Web design for elderly and disabled users

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May 18, 2014 by Ozgur Ozden

All electronic documents and websites should be accessible to persons with disabilities as well as the elderly people. This is becoming a law in many countries. For example in the United States this is called as section 508 compliance. We do not have a regulation about this subject in Turkey yet.

There are different types of disabilities. Such as visual impairment, hearing impairment, physically disabled people such as not being able to use mouse or keyboard.
There are many solutions for these people to use and follow the web. Visual impaired people use screen readers and screen/text magnification, subtitles are useful for hearing impaired people, alternative mouse and keyboards can be used.

Web pages work well as long as the designer thinks about how a disabled person can read it. There are some design strategies to prepare websites accessible to disabled people. For example screen readers can only read text not pictures or graphs, so descriptive information must be added to these pictures. Untitled frames, poorly designed tables, bad links creates problems for disabled people. Plain backgrounds must be used as much as possible and enough contrast should be applied between the text and the background. Big and easily readable fonts should be used.
Blinking texts are not really prefered, this might increase the chance of seizure in some people. Use java applet and flash animations as little as possible. All the videos must be captioned. Over all design must be kept plain and simple. Buttons, header and footer should be placed at the same place on the page. According to official US government website called section508.gov advantages of section 508 compliance website are: consistent website, improved bandwith and loading time, better search engine rankings, easy mobile device compatibility. These are some of the point needed to be considered during the design process
According to the survey done by SGK (2002) there are 200.000 people with mental, 536.000 people with physical, 110.000 people with hearing and 77.000 people with vision disabilities in Turkey. In 2013 this number reached to 8.5 million people which corresponds to almost 10% of the entire population of Turkey. According to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, around 50 million people in the Unites States has a spending power of $175 billion. Similar research is not done in Turkey about the spending power of this group.
As one can see from these numbers that by redesigning our website we will be able to penetrate into a new group of customers which is almost 10% of our total population. None of our competitors have this feature in their websites and this will give us distinct advantage. and If we consider at least 1 out of 6 person benefit from our products we will increase our customer portfolio by 1.5 million new customers.

There is also another advantage of this project. Redesigning our website can be think and represented as a social responsibility project. This shows the value and importance given to disabled people by our company. This value given to these people not only attract people with disabilities but also attract their families and friends. This will strengthen our public image.

1- Facts about Americans with Disabilities (2002) US department of Justice (Online) Available at: http://www.ada.gov/busstat.htm#Anchor-13-21683 [Accessed at: 20 June 2012]
2- Section508 Laws US Goverment (Online) Available at: http://www.section508.gov/index.cfm?fuseAction=stds [Accessed at: 20 June 2012]
3- Turkish Social Workers, (Online) Available at: http://sgkrehberi.com/haber/11037/ [Accessed at: 20 June 2012]
4-Cihan Yıldırım Yücel (2006) Web site design for vissualy impared people (Online) Available at: http://hci.metu.edu.tr/conference/gorme_engelliler.pdf [Accessed at: 21 June 2012]


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