Image based hyperlink menus on websites improved understanding of site users with learning disabilities

When we think of community involvement and participation in the 21st century, it is impossible not to consider the importance of access to information technology and the use  of social media as key elements of this. The Rix Centre  for example has worked over a number of years to improve access for people with learning disabilities to web, media and information technology developing accessible software and developing approaches to Multimedia Advocacy  defined as “an inclusive, person centred approach developed by the Rix Centre that uses digital photography, video, audio and computers to help people with learning disabilities communicate more effectively.”

The researchers in this study were interested in understanding one of the issues often mentioned in the literature relating to web accessibility – the difficulty regarding the perception of what is or is not clickable in a web page. They wanted to look at this is relation people with learning disabilities and worked with ten people in this small study using direct observation, video recording, interviews and data obtained using eye tracking, a method of tracking what web users are looking at on the screen.

They divided the participants into two groups and both groups were asked to perform two tasks: ‘Sing a song’ and ‘Listen to a story’ in two websites. The first website used an image navigation menu and the second used a text navigation menu.

What they found was that there was an improvement in participants’ performance when using the image based navigation menus over the text based approach.

They concluded that the participants using the image based navigation gained a better understanding of the task and showed an improved perception concerning the content of the navigation menu than those using the text based menu.

The Recognition of Web Pages’ Hyperlinks by People with Intellectual Disabilities: An Evaluation Study, Rocha, T., et al., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25: 542–552.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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