go back and retrofit a site or an app. People need to design with accessibility in mind and have it at the centre of all processes from the planning to the design and the development.”

Are there any sites that are good when it comes to accessibility?

“I think Amazon is good. Delta Airlines has an excellent mobile app. And Apple seems to take accessibility seriously with its products.”

What about inaccessible sites? Are there any he can point to?

“I’m not going to call anyone out,” he laughs, “but I will say that most websites for cinemas – booking cinema seats – are not very good.”

Fifty-five thousand people in Ireland are blind or visually impaired. Brian says accessibility QA testing should be a vital part of the final delivery of any digital product. “When a product is released to the public, it should be fit for purpose and work as expected for everyone,” he says.

Book your tickets to UXDX
Brian is speaking at UXDX Conference (October 6-9). Here is his profile.

By using the discount code DigitalTimes10 or following this link, you can get 10% off tickets to this year’s UXDX conference.

About InterAccess
InterAccess is Ireland’s leading accessibility consultancy, founded by Joshua O’Connor, an experienced technology consultant and internationally recognised expert in the field of inclusive design and accessible web, mobile and application development.vJosh is ex co-chair of the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group at the W3C, and editor of the WCAG 2.1 accessibility standard.