The Lost Accessibility Audience


Being One Eyed About Accessibility - a red LED pillon on the Wellington, NZ foreshore

It’s become apparent we really aren’t focusing much on the accessibility needs of our aged population; and by aged I’m dumping middle-aged people like me in that group to – that’s anyone 40+.

Now I’m well on the way to being truly on the wrong side of 40, so these accessibly issues are starting to become noticeable day to day on a personal level. So this issue is a little personal.

By focusing on the aged community is not t to say we should ignore the needs of the traditional accessibility community.  Just let’s give some consideration to the aged people too.

Aged Used of the Web

The concern over the myths that have developed over the way people in the mature aged community (the silver surfers) use the web.

The truth may surprise you.

Roger Hudson has discovered things are not as we assumed.  I recommend that you have a read of his outcomes of a little research he has been doing into how mature aged people use ITC.  It’s a bit of an eye opener.

Of particular interest is the low use the ITC by the general mature aged community.   And their use, or lack thereof,  of the increase/decrease font size button.

I had suspected this from general user testing.   I even have a suspicion that this extends to the general non tech savvy public as well.

Allowing for the Aged

We really need to be stepping up and making allowance for the aged community. From a business perspective this is going to become a mandated issue, as the baby boomer population gets older.

In reality if you are really making a go at the accessibility issues for the traditional web accessibility community that you are by chance also catering for the aged community as well.

The differentating factor for the aged community is it has a number of combined issues across the entire gambit of the accessibility areas, such as:

  • Cognitive memory recall issues, filling in forms, recalling.
  • Cognitive processing issues, need information in smaller chunks.
  • Manual dexterity issues, exspecially in hands and fingers, using mouse and keyboard, clicking on buttons.
  • Manual coordination issues – use of dynamic elements of the site
  • Fading hearing,  captioning or at least a transcript.
  • Close in vision focus issues, making reading anything on the screen that is small harder.
  • Vision colour contrast issues, making some coloured items harder to distinguish.

More information on this can be found from the W3C Web Accessibility for Older Users and the WAI-AGE Project.

So next time you are designing a site and you don’t think any of the old farts will be using your hip new site. Think again as the middled aged generation will be there knocking on your door.

They have money and attitude and aren’t getting any younger.   Where is my turbo zimmer-frame.

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  1. Maybe threatening those young ‘uns with a whack of the turbo zimmer frame will stop the prevalence of 6 pt text in Flash sites with controls that require the use of an electron microscope.
    I just turned 53. I enjoy fancy sites and such, but ignoring the points you make is plain arrogance in my book. In some cases, ignorance, but in many cases arrogance, and that really annoys me. We just need to keep banging the drums. If they can’t hear, they’ll feel the vibrations! 🙂

  2. It is a common misconception that people know about and use things like page zoom, changing page colours and other browser accessibility features. Web developers can’t rely on these.

    All of the above is good advice, and combined with the fact that the baby boomer population has massive spending power, it can no longer be ignored (not that everything is about money but it may be the one thing that gets businesses interested in avoiding leaving money on the table).

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