Building for everyone: How accessibility and technology can be friends.

David Herse

Head Of Product @ Lookout

At Lookout, our mission is to combine skilled and caring people with technology to make the delivery of care for your customers simple, easy and efficient.

More than one billion people worldwide live with a disability – that's more than 15% of the global population. And almost everyone will have some form of disability at some point in their life. From vision impairment to a broken wrist, disabilities large and small will affect us all.

Those with disabilities face barriers and discrimination in daily life, ranging from access to education to denial of health services.

We have all struggled to use a piece of technology at some point in our lives. Maybe a poorly designed website or appliance.

The struggle for technology creators is the tendency to ignore or forget that people with a disability also use technology. And that those people come with an extraordinary range of backgrounds, skills, abilities and experience.

At Lookout, we believe it doesn't have to be a struggle. Technology should and can serve us. It can liberate and enhance all of our lives.

A shared framework for web accessibility

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a shared set of technical standards that explain how to make web content accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines are organised around four main principles, which provide the foundation for web accessibility:

  • Perceivable: Content should be presented in different ways without losing meaning. For instance, images that convey meaningful information should have alternative text provided.
  • Operable: Users must be able to understand and control user interface (UI) elements. For example, all functionality like buttons and form elements should be accessible using keyboard controls.
  • Understandable: The content must be readable and understandable to its users. The content should appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Robust: The content must be developed using well-known and adopted web standards. In other words, the codes should be easily parsed and interpreted by different browsers and user agents like screen readers.

As the Lookout software team began to explore the guidelines and identify the areas in our app that weren't meeting the standard, we realised that it would be a journey, so we developed a roadmap and prioritised the most critical a valuable updates.

Looking at the numbers

As an example of the data we reviewed in our research, on iOS, 44% of our users request a larger than default text size. We wanted to make sure our app was serving these customers. Respecting the users preferred font size fits under the Perceivable, Operable, and Understandable guidelines.

Insights into preferred font sizes
Insights into preferred font sizes

Perceivable, Operable AND Understandable

While the Lookout app respected the font size, it still wasn't meeting the Operable and Understandable standards in places. We were able to rework these areas to become more flexible to larger font sizes. We tested this with the largest possible font-size setting.

Larger font size setting
Larger font size setting

Optimizing colour contrast

For users with visual impairments like color vision deficiency, high contrast between colours make it easier to read text content. The WCAG AA recommended contrast ratio for accessible content is 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text between the text and background colours. WCAG AAA recommended a contrast ratio is 7:1 for normal text and 4.5:1 for large text. For the main text colour, we worked to meet the AAA standards.

Testing for accessibility

One of the challenges we faced was how to ensure the app was meeting the standards across the application. Manually testing every screen for every possible scenario wasn't sustainable. Instead, the Lookout team are using a single page that contains all of the components in our app in their most extreme state.

For example - long names and text. This allowed the team to quickly iterate and compare to confirm great outcomes for users.

Lookout screens

Continuing the journey

Getting a few of our fundamentals in order was an excellent first step. Now every new feature that is added to our applications will benefit from the groundwork we have undertaken to meet the WCA guidelines.

While Lookout is meeting a bar, we want to push that bar higher. We are now investigating more ways to give users even more control and remove the barriers.

At every step of the one, we want to ensure that our technology continues that allow your customers to maintain a quality lifestyle on their terms connected to communities, lives, and friends they love.