“Easy Read” Web Site for People with Intellectual Disabilities: A Review

The Newham Easy Read Web site is intended for young people with intellectual disabilities transitioning from school.  From its copyright statement, it appears The Rix Centre designed it.

General Accessibility

The site’s accessibility statement claims compliance with WCAG-AA guidelines.  I used a couple automated accessibility-checkers on a few randomly-chosen pages.  Compliance was indicated.  Much of the site’s design is intended to make it accessible and usable by people with intellectual disabilities.

Visual Design

The site’s template is bright with lots of imagery.  Its layout is fairly simple.  The top part of the home page is pictured below.

Newham home page. Large banner at top. Links column on left.

The pages’ primary-content area features a well-spaced choice list.  Each is represented by:

  • a large, contextually-relevant photograph or cartoon, which also serves as a linked button; (Hovering the cursor over a photographic button highlights its border.  I’m not sure of the utility of that.)
  • a link using text typically short and to the point; and
  • a “listen” button that plays an audio file of a person briefly summarizing the linked content; (I found the quality of the recordings to be mixed.  Some had a lot of static or other background noises.)

Note: There is a glaring oversight on the home page. In its primary-content section, neither the photographic buttons nor the link text can be clicked to advance to subsequent pages.

On the left of the site’s pages, there is a column of links to its sections.  Links are accompanied by a small, contextually-relevant photograph or cartoon, and by a short statement on the number of links to be found in each section.  This is a nice feature that indicates how much content each section contains.

Several links open other Web sites.  This is hidden by a Newham Easy Read frame.  The frame provides some consistency in the look and feel, but its function is purely cosmetic.

Navigation

Navigation through the site is accomplished via the column of links and by a breadcrumb menu at the tops of pages.  There is a basic site map that can be reached by a link at the bottoms of the pages.  There is also a site search feature, but it does not work well.  For instance, entering the word “accessibility” does not produce a link to the site’s accessibility statement.

Readability

There is no information, at least that I could find, about what makes the site’s text easy to read.  Pages generally have a few short sentences matched with large photographs.  Oddly, it is the home page that probably has the longest sentences, including one run-on.  This does not make for a good first impression on the nature of how easy the site’s text is to read.

Much of the site’s text, particularly for navigation, is tiny.  The current accessibility recommendation for people with cognitive disabilities is to use a large font size by default.

The site’s accessibility page refers to a text-enlarging readability menu on the right side of every page.  Unfortunately, there is no such menu on the right side of every page.  The accessibility page does have instructions on how to use the keyboard to increase font size.  However, the instructions themselves use the tiniest font size on the entire site!

Conclusion

In sum, it is obvious the designers incorporated accessibility- and usability features for people with intellectual disabilities.  It is equally obvious that much work has to be done to make the site work better for them and for all visitors.

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2 Responses to ““Easy Read” Web Site for People with Intellectual Disabilities: A Review”

  1. andy minnion Says:

    Thanks for your review of Newham Easy Read website. This site was developed by the Rix Centre – a research and development centre dedicated to new media for people with intellectual disabilities as well as a charity based at the University of East London in London Docklands. The website was produced by the Rix Centre as part of our work with ‘Easy-Build’ site development in partnership with local people with ID and their supporters here in East London. The key thing about these Websites and those that have followed ( at http://www.clickstart.org.uk ) is to engage people with ID in planning and developing the sites themselves so that their voices, experiences and opinions are shared and so that the support services featured are described by the people that they are designed to serve.
    This sets the work in a little more context. Your critical evaluation is no less valid and welcome. Great to come across critical evaluation in this area. I will keep engaged with your work.

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  2. Rix Centre: Accessible Web Sites by & for People with Intellectual Disabilities « Clear Helper Says:

    […] a comment to my review of The Newham Easy Read Web site, Andy Minnion, director of The Rix Centre, states what he believes to be important about Click […]

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