Not Everybody Uses a Mouse: Making Websites More Inclusive
Back in January, a lawsuit was filed against the company behind Beyonce.com stating that the site failed to accommodate users who were visually impaired.
The claim was made by a blind user who was unable to complete tasks on the site due to it being what she described as ‘an exclusively visual interface’.
Part of the issue was that the site relied heavily on using the mouse for user interactions. This is a problem, as there are many people who aren’t able (or prefer not) to use a mouse which means they were not able to access the content on the site.
Let’s take a look at some examples of ways people interact with a website without a mouse:
Many people navigate and interact with websites using a keyboard. This includes people with motor disabilities such as Parkinson’s or arthritis; temporary disabilities such as repetitive strain injury or a broken wrist; along with power users who prefer using the keyboard for certain tasks.
A screen reader is a piece of software which conveys the information presented on a screen through non-visual means such as reading it aloud or outputting it on a Braille device.
Screen readers are mostly known as being used by blind users, but they are also useful for people with low vision, cognitive impairment and motor disabilities. Some non-disabled people even use screen readers as they prefer longform content to be read aloud rather than having to read on a screen.
Many people rely on speech recognition software to interact with items on a screen. This type of software allows users to issue commands such as ‘click link’ or ‘find on this page’ to help them navigate, fill in forms and complete tasks online.
People with severe physical or cognitive impairments may use a switch device. These devices typically have a simple on/off action which can be performed by the user to help them complete tasks.
Switch devices come in many different types and can be controlled by a variety of actions such as sip-puff, pushing, pulling, pressing, blinking or squeezing.
Switch device users may use multiple switch devices in tandem or even set up macros (a pre-programmed set of commands) to help them complete tasks more quickly.
As new technology develops, we are likely to encounter new systems which don’t have a traditional mouse input. An example of this is web VR which allows the use of various gamepad controllers to interact with webpages.
Similarly, the growing improvements in voice assistants and smart speakers (such as Alexa) means that people are beginning to use these types of devices to access content online.
A Web for All
Here at Extreme we’ve been looking at ways of making our websites more accessible. Most recently, we've been working with Opening Minds - a charity for accessibility training and consultancy - to redesign their website. Part of this process involved making sure that accessibility was considered at all stages of the project from UX and design through to content and development. To do this, we followed the principles set out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to help ensure that everybody is able to access content regardless of their needs.
“The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
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Adam originally trained as a primary school teacher before getting bit by the coding bug and making a career change into web development. After a period working as a freelancer and at an agency, he joined Extreme in 2018 as a Front-End Developer. Adam enjoys focusing on the areas of development which affect the user such as UX, accessibility and performance.