About a week ago I learned more about users with motoric disabilities, which is usually who I think of when it comes to switch device use. Today I wanted to focus more on what challenges switch device users may encounter when using websites. My study time ended up turning into review of some things I’d already learned, as well as discovering some new articles and videos about switch access.
I was not able to do any testing myself, since I don’t have any switch devices. On another day, when I’m feeling more adventurous, I’ll dedicate a study session to testing with a Bluetooth keyboard or Android device buttons to simulate the experience.
Things I accomplished
- Read Assistive Technologies – The Switch
- Watched Christopher Hills’s YouTube video Intersection: A dream come true
- Watched Jouse 2 Demonstration (YouTube)
- Watched Intel Labs collaborated with Dr. Stephen Hawking on .NET-based assistive technology solution
- Browsed Compusult’s Jouse product website
- Read Introduction to Switch Access
What I learned today
Apple’s Switch Control feature is built over the VoiceOver platform, so that’s how it knows to recognize things like buttons. Point mode allows access to otherwise inaccessible apps by scanning horizontally and vertically (x, y coordinates) to create clickable point. It also gives an alternative for quicker access to focuable elements on a web page, rather than waiting for a page to be parsed and scanned piece by piece.
After learning more about switches and switch control, I can better understand the many switch control settings on my iPhone.
I usually think of switches being used by people with motor disabilities, but there are other people who use it, too. Some people with intellectual or learning disabilities may use a switch because a mouse, keyboard, or game controller is just too complex to use.
Switch access includes devices that can receive input from almost any body part. Actions may include, but are not limited to:
Windows 10 has eye control as a method of switch access. Apple doesn’t have this feature… yet.
Android mobile devices have switch access much like Apple’s feature.
In review of what I learned last week
Restating from my article mentioned at the beginning, designers and developers need to review WCAG’s operable principle for switch control accessibility. It can’t be emphasized enough that if your website is following those guidelines and success criteria, your website will be accessible to switch users and many other users.
What front-end developers can do for switch control users:
- make the website keyboard accessible so all elements are reachable
- place key elements above the fold to relieve tedious scrolling
- allow alternative to advanced gestures, like hover over and drag-and-drop
- use larger text for readability from a further distance of user between screen
- avoid time limits or allow user to increase time limit
- tolerates user error
- provide alternative navigation methods to skip over lists of links, repetitive sections, and lengthy text
- offer autocomplete, autofill, or autosave
- manage off-screen items appropriately (display:none, visibility:hidden when out of view)
- provide clear focus outlines