Conducting research with participants with a vision impairment
Useful tips to optimise your research
In this second of our series of 5 articles with tips on conducting research with people with various access needs, we look at those with a vision impairment. Within this broad group are people with a mild vision impairment; those who use screen readers and / or screen magnification software; and those with colour blindness.
A note on screen reader users
Including people with a vision impairment in your research is extremely important. However, it’s worth noting that you should only include screen reader users in user testing when you have a fully coded product, as screen readers read the code to communicate information to the user.
We also recommend that accessibility audits of the code are conducted before conducting user testing with screen reader users. This is in order to pick up on key accessibility issues, so that these can be fixed before the user testing. This will ensure that you get the most out of your user testing sessions.
Tips when conducting research with participants with vision impairments
Allow screen reader users to set the speed of the screen reader Allow users to set their screen reader to the speed they usually would use it at home: this will encourage them to engage naturally with the website or app. However, some advanced screen reader users may use their screen reader at such a speed that it is difficult to know what they are doing or what the screen reader announces. To get around this, when they discover an issue or if the user becomes confused, ask them to explain the issue and what keys they pressed. If needed, also ask them to slow the screen reader down and show you the issue, so that you can understand what was announced and what happened.
Capturekeystrokes used by screen reader participants When an issue is identified, as much as possible, record what keystrokes screen reader participants are using to interact with your product. That way you can understand how users are trying to interact with the website, and how they expect it to behave.
Use best practice to guide blind participants As a researcher, you may sometimes need to guide blind participants. Best practice is to offer them your elbow for them to hold on to, and to make sure you tell them where you’re going and where things are (e.g. “we’re going through a door; the chair is to your right”).
Make sure the space is physically accessible Some blind people may have a guide dog, it is therefore important to ensure that the research space is large enough for them too. It is also good to have a water bowl for the guide dog in the room.
Make rating scales accessible If you’re using visual cues (e.g. rating scales) make sure you print them off in large print for those with low vision. For blind participants, make sure that you’re not asking them to remember too much information. For example, with rating scales, don’t tell them what each number stands for (e.g. somewhat/strongly agree/disagree) just tell them what number 1 and number 5 stand for and ask them to pick one in between.
Be aware of using colours when using visual prompts When asking users to do things like annotate print outs using different coloured pens, or placing different coloured stickers on print outs, be aware that not all users can perceive colour. Try to use other markers as well as colour. For example, if using stickers, try to find stickers which aren’t only a different colour but also a different shape. If you have any documents which you would like participants to read, make sure information isn’t conveyed using colour alone.
Make your digital products accessible
Here at System Concepts our consultants have a range of experience, including conducting research with users with vision impairments and other disabilities. We deliver insights that ensure our clients’ digital products are accessible. Please do get in touch if you think we can help!
Get help running research with people with vision impairments