A conversation with Bram Duvigneau about screen readers

On the 16th of November 2018 Bram Duvigneau joined us at the Design Research Master at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Bram and I had an open conversation for a small audience of web accessibility experts, fellow students, lecturers and other people who were interested. In our conversation we explored the difference between expert screen reader users, and regular people who use a computer every now and then and who depend on a screen reader. I thought this would turn into a small summary, but alas, it is 1250 words long. If you know Dutch, you can find the transcript and the video of the conversation here. 

Transcriptie en video van het gesprek tussen Bram Duvigneau en Vasilis van Gemert

Op 16 november heb ik een openbaar gesprek gevoerd met Bram Duvigneau op de Willem de Kooning-academie in Rotterdam. Bram is een absolute expert op het gebied van web toegankelijkheid, en een absolute expert op het gebied van screen readers. Tijdens mijn master-onderoek kwam ik er achter dat veel van de best practices die we gebruiken binnen de webtoegankelijkheid niet per sé prettig te gebruiken zijn voor mensen die een screen reader gebruiken. De problemen doen zich met name voor bij mensen die géén expert zijn. Met andere woorden, normale mensen, geen computer experts, geen nerds, die een screen reader nodig hebben om hun computer te gebruiken. Met Bram belichten we deze observatie van een aantal verschillende kanten. Maar Bram begint allereerst met een demo van wat een screen reader nu precies is. 

A conversation about experts and casual users

On Friday the 16th of November at 15:30 Bram Duvigneau and Vasilis van Gemert will have a conversation about web design for people with disabilities. The conversation will focus on the different needs of expert and novice screen reader users. 

Design like it’s 1999

Simon Dogger is a product designer. He designs all kinds of physical products. Simon is not really a computer guy. Like most people probably, if he doesn’t have to use his computer, he doesn’t use it. One of the things he wants to do with his computer every now and then is to use the online archive of Dutch documentaries, 2Doc, for his research. 

Flipping Things

One of the assignments of the Master Design Research I’m doing is writing a visual essay. It can be seen as an exercise for my final publication, which hopefully will be done in January 2019. Of course I decided to publish this essay on the web. The web is my medium. 

Turning the Inclusive Design Principles into the Exclusive Design Principles

The Exclusive Design Principles are at the basis of my research. In this blog post I’ll try to explain how this set of principles evolved out of a set of Inclusive Design Principles that the Paciello Group published. 

The Jargonizer

At the 2018 What Design Can Do conference in Amsterdam I hosted one of my Exclusive Design Challenges. 20 attendees worked on five cases for three real people with real disabilities: Marijn, a developer who is motor disabled, Marie, a designer who is Deaf, and Larissa, a student who is blind. The different teams came up with a few very interesting ideas. There was one team that basically said well, if all websites are boring and look the same anyway, then they should all look like a boring simple grid with one single action in each grid cell. Which would be a perfect solution for Marijn, who has difficulty with fine motor control. I should make a prototype of this idea one day. I did make a simple, working prototype of an idea that another team came up with though. I’d like to know what you think of it and I’d like your help with testing its use. But first let me explain. 

Visual tab interaction

Recently I asked my students to design and build a user interface that’s a pleasure to use for real people with real disabilities. They designed an interface that worked either for Larissa who is blind, for Marie who is Deaf, or for Marijn who is motor disabled. My students had two sessions with Marie and Larissa. In the first one they met each other, and they were able to ask questions about how they use the web. They observed how they use their computer and talked about the hurdles they faced. In the second session they tested the interfaces my students designed. Unfortunately I did not manage to organise such a session with Marijn. 

Form Prosthetics Let You Be You – Shapeways Magazine

Form Prosthetics Let You Be You - Shapeways Magazine. In his book Design meets Disability Graham Pullin shows some examples of beautiful custom built leg prostheses. Back when this book was published these were probably very, very expensive. Now with 3D printing it’s possible to print a different leg for each occasion. It’s not free yet, but it’s starting to get affordable.

Designer Spotlight: Tatsuo Ishibashi – MizuLabo

Designer Spotlight: Tatsuo Ishibashi – MizuLabo. Today I received an email by Shapeways, a 3d printing on demand service in which they promoted a few very nice examples of customised products, like prostheses and these nice assistive gadgets. I love the fact that these examples clearly go beyond the level of engineering: the layer of ”design” that’s added makes the products even desireable.
Sometimes great design is about making common objects more accessible for everyone. Designer Tatsuo Ishibashi’s Mizu Laboratory does just that, developing... assistivedevices

A comparison of three pyramids

The last six months I’ve been wondering what a pleasurable user experience would be for people with disabilites. After doing a little but of research I came to the conclusion that a pleasurable experience for people who are blind would be an unacceptable experience for me. I did some research into what a makes a user experience pleasurable. One of the books I read about this subject is Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter. 

The hierarchy of senses

Butterfly Works, a social innovation studio, invited me to organise part of a workshop for their clients and friends. I did a very quick version of the exclusive design challenge I organised a while ago. This time there were three teams, and they had just half an hour to come up with ideas with the material I gave them. After that they took their first ideas and moved over to Kim van den Berg who gave the teams a very quick workshop in visualising ideas by drawing. 

A critical look at the Exclusive Design Principles

Last week I had a good critical look at the material I use for my Exclusive Design Challenges together with my colleagues Fransiska Groenland and Albert de Klein. We took a look at the exclusive design principles. 

The 3rd International Disabilities Studies Conference

Last week I visited the third International Disabilities Studies Conference in Amsterdam. I was very curious to see what the academic approach to accessibility would be. Is it completely different from the practical world of accessible web design where I come from? Where’s their focus? And of course, what ideas can I use for my own research. 

Designing for Disability

Designing for Disability. In this article in the New Yorker a few nice examples are shown of why identity, style, are important in design. You don’t want to walk around on shoes you don’t like, so why should someone who needs a cane have to use an ugly one? Since this applies to the physical world, it probably also applies to the digital.

Because engineers focus on function, aesthetics are often overlooked

Methods of crisis

In order to create truly inclusive designs, we need to be at least as good at designing things for people with disabilities as we are at designing things for ourselves. There is an incredible amount of knowledge about designing things for common technologies like laptops, mouses, touch devices, etc. Libraries of Borgesian proportions can be filled with expert books about user interface design for average people. Specialist books about user interface design for alternative technologies — like keyboard navigation and screen readers — are much less common. There is no comparable body of knowledge, which means we can not create truly inclusive interfaces. 

‘Nederland doet te weinig voor gehandicapten’

Nederland doet te weinig om mensen met een beperking volledig te laten deelnemen aan de samenleving. According to this study people with disabilities (1 in 8 people in the Netherlands) have to deal with accessibility issues around work, independent living, and education; these are all parts of life that are situated in the lower sections of Maslow’s pyramid.

One could argue that we should focus on these lower parts of the pyramid first: make sure that all the basic needs are covered first before you start thinking about next levels. On the other hand there’s something like the law of the handicap of a head start, which says that groups that start later can skip quite a few steps and become leading right away.

Peet Sneekes — The Good, The Bad, and The Interesting

In this podcast Peet Sneekes explains (in Dutch) that good is not good enough. Robots can make good things. We need to aim higher.

I think this is a very interesting observation. According to Peet, a very experienced creative consultant, by now robots should be able to create interfaces that are functional, and even usable and reliable. You need people to create stuff you’ll remember.