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Stock photo. Posed by model.

 

As the internet has become a primary source of information and communication, web accessibility is increasingly important. Web accessibility is focused on reducing barriers to people’s ability to access and interact with websites1. A website designed with accessibility in mind will work better for a broad range of people regardless of their sight, hearing, movement and cognitive ability1.

SeeWhatsNext.me looks noticeably different from most other websites – the font type, font size, color contrast and layout choices are distinct. These were intentional choices to provide a better experience for people whose central vision has been affected by wet AMD when they visit the website. 

We heard firsthand from wet AMD patients, who told us that they could not read many of the print and online materials currently available. They needed a resource that would cater to their needs, and remaining central and peripheral vision. With this in mind, we created SeeWhatsNext.me. Additional updates to the design and functionality of SeeWhatsNext.me are planned, to further improve ease of use. 

Here are a few design approaches that have been shown to improve web accessibility for people with low vision:
 

1.    Font

Font should be at least 14-point, but ideally 18-point. Use fonts that have been tested with people living with wet macular degeneration.  

An ideal font is now available that was custom-designed to address the visual distortions caused by macular degeneration, called Maxular Rx. This font uses extra spacing to reduce crowding, and there are slight differences in the weight and proportion for certain letters2. Maxular Rx has been used in printed materials for See What’s Next. 

Courier, the font you are reading now on SeeWhatsNext.me, is a validated mainstream option for small font size use3. This readily available font has compared well to Maxular Rx in testing2.

2.    High contrast

All content should use high contrast so people with wet AMD can more easily read it. Dark-colored text over a light-colored background, or white text on a dark-colored background, will help the text pop on-screen. Anything clickable should also be distinct and appear like a button5.

3.    Visuals and audio/video

It is important to use alternatives to text as often as possible. For those with wet AMD, video, audio and images are more accessible than plain text. 

To ensure high contrast, black-and-white images should not be used. Additionally, graphics should not move, blink or flash5.

4.    Text-to-speech

Most people with wet AMD use a handy technology called speech synthesis, or text-to-speech. Accessible websites use true text, rather than text in graphics, as often as possible so these technologies can read it. Images should have descriptive, detailed captions so the speech synthesis tool can read the description aloud5.

The internet evolution over time improved the readability of information in terms of speed and convenience, but much more can be done for those suffering from vision loss due to wet AMD. Ultimately, this will improve accessibility and ease of use for everyone.

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References

1Henry SL. Introduction to Web Accessibility. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Available at https://www.w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-intro/#important (link is external). Accessed September 2019.

2Xiong YZ et al. Fonts Designed for Macular Degeneration: Impact on Reading. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(10):4182-4189.

3Tarita-Nistor, Luminita et al. Courier: a better font for reading with age-related macular degeneration. Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology. 2013; 48(1):56-62.

4Duffy MA. Using Large Print. Available at https://www.visionaware.org/info/get-connected/essential-skills-2/reading-writing-and-vision-loss/large-print/1234 (link is external). Accessed January 2020.

5Kirkpatrick A, O Connor J, Campbell A, Cooper M. W3C 2018. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Available at https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/ (link is external). Accessed September 2019.