You should incorporate inclusivity from the beginning of your user research and testing processes. You can do this by designing with a group of diverse users, rather than solely for them. Learning from actual users themselves is much more accurate than making assumptions about your users' wants, needs and experiences.
When researching with users of your product or service, you must include users with a range of different:
This will help ensure that what you're designing is accessible for everyone.
Tips for conducting testing
- Define your minimum viable cohort: Before conducting accessibility testing, it's important to define the user groups you want to test with. This could include individuals who are experiencing blindness or visual impairments, deafness or hard of hearing, have varying mobility levels, are neurodivergent, different ages, genders or geographic locations. It's important to consider the needs and requirements of each user group and how they interact with your product or service.
- Recruiting your cohort: Once you have defined your minimal viable cohort, you need to recruit participants for testing. It's important to ensure that you have a diverse group of participants who represent the user groups you have identified. You can recruit participants through existing social channels, customer databases and/or external disability organisations. You may need to provide incentives for participants to ensure that users are willing to participate.
- Conduct usability testing: Once you have recruited participants, it's time to conduct usability testing. This involves creating set tasks, observing participants as they interact with your product or service and identifying any issues or challenges, they may encounter. During the testing, you should encourage participants to provide feedback and ask questions about the product or service. Treat all participants with respect and take their individual needs into account. You may also want to use assistive technology to simulate the experience of users with disabilities.
- Analyse the results: After conducting usability testing, you need to analyse the results. This involves reviewing the feedback provided by participants and identifying any common issues or challenges that were encountered. It's important to prioritise the issues based on their impact on users and the ease of fixing them.
- Make improvements: Once you have identified the issues, it's time to make improvements to your product or service. This could involve making changes to the design, functionality, or content to ensure that it is accessible to all users. It's important to test the changes again to ensure that they have resolved the issues identified in the usability testing.
- Repeat the process: Accessibility testing should be an ongoing process. As you make changes and improvements to your product or service, it's important to continue testing with diverse users to ensure your products remain accessible. Helping ensure that your product or service is inclusive and accessible to all users.
By following these steps, it will promote inclusivity and help you to determine whether your product or service is accessible to all users.
Defining a usability testing cohort
A user cohort of 5 participants is recommended for qualitative usability testing. This should be based upon user functional needs, differences in demographics, abilities and tools.
An inclusive cohort includes:
Cohort members should include users who use a screen reader such as VoiceOver, Narrator, NVDA, JAWS, or Talkback.
Cohort members should include users who either use inbuilt screen magnification software or third-party apps such ZoomText. Potential cohort members include users with age-related macular degeneration, age-related farsightedness, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and myopia. Additional consideration should be given to users with other vision conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa (‘tunnel vision') or people who cannot distinguish between certain colours (often referred to as 'colour blindness'). Can include users over 65.
Potential cohort members include users with auditory disabilities range from mild or moderate hearing loss in one or both ears (‘hard of hearing’) to substantial and un-correctable hearing loss in both ears (‘deafness’). Some users with auditory disabilities can hear sounds but sometimes not sufficiently to understand all speech, especially when there is background noise. Some deaf, Deaf users will require access to signing interpreters.
Potential cohort members include users with muscular dystrophy, repetitive strain injury (RSI), rheumatism, tremors or spasms, quadriplegia. Can include users over 65.
Core cohort members are users whose main language is not English.
Potential cohort members have a low Australian Digital Inclusion Index score based across three dimensions of Access, Affordability and Digital Ability.
When recruiting a cohort, language matters
The old ‘Do you have a disability?’ is a poorly worded question
It is unlikely to deliver the cohort you are looking for. Many people who have a disability will not identify as having a disability. For some, they are concerned about being labelled, excluded, and discriminated against. For others it will be personal reasons based upon limited concepts of disability or in some cultures, even shame. Whatever the reason, their hesitancy is rooted in their lived experience.
Base your questions using the approach recommended by the United Nation's Washington Group on disability statistics. Focus on functional ability rather than a label. You will reach a wider user audience using this approach. Some example questions may be:
- I have an ongoing condition (longer than 6 months) that restricts my ability* to undertake everyday task/activities. (*Ability to: see, hear, manipulate / control items, move, communicate, concentrate, understand and/or interact with others.)
- I have a temporary illness or injury (3 - 6 months) that limits my ability* to undertake everyday task/activities) (*Ability to: see, hear, manipulate / control items, move, communicate, concentrate, understand and/or interact with others.)
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