Making Collaboration Tools More Accessible

July 20 2021
Lottie Perrelle Lottie Perrelle

Accessibility has been a word that we are becoming more familiar with in the world of design and development. It has always been important to develop websites and mobile applications that can be used by those with disabilities, such as visual impairment. Ensuring that they have a similar experience to those without any impairment.

Staying Connected

With us all having to work from home, we are all using more collaboration tools in order to stay connected with work colleagues. When we can connect and share ideas together, productivity also increases as well as general creativity. For those who are visually impaired, poorly designed collaborative tools will be a frustration as opposed to an effective tool. Elements such as predictable navigation and other accessibility features should be a necessity, and considered from the very start of the development process.

Key Features For The Visually Impaired

If you are thinking about developing software for your business, have you considered how this would be accessible for someone visually impaired? At Lyke we are passionate about Web Accessibility and creating inclusive experiences. This means we have the understanding of how to build a website or bespoke software that exceeds the latest accessibility standards.

There are 5 main things that we include within our bespoke software to ensure accessibility:

1. Predictable region navigation

Predictability is a very important element for those who are visually impaired – things need to be where they expect them to be. Navigation between the software’s focus regions works best when it is looped in a continuous, consistent order. This means grouping similar elements together, such as the channel sidebar and the channel header.

With simple manual controls using a keyboard, such as pressing F6, users should be able to move between regions effectively and quickly without losing track of where they are. Then by pressing Tab, or Shift+Tab, users should be able to move back and forth between elements.

2. Intuitive message navigation

This predictable navigation should also be included within messaging systems too. A user needs to move from one message to another by using the up and down arrow keys. Then by pressing tab this will allow them to navigate through message actions, such as replying, reacting and submitting their response.

3. Channel navigation

Switching between channels can be particularly hard for visually impaired users. A simple solution is to add a switcher onto the website which can link with a key on the user’s keyboard. If you want to take this to the next level, you could integrate an algorithm which helps to display the most relevant channels in order.

4. Thoughtful colour scheme

Believe it or not, certain colour combinations can ruin user experiences. You’ve probably experienced difficulty reading text on a website if the background colour doesn’t provide enough contrast with the text. For some people with visual impairments the effects of this are a lot worse, so we always consider this when designing interfaces.

5. Use of HTML tags

HTML provides a comprehensive set of elements that can be used to ‘describe’ areas on the page and link things to each other, almost like annotations. These annotations aren’t visible, but are used by Accessibility Tools such as screen readers to deliver a more enriched experience. For example, images can be given an ‘alt’ tag which describes the image.

Compliance Matters

When building bespoke software, or if you are looking for collaboration tools that is suitable for a visually impaired user there are a few standards to be aware of:

  • WCAG 2.0 – this is also known as Web Contact Accessibility Guidelines and they are updated on a regular basis. Take the time to make sure the software you choose meets the current regulations.
  • ADA – this is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act so is only really relevant if your website is going to be shown to american users.

If you would like any more information on making collaboration tools more accessible, or how this needs to be integrated into bespoke software development please give us a call. Or feel free to email [email protected].

About Lottie Perrelle

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