Around 10 per cent of the total world’s population, or roughly 650 million people, live with a disability (Disability World). As the population ages this figure is expected to increase. With increasing age comes increased likelihood of disability.
Many older people have age-related disabilities that can affect how they use the Web, such as:
- Vision loss – including reduced contrast sensitivity, color perception, and near-focus, making it difficult to read web pages.
- Physical ability – including reduced dexterity and fine motor control, making it difficult to use a mouse and click small targets.
- Hearing ability – including difficulty hearing higher-pitched sounds and separating sounds, making it difficult to hear podcasts and other audio, especially when there is background music.
- Cognitive ability – including reduced short-term memory, difficulty concentrating, and being easily distracted, making it difficult to follow navigation and complete online tasks.
Designing for Aging Seniors
The following are some techniques for making websites and web applications work better for people with disabilities as well as older users with accessibility needs due to ageing:
- Use consistent navigation throughout the site.
- Use menus that open and close on a single click or screen tap.
- Allow enough white space on web pages to ensure an uncluttered look.
- Use large buttons that do not require precise movements to click or tap.
- Make body text at least 16 pixels and make it easy for people to enlarge text.
- Use high-contrast color combination.
- Use consistent navigation throughout the website.
- Structure navigation to ensure the fewest possible clicks or keyboard keystrokes are needed to achieve a given task.
- Incorporate buttons, such as “Previous Page” and “Next Page,” or hyperlinks for ease of navigation between related pages.
- Avoid pull-down and fly-out menus.
- Use menus that open and close with a click, keyboard stroke or screen tap.
Icons and Buttons
- Make buttons and icons stand out. Colors for buttons and icons should be different from the color of the surrounding text. Dark buttons and icons against a light background are recommended.
- If a button includes a link, hyperlink the entire button, not just the text.
- Include concise text labels.
- Do not use automatically scrolling text.
- Avoid bars or other horizontal features that may suggest the bottom of a page when there is actually more below.
Design Readable Text
Over time, our eyes become less sensitive and less able to detect light, color, and details. These age-related vision changes often make it difficult for aging adults to read from a computer screen. Your design should keep these features in mind:
- Allow enough white space to ensure an uncluttered look.
- Put a space between paragraphs.
- Allow enough space around clickable targets, such as links and buttons, to make them easy to tap or to click with a mouse.
Web developers, managers, and owners who want to make their websites, web applications, and web tools usable by aging users can use the list of techniques in this post as a start in achieving this goal. Read more articles on digital accessibility with regards to the aging senior population found in WeCo’s IT Accessibility Information Blog.