A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Accessibility and Usability of Information Technology by the Elderly  (link broken)

The population of elderly people and the use of computers and the Internet are both growing at extraordinary rates in the United States. The potential exists for elderly people to improve their own lives as well as the lives of others by making more use of this technology. However, the elderly are currently among the lowest users of computers and the Internet. The common belief that older people fear or are indifferent towards technology does not fully explain this low usage. Rather, the elderly are subject to the same income and education divisions that impede accessibility to the population as a whole, as well as certain physical, cognitive, and mental impairments that come with age and can impede usability. Thus, the keys to increasing the numbers of elderly people making effective use of technology are addressing both universal accessibility and universal usability. These solutions are applicable to many other people as well, making their implementation broadly useful and cost-effective.

Browne, Hilary. Universal Usability (2000). Design>Accessibility>Online>Elderly


Baby Boomers May Drive Accessibility

The millions in America who navigate the world with a physical disability are poised to receive a lot of company over the next 20 years. The Baby Boomer generation is about to flood the population and promises to create a future in which centenarians are not at all unusual. With increased longevity comes more frequent occurrence of disabilities, thus demanding increased attention to making accessible technology more widely available.

Patterson, Darby. Simply Raydeen (2009). Articles>Accessibility>Usability>Elderly


Can Expanding Targets Make Object Selection Easier for Older Adults?

Given the proliferation of computers and rapidly aging demographic trends, there is a critical need for user interface designs that accommodate older adults. It is known that many adults in this age group experience declines in cognitive, sensory, and/or motor capacities that may interfere with their ability to interact effectively with current user interfaces. Motor behavior slows with age. Compared to younger adults, older adults take longer to complete the same movement, and their movements are more variable, less smooth, and less coordinated (Seidler & Stelmach, 1996). The loss of fine motor skills makes it difficult for older adults to position cursors on computer screens, particularly when interacting with small objects (Chaparro, et al., 1999; Walker et al., 1996). This can lead to greater frustration and possibly increased risk of cumulative trauma due to prolonged periods of time in awkward postures. This article describes one of a series of studies designed to explore alternative interaction techniques to make object selection easier for older mouse users.

Bohan, Michael and Deborah Scarlett. Usability News (2003). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Computers and Aging: Marking Raced, Classed and Gendered Inequalities   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article begins with an overview of cognitive psychology research on the effects of aging on literacy and suggests the additional complications facing older adults who consume and produce text within the frame of technology, particularly on-line usage. From an overview, the text moves to patterns corporations are using to target older adults, namely as consumers and as producers. The text then explores the use of philanthropy in the corporate literacy initiatives and suggests that there are complicated issues at hand in attempting to integrate the knowledge of aging and corporate strategies into our technical writing classrooms because we enter this discussion concerned about non-traditional students, older adults who are challenged to participate in contemporary literacy initiatives, and ourselves as aging participants as well. The article ends with suggestions of possible ways of addressing concerns regarding aging. Half the people in the world, one half the people in the world don't have electricity. How are you going to get a computer in their hands, Bubba? They gotta have a little electricity first. You know, you can't go to the bathroom unless you got a toilet. You know, I mean, over a billion people don't have access to clean drinking water. Forget about the digital divide. They, they got to have food, water, clothing, shelter, and a chance for education. I mean, you know, digital divide, you know. Ted Turner cited in [1].

Crow, Angela. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2002). Articles>Technology>Usability>Elderly


Conducting Usability Studies with Users Who Are Elderly or Have Disabilities   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Many disabled or elderly users have embraced the Web as a way to get easier access to information, services, contacts with others, and entertainment. But very often, Web sites are creating barriers for them, at the same time as they are reducing barriers of access. We can safely assume that Web sites are made by designers who have no intention to exclude groups of users from using the site. Our studies, however, have proved that good intentions are not enough to create Web content that is accessible and also usable for people with various kinds of physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. Web designers need to familiarize themselves with accessibility guidelines and apply them properly, but that goal is seldom achieved. Even when the guidelines are applied, a site's ease of use for people with disabilities needs to be confirmed in a usability test with actual users who have disabilities. This article describes how to conduct user-focused tests with test participants who are elderly or who have disabilities.

van der Geest, Thea. Technical Communication Online (2006). Articles>Usability>Testing>Elderly


The Convergence of the Aging Work Force And Accessible Technology

This paper discusses the effects of America’s aging work force on business growth and productivity and illustrates how accessible technology can equip employers and mature workers to face the challenges posed by this demographic trend.

Mosner, Ellen and Craig Spiezle. Microsoft (2004). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


"Curb Cuts" on the Information Highway: Older Adults and the Internet   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

With demographic and social trends in mind, technical communicators should be examining the online communication needs of elderly people who may share certain characteristics with other Internet users, particularly the disabled community. Although education, universal design, and accessibility initiatives help us address many of the developmental and cultural barriers elderly Internet users face, this article examines some current offerings, analyzing the growing elderly audience to better incorporate usability into Web design.

O'Hara, Karen. Technical Communication Quarterly (2004). Design>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Elderly


Design for an Aging Society  (link broken)   (PDF)

Drawing from user observation methodologies, design thinking and synthesis we observed and filmed old people in their homes in UK, US, Denmark, India, Taiwan, Italy, Israel, South Africa and Columbia.

People and Product (2008). Design>User Centered Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Designing a Touch Screen Kiosk for Older Adults: A Case Study

An independent-living senior center recently approached us with a request to 'build a system that could track the fitness activity of their approximately 160 older residents.' The center houses a Fitness Club that offers seven different fitness classes, personal training, physical therapy, a pool, a spa, and access to a multitude of exercise equipment (i.e., stationary bikes, treadmills, and weights). At the time of the request, residents were signing their names and activities on a sheet of paper as they entered the Fitness Club. Occasionally, the sign-in sheets were summarized into monthly reports to show resident attendance by class and the type of equipment they were using.

Chaparro, Barbara S. and Laszlo Stumpfhauser. Usability News (2001). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Designing for "Mature" Users

According to a study by the Annenberg School at USC, American Internet users include: 75% of adults aged 56-65 and 41% of adults over 66. If we want to design for the bulk of our users, we had best consider the more mature user groups.

Hall, Mark D. UI Design Newsletter (2007). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Designing for Senior Citizens

What fonts and colors are easiest for senior citizens to read online? Do you have any other tips for me? I am building an informational Web site for senior citizens.

Six, Janet M. UXmatters (2010). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Elderly


Designing for the Elderly

Does the research suggest that there are differences in younger and older users? What can we do to enable older adults to interact with our Web sites at the same level as younger adults?

Bailey, Robert. Web Usability (2001). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Designing Speculative Household Cleaning

Aging in place is a high priority for today’s elderly population, but little is known about how age affects mundane domestic activities. To make older adult’s desire a reality, design researchers must continue to understand elders’ needs and design products that respond to them. Presented is a human-centered approach to designing cleaning products. The project resulted in: 1) an initial understanding how aging changes older adults’ ability to clean their homes and 2) a collection of speculative cleaning products that demonstrate how greater empathy for elderly users can motivate innovative design.

Wyche, Susan P. AIGA (2006). Articles>User Experience>Usability>Elderly


Determining the Best Online Font for Older Adults  (link broken)

Studies examining the legibility of fonts on computer screens have almost exclusively investigated young to middle aged adults. However, because of many age-related factors affecting reading, one should be fairly cautious in generalizing these findings to older adults. In light of this, this study sought to examine this population by studying the legibility, reading time, as well as the general font preference for two types of serif and sans serif fonts at 12- and 14-point sizes on computer screens.

Bernard, Michael, Corrina Liao and Melissa Mills. Usability News (2001). Design>Typography>Accessibility>Elderly


Effects of Pictures, Age, and Experience on Learning to Use a Computer Program   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Research indicates that older people generally do not process information differently than younger people do. Instead, 'the main difference ... seems to be that elderly users are less capable in dealing with any shortcomings in the manuals than younger users. The impact of badly designed manuals is usually greater for elderly people,' (van Hees 1996, p. 531). In line with this view, Hartley (1994) suggests that 'text will be easier for older people to use when their perceptual and memory processing loads are reduced' (p. 171). Although the criteria for good design remain a bit unclear, we can accept the general idea that designing well will help the elderly.

van der Meij, Hans and Mark Gellevij. Technical Communication Online (2002). Design>Accessibility>Software>Elderly


Evaluation of Websites for Older Adults: How "Senior-Friendly" Are They?

Thirty-six websites designed for older adults were evaluated as to how well they complied to 25 'senior-friendly' guidelines recommended by the National Institute of Aging. Results indicate that a majority of the sites complied to guidelines related to basic navigation and content style but not for text size, text weight, or site map availability. Implications of compliance to these guidelines on user satisfaction and performance are discussed.

Hart, Traci A. Usability News (2004). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Four Easy Steps to Make Your Site More Usable to Older People

More and more senior citizens are using the Internet at a regular basis. And no matter what your niche is, you can be sure that there will always be older people who would find your site and would want to read what you have in store. This is more than enough reason to make your site more usable and accessible to the aging population. So to help you get started, here are 4 easy steps to make your site usable and accessible to older people.

Babinszki, Tom. Even Grounds (2010). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Helping Elders Along the Digital Path

Some of the highest growth rates in broadband use are happening among the elderly. The Pew Research Center found that broadband use for those 65 and older increased from 19 percent in May 2008 to 30 percent in April 2009. Since 2005, broadband use has tripled in that group.

Taub, Eric A. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Usability>Technology>Elderly


Job Hunting After Thirty-Five  (link broken)   (PDF)

Identifies several ways older technical communicators can protect themselves from age discrimination when searching for a new job.

Carliner, Saul. Intercom (2002). Careers>Interviewing>Discrimination>Elderly


Manuals for the Elderly: Which Information Cannot Be Missed?   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Elderly people seem to encounter more problems than people from other age groups do, when using consumer electronics products and their accompanying manuals. This may be due to the absence of some kinds of information. In this study the effects of the absence of different information types in instructions on action performance were explored for different age groups. Younger (aged 20-30 y.) and elderly (aged 60-70 y.) participants installed a VCR with the help of the manual, while working aloud. The absence of goal information, consequence information and identification information in the instructions proved to have a negative effect on task performance, especially for the elderly participants. When one of these information types was missing in the instructions, the elderly performed more actions incorrectly than when the information was stated explicitly.

Van Horen, F.M., C. Jansen, A. Maes and L. G. M. Noordman. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2001). Articles>Documentation>Usability>Elderly


Middle-Aged Users' Declining Web Performance

Between the ages of 25 and 60, people's ability to use websites declines by 0.8% per year — mostly because they spend more time per page, but also because of navigation difficulties.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2008). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


New Heuristics for Understanding Older Adults as Web Users   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article reports on a study performed for AARP on the needs of older Web users. It defines a model of older users that includes four dimensions (age, ability, aptitude, and attitude). It defines 20 heuristics, as well as personas and tasks for reviewing Web sites, and a methodology for doing persona-based, task-based heuristic review that would allow us to evaluate many sites in a relatively short time in a highly realistic way. Finally, it reports the results of an analysis of 50 Web sites for general audiences that include older adults, using that methodology.

Chisnell, Dana E., Janice C. 'Ginny' Redish and Amy Lee. Technical Communication Online (2006). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Older Users Online: WAI Guidelines Address Older Users Web Experience

In the next few decades we will see unparalleled growth in the number of people becoming elderly. As we age, we experience increasing impairments that affect how we interact with computers and websites. A Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) project seeks to understand the user experiences of older people with age-related impairments, and how they overlap with the user experiences of people with disabilities. The Web Accessibility Initiative: Ageing Education and Harmonisation (WAI-AGE) Project aims to promote education and harmonization on the accessibility needs of older users and guidelines for developing websites for older users. It includes an extensive literature review to learn user requirements, and educational resources for web user experience professionals, designers, developers, and project managers, as well as for older users. WAI-AGE has identified that the existing WAI accessibility guidelines address the majority of requirements of older people for Web use. It also identified that many older people are not using adaptive strategies to help accommodate their impairments, and that web designers and researchers are not considering the WAI guidelines when making recommendations about website design for older people. WAI will be producing new and updated educational materials to address these gaps. The WAI-AGE project materials are intended to help web developers and researchers better understand how existing WAI accessibility guidelines/standards address the needs of older users, and how they can build on the existing guidelines further as the needs of older users are better understood. Additionally, the project is intended to help researchers target areas that still need investigation with respect to Web use by older people. This article explains age-related impairments that impact Web use, requirements for web design that enhance the ability of older people to use the Web, how existing accessibility guidelines for people with disabilities cover the needs of older users, and future work in this area.

Arch, Andrew, Shadi Abou-Zahra and Shawn Lawton Henry. User Experience Magazine (2009). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly


Older, Wiser, and Wired   (PDF)

A February 2003 Harris Poll indicates that nearly half of those over age fifty in the United States—approximately 36 million adults—are online. While international statistics vary; the implication is clear: Designing usable Web sites that serve the needs and preferences of older adults will be a requirement, not a nicety, for the future.

Mazur, Beth and Amy Lee. Intercom (2003). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>Elderly



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