Web site usability testing involving people with learning disabilities using only images and audio to access information


  • Note: The manuscript submitted is original work, not under consideration or published elsewhere.

Peter Williams, Department of Information Studies, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. Email: Peter.williams@ucl.ac.uk.


The need for social inclusion, informed choice and the facilitation of independent living for people with learning disabilities (LD) is being emphasised ever more by government, professionals, academics and, indeed, by people with LD themselves, particularly in self-advocacy groups. Achieving goals around inclusion and autonomy requires access to relevant and accessible information. Hence, the project reported here, which revolves around the creation and development of a web site containing information about ‘transition’. This is the move from education or sheltered living to supported employment. The development of the web site included an examination of whether people with very low literacy skills were able to navigate the site and to access information. To this end, usability tests were undertaken consisting of simple tasks, broken down into ‘one-action’ elements and requiring the accessing and understanding of pictorial or audio information. Results elicited various issues including the size and understanding of images; activating hyperlinks, page length and invisible content, and accessing audio. Two accessibility issues were also found – poor mouse control and involuntary activation of the context menu. Solutions are offered regarding the issues documented, and the paper concludes by suggesting that it is possible both for people with minimal levels of literacy to obtain information on the web site.