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Surveys for Visually Impaired Participants

This chapter outlines the barriers that blind and visually impaired people encounter on the internet. In particular, it explains how these barriers affect designing an online questionnaire.

Questionnaires created using SoSci Survey are fundamentally barrier-free. People using a screen reader can change into an accessibility mode during the questionnaire. Some types of questions are different in this mode in order to support the screen reader reading the text.

Note: If your questionnaire is not suitable for people who are visually impaired due to its methodology (e.g. because it uses visual stimuli), then select the option that the questionnaire is not suitable for screen readers in Compose QuestionnaireSettings tab → Settings Screen reader mode. Instead of switching into the accessibility mode, the questionnaire then contains information that can only be seen by screen readers.

How Blind and Visually Impaired People Use the Internet

In comparison to people with normal vision, blind and visually impaired people have to overcome certain technical obstacles when using the internet. As the internet is largely visually-oriented and is constantly developing technologically, it is a challenge to make proposals and functions accessible for this group.

Blind people typically use a screen reader to work on a computer. This is a hard- or software application that reads what is being displayed on the screen from the top left to the bottom right and converts this into Braille or audio. The Braille display located under the keypad presents the contents in Braille and the audio is read out by a synthetic voice.

Visually impaired people use different resources depending on the severity of their vision loss. Large screen systems are used mostly by short-sighted people – software that magnifies screen content up to sixty times. Different operating systems provide further magnification options, e.g. Windows offers mouse cursor magnification, a screen magnifier (which works similarly to magnification software) or increased image contrast.

In addition to technical resources that enable access in the first place, it is also particularly important that the internet is user-friendly for these people. All forms of display or audio are the same in that they reflect just one small part of the screen – perhaps a separate issue. Clarity is therefore more important here than ever before.

Elements such as dynamic content, pop-ups, poorly labeled frames, unlabeled graphics, news tickers, flash animations, Java applets, Java scripts, captchas, unclear navigations bars, poor contrast and much more, all present insurmountable obstacles for this user. In general, it is recommended that you choose the most straightforward as possible HTML and CSS based design, without technical features that are frequently unnecessary.

Practical Tips for Online Surveys Among Blind and Visually Impaired People

In principle, the points mentioned above also apply to online surveys. A simple design should be used: both visually and in terms of programming. For many questions, the SoSci accessibility mode does not use the table framework typically used for display and the standard layouts are also kept simple. If you use your own layout it should be tested for accessibility.

It is conducive to the questionnaire's clarity when just one question or two short questions are placed on a page. It is also advisable to put as few links as possible on a page as these have to be read by the screen reader every time and could therefore have a negative impact on the course of the survey.

It helps when a longer page is divided into different headings (HTML-Tags <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, as these allow the screen reader to jump so that sections do not have to be read completely. This is equivalent to someone with normal vision scanning through the page. In addition, care should be taken to choose a design that is rich in contrast and easy to look over for people with particular types of visual impairment.

In particular, the labeling of different answer options is essential when designing individual questions – SoSci Survey takes care of this automatically. Taking a scale as an example, labeling all selection options, rather than just the extremes, is much more effective. When a five-step scale is used which ranges from “applies completely” to “does not apply at all”, the other three points inbetween have to be labeled as well.

Blind and visually impaired people do not always maintain an overview of a rating scale (matrix question). Therefore it is important to state exactly how each individual question should be answered. Ultimately, the user cannot just glance and see which scale is being used.

Furthermore, it is essential that the 'next' button is suitably labeled and is not located too far below the question. This ensures that the button cannot be overlooked if a high magnification rate is used.

Important Options in SoSci Survey

Intermediate Values on a Scale

Scales are extremely challenging for screen readers. The scale labeling inc. visual anchoring (wedges) should only be used for people with normal vision. At the same time, only the scale extremes (e.g. “I completely disagree” and “I completely agree”) should be in the visual display.

In order for screen readers to read the intermediate values on the selection fields, use the following procedure:

  1. Input all of the scale's intermediate values
  2. Remove the tick by intermediate values –> display.

All input fields will then be correctly labeled but invisible (only visible when the mouse is placed over it for a short amount of time). Only the extreme values will be shown in the header of the scale.

Questionnaire Layout

When choosing the layout of the questionnaire you should bear two aspects in mind:

  1. Multi-column layouts (e.g. with a logo on the left-hand side) are more complex and therefore harder for the screen reader to describe.
  2. The layout should – even more so than usual – use a high contrast and a large font. Both color and font size can be manually adjusted under Questionnaire Layouts (if necessary a new layout can be created from one of the templates available).

Have the Questionnaire Read Out Loud

A slightly restricted version of the JAWS for Windows screen reader can be downloaded from the manufacturer Freedom Scientific: The restricted version ends after only 40 minutes and has to be restarted. Although extremely strange at first for someone with normal vision, quickly testing the questionnaire in screen reader mode can prove to be very insightful.

For those of you short on time, install the plug-in Fangs Screen Reader Emulator for the Manilla Firefox browser. This plug-in renders websites in a text version of how a screen reader would read it.

en/create/barriers_visual.txt · Last modified: 18.11.2020 17:31 by sophia.schauer
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