Ron Mac coined the term Universal Design to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability or status in life.
For example, one person could be six feet tall, an excellent reader, primarily a visual learner and deaf. All of these characteristics including his deafness should be considered when developing a product.
Making a product or an environment accessible to people with disabilities often benefits others. For example, automatic door opener benefit individuals using walkers and wheelchairs, but also benefit people carrying groceries and holding babies, as well as elderly citizens.
Barriers to standard computer software limit opportunities in education and employment for some people with disabilities.For example, a part of multimedia tutorial that uses voice narration without captioning or transcription is inaccessible to students who are deaf. Also, a software program that requires an unnecessary high level of reading may be inaccessible to some people who have learning disabilities.
The UD can be applied to software in the following ways –
- Keyboard access to software – This will make the software accessible to who cannot use mouse or other pointing device.
For example, a person with disability that affects dexterity may find it impossible to move or hold a pointing device with enough accuracy to activate destined feature.
- When animation is displayed, information shall be displayed in at-least one non-animated presentation mode. The use of animation on a screen can pose serious access problems for users of screen reader.
- Color coding shall not be used as the only means of conveying information, indicating an action promoting a response or distinguishing a visual element.
- With adjust color and contrast settings, range of contrast level should be provided.
Many people experience a high degree of sensitivity to bright displays. People with this condition cannot focus on a bright screen for long because soon they will be unable to distinguish individual letters.
On other hand, many people with low vision can work most efficiently when the screen is set with very sharp contrast settings.
- Software shall not use use flashing / blinking text, objects. Some individuals with photo-sensitivity epilepsy can have a seizure triggered by displays that flicker or flash.When a software is designed to be accessible to individual with a broad range of disabilities, it is more usable by others.
For example, providing text captions to multimedia presentation with speech output can provide access to the context for both a user who is deaf and one for whom English is a second language.