How A11Y Applies to Web Application Development for Senior Citizens

Darina Borushko
Digital Content Manager
February 25, 2020

In 2017, the United Nations published a report which stated that by 2050, the number of people over the age of 60 will grow from 962 million to 2.1 billion. All in all, this group grows quicker than any other, and it happens all around the globe. For this reason, both web and mobile developers today put a great emphasis on UI/UX that takes into account key principles of creating applications for people facing physiological and cognitive changes. 

One more challenge for developers derives from the fact that a huge part of senior people today are not comfortable with technology, which means that development patterns that work for younger people can not be applied in relation to their older counterparts. Hopefully, professional UX/UI designers are aware of these differences and take advantage of certain principles that allow them to master interface designs for older adults.

In this article, we will disclose the main a11y (accessibility) rules that apply to users with all kinds of impairments and disabilities, and in our case, to senior citizens facing cognitive and physiological changes.

Designing UI for People with Impaired Senses

The majority of web applications today are designed for young people. Probably it is so because a large part of people working in the tech industry is really young and, sometimes, can forget that older have other needs when they use the developed applications.

For example, people with disabilities can utilize some kind of Assistive Technology (AT) to navigate their computer or mobile device. These could be a screen reader, dictation software, a braille keyboard, some software and devices that increase the size of text and applications on the screen, etc. There are also various combinations of AT used by different people, so it is important to create web applications that would be conveniently designed for everyone. And although such accessibility requirements are often considered as optional, the truth is that there are certain regulations, such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the US, that require compliance. In case a company ignores the stated requirements, it will probably face a lawsuit. 

So how can we create applications that would take into account the needs of elderly people? Hopefully, there are a11y rules, so, when designing applications, developers can consider them as a benchmark. Now, let’s see how these rules can be applied to make web applications more friendly to senir citizens with visual, hearing, mobility, and cognition disabilities.

Visual

As people age, a number of changes commonly happen to their vision. It is estimated that in the United States, one in six people over the age of 70 have a visual impairment. What is more, some seniors don’t see shades of blue, see things with reduced contrast, and quite often, do not catch the purpose of icons when they are not labeled with corresponding text. When reaching applications, older adults can use reading glasses or, when it is possible, opt for much larger font sizes. All of these factors need to be considered by designers when they create websites that can attract senior citizens. So what are the main things to pay attention to?

  • First of all, the option of making larger font sizes should be available.
  • Secondly, it is important to design UI components in the way that they could be used by people who cannot see colors. You can check your website with the SEE Chrome extension to know if it is consistent with this requirement.
  • Thirdly, you should check if your components work with a high-contrast mode. For example, you can do it with High Contrast Chrome Extension.
  • Also, you need to check if your UI components work with a screen reader.

Hearing

If your website contains video or audio elements, consider adding subtitles. Such an easy step will bring a lot of benefits and comfort for all users because sometimes it is more convenient to read subtitles than using headphones or disturbing people around you.

When it comes to accessibility, the tip for developers and app owners is to try to use a website when the sound is turned off. 

Mobility

Imagine you need to use your website with a keyboard only: would you be satisfied and would your application bring the same experience as it does when you use it with a mouse or touchpad? Can it respond to the appropriate keyboard events?

Cognition

Senior citizens often face cognitive and learning changes that can affect their perception, memory, language, attention, problem-solving, and comprehension. That is why applications developed should provide senior citizens with opportunities to interact with content and to process information in ways that are more useful to them. These could be the ability to navigate web content in different ways, access to information presented in various formats (text, audio, video, etc.), and the ability to change the content’s presentation in accordance with personal preferences.

The Bottom Line

It is no secret that web application development is a complex process that requires a high level of professionalism and, what is more important, a largeness of mind.  At Elinext, we always put a great emphasis on the development of applications that would be easy in use and provide an outstanding experience for everyone. As we develop, we adapt new techniqies and technologies that impact the usability and accessibility of web apps we create. Feel free to contact us with any ideas and questions. Thank you for reading.

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