6. Use Cases / Persona

Any time there is a 'target audience', there will be people with learning and cognitive disabilities in that audience. However, cognitive impairments are often invisible in day-to-day life until people encounter particular challenges. To provide some context and understanding, nine personas have been created which outline fictional people with various cognitive impairments and the challenges they face.

For additional examples from other organizations, see Persona Links on the Developer resources page.

6.1 Alison: An Aging User with Mild Cognitive Impairment

  • Problem: I'm not sure what I should press. I pressed something that looked like the buy button but it did nothing. I am not sure if it is me or if this website just doesn't work.

  • Works well: The buy button was clearly something I could click. The process was easy. I have now bought matching dresses for the grandchildren.

Alison has a medical background, working in rehabilitation of physical injuries, but has recently decided to work part-time to take up more hobbies and be with her grandchildren. She wants to try an online course to learn Chinese, in preparation for a special holiday. Alison considers 63 to be the new 36. However, she has difficulty concentrating and finding the word she wants to say. She often makes typos and has to correct sentences when she re-reads them. She becomes easily frustrated as she finds new technical things, like updated design patterns and applications, to be hard to learn and less intuitive than they used to be. Plus, navigation takes longer than in the past. Unfortunately, this includes learning how to use a new interface and this affects the way she works when swapping between her tablet, phone and computer.

6.1.1 Alison Scenario 1: Learning How to Use New Technologies and Interfaces

Alison recently took an evening course to learn how to use Windows and MS Word ten years ago and used to feel very comfortable with the interface. After she had to renew her computer she finds all the updates mean that most applications now appear very different. She realizes that links and buttons have changed appearance and often finds she does not know what to press. Sometimes she will press a picture or stylized heading that is not a control and so is not sure if the internet was down, the site is broken or she has made a mistake. Sometimes she touches something accidentally and the focus moves to a different page or application. For example, she recently tried to enlarge some small text and activated a link instead of enlarging it! She misses the days when all links were in blue and underlined.

Alison loses self-confidence when things go wrong. For example, selecting an incorrect button or getting an error that she does not understand. She knows to try and press the back button to go back a step, but it does not always work as she thinks it will. She tends to think she cannot cope, so gives up, but with support to adapt the interface to suit her needs she could learn to use the new style.

Her children worked with her to reduce the number of menu items on the application toolbar so she can concentrate on the ones she regularly uses. They helped her change her settings so when searching for items on the web, only a limited number now appear at one time. They also found her a de-cluttering browser extension that takes away many of the advertisements and other items that clutter her social media pages when communicating with her grandchildren.

6.1.2 Alison Scenario 2: Correcting Typos and Writing Fluently

When writing letters and messages on her computer, phone and tablet Alison pauses every so often and checks that what she is writing makes sense. She finds it very annoying having to work so slowly, but by using text-to-speech to read out content she has found she can hear her mistakes more easily than she notices them on the screen. She has also discovered that this process can make reading web pages easier and less tiring. However, she often has to go over instructions several times before completing tasks online. She depends on the fact that forms do not time out or have an option to allow her to extend the time to fill in the edit boxes.

6.1.3 Alison Scenario 3: Coping with Online Banking and Shopping

Alison knows her math skills are not as sharp as they used to be. She is worried about making mistakes that will put her financially at risk and she is not sure she should be using her credit card online. Alison wants to feel safe and supported.

She has found that autocomplete helps filling out forms, but she tends to worry that what has been entered may not be accurate. She has a paper card listing some commonly needed information such as her phone number, address and postcode. She stores secure information in a special folder and she has set up an agreement with the bank to limit spending on her credit card and mobile banking.

6.1.4 Alison Scenario 4: Giving Feedback

Alison would like to give feedback and tell her bank what changes they could make to their website to make it more usable for her and other mature customers. She struggles to find the feedback form and she has to type in a lot of information to send her suggestions. When she types in her phone number without the area code she receives an error. She tries to fix the error and send the suggestion but the send button becomes disabled so she probably needs to correct something else as well. At this point Alison feels they do not want her feedback and gives up. She now uses the site much less often. She also finds it hard to reach a support person on the phone because of the confusing phone menu system, so drives into the bank instead. She is thinking of changing to her daughters bank, so her daughter can help her.

6.2 Amy: A Computer Scientist who has Autism

  • Problem: They used lots of words on the links that did not seem to make sense. I think they were metaphors but I'm not sure.

  • Works well: I put my mouse over the items I did not understand and there was some clear text that explained what it did. I would rather they just used the clear text in the first place but at least I could use it.

Amy loves her computer science course and now programs in several languages. She has discovered she can visualize the outcome of her coding and is quick to find any errors even if they have not been highlighted. Documentation writing is less fun and she tends to be rather too concise which means some users do not receive enough help using her applications.

6.2.1 Amy Scenario 1: Coping with Poor Layouts and Illogical Navigation

Being able to code your own websites can make you very critical of others! Amy finds that she often feels quite confused by some social media sites that have dynamically changing content with random messages and advertisements. She either avoids these sites or tends to try to personalize them by clearing away the clutter and choosing to hide sections. Navigation that does not follow a simple route across an entire site really annoys her, as she feels this does not help anyone. She also finds that she is missing important information on sites that have too much information on pages or have no clear and logical structure.

6.2.2 Amy Scenario 2: Changing Color Schemes, Flashing, Blinking and Automatic Playing Videos or Music

When a page loads automatically or animations and videos play automatically cause problems for Amy. Sometimes, the movement can be very distracting and the sounds alarming. She has always found that sudden noises or something happening unintentionally has been a problem. When designing her own applications and websites she makes sure all the controls for animated objects or videos are very visible and do not start until the user has decided they wish to interact or view the object.

6.2.3 Amy Scenario 3: Designs that Make Use of Abstract Imagery and Metaphors

Amy is always concerned about communicating clearly and finds it hard when people ask her to create a design that includes abstract imagery. Images that do not directly represent something make Amy feel uneasy and she tends to ask if there can be some explanatory text in case other users are confused. On the other hand, a figure of speech where someone has written something that is not literal makes her wish that the writer would use easy to read content as it is hard to understand concepts such as, "the wheels of justice turning slowly."

6.3 Anna: A Student who has Dyslexia and Poor Eye Hand Coordination

  • Problem: As a slow reader it takes me ages to read though badly structured text and I often miss important information.

  • Works well: The newsletter has headings so I can find the important information quickly.

Anna has been a student for the past year. Her Fashion Design course has been challenging but fun. She loves the creative aspect of the diploma and would rather be drawing than writing. She has moderate dyslexia, which affects her ability to read, spell and use numbers. Anna has a poor working memory, especially for numbers and digits. She also has poor auditory discrimination which affects her ability to read quickly.

Anna had several projects to complete as part of her portfolio, but the one that worried her most involved a written assignment where she has to research the topic of Post-war fashions and their impact on today’s designs.

6.3.1 Anna Scenario 1: Logging In

Anna's use of the library catalogue from home failed at the first attempt when she could not remember her password. She kept putting in ‘afib61’ rather than ‘afid16’ and could not see the mistake. The error message on the web page had not helped because it announced that her user name or password were incorrect and she was not sure which one was wrong. Luckily, as she was on her own laptop the browser settings allowed her to save her password and she was able to automatically log in.

6.3.2 Anna Scenario 2: Finding Accessible Content

Having navigated the online library system, Anna eventually found a paper on the subject she wanted, which she could download in pdf format. She was hoping to use her text-to-speech app to read the content aloud but when she tried to highlight the text nothing happened. She discovered the document was actually an image and yet there was no warning this was the case. She could not find an alternative accessible version of the paper. This meant she had to use optical character recognition to virtually scan the paper. It was not totally successful leaving gaps in the information she found and the process took away valuable time from her writing. Anna Scenario 3: Filling in a Form to Ask for an eJournal Article

Finally, Anna found an ejournal that had another article, but there was a form that had to be completed. Anna duly started the process but realized she did not know the author’s name. She returned to the page where she had found the article to copy and paste the name. Sadly, when she returned to the form all that she had filled in was lost. She had hoped to just be able to add the final bit, not have to retype the whole thing again.

(Adapted from MOOCAP Erasmus + Persona CC-BY-4.0 http://gpii.eu/moocap/?page_id=33)

6.3.3 Anna Scenario 4: Overlooking Important Information

Anna is a very slow reader and often sounds out words. She has low auditory processing skills so she cannot speed up her screen reader. Therefore, to manage her busy life she has to try and scan read and skip through the massive amounts of content, emails and newsletter she sees so she can read only the most important parts. Sometimes however, she cannot find important content because it is buried inside lots of other content, or the headers and visual layout of the content does not guide her to where she needs to be.

Anna is always worried that she is missing something important and sometimes she is. For example, her daughters elementary school published a weekly newsletter with interesting stories about activities and important announcements. It contained information that her daughters school was ending early one day, but it was buried under less important information about the school activities. Because it takes her so long to read each word she did not manage to read the whole newsletter and did not know that her daughter was coming home earlier than usual. As a result, she was not home in time and her daughter was left waiting outside for over an hour.

6.3.4 Scenario 5: Pressing the Correct Button

Anna has bad eye hand coordination, so precise movements are hard and she often touches the wrong button or digit when typing on her small phone screen. With her low letter recognition this makes typing in codes or text very unreliable. She also confuses left and right so she is often pressing the off button in place of the volume. In most interactions on her phone she makes some form of mistake, such as loading a new video when she intended to expand the screen of the window she was watching. To use an application successfully it needs to have a consistent back or undo function.

6.4 Carolyn: A Yoga Teacher who has ADHD

  • Problem: If I come to a website that has lots of banners automatically flying by it really distracts me and I want to turn them off!

  • Works well: I found an option on my computer to say I wanted less movement and the website stopped all the flying things.

Carolyn found concentrating at school difficult and when she got into college to take a course in business studies life became even more stressful. She knew she could cope with the studies but never seemed to get her work completed on time, found it hard to start a report and even to create a plan for a project. When working with others she always had good ideas but somehow they were never taken up and she became frustrated often failing to keep her feelings in check. Luckily, a tutor suggested she sought help and when a psychologist, mentioned Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) Carolyn was relieved to have a reason for some of the planning and organizational difficulties she was having. She learnt that if she could make use of her constantly active brain and body as well as manage her time better, she could turn her hobby into a very successful Yoga business.

6.4.1 Carolyn Scenario 1: Gathering Key Points from a Heavy Text Based Document or Web Page

Carolyn could not really explain her apparent forgetfulness and not being able to focus or complete tasks, but she knew that if she came across a long document or web page with dense text she had to find the key points. If the web page failed to have a clear structure with a content list, well-spaced and highlighted headings she would be lost and lose concentration. Carolyn also said that if she was using her mobile she found advertisements appearing between chunks of text completely upset her focus and she had to stop reading. However, when there was good use of white space, recognizable icons linking to simple bold text clarifying the important points, Carolyn could target these areas and find out what she needed. A clear summary also provided clarity of understanding and Carolyn could remember much of what she had read.

6.4.2 Carolyn Scenario 2: The Power to Stop Scrolling Carousels and Banners

When setting up a new website for her business, Carolyn found an attractive template with several different ways of being able to show images of her exercises. However, she could not make the carousel of photographs pause, or a banner with her latest news stop scrolling. This really annoyed her as she found both items stopped her concentrating on the real content on the rest of the site. She thought that if it was upsetting her, what about her intended audience! She had to find a friend to add some code that not only added controls, but also stopped the automatic movement giving her website a calmness that she hoped her yoga teaching achieved.

6.4.3 Carolyn Scenario 3: Losing Focus when Completing Tasks

Carolyn enjoyed her Yoga teaching, but found that if she was developing some instructional materials for her website, online tools often failed to provide sufficient guidance. Unless there was a clear pathway and a way to return to the place where she was working, she often deleted items by accident or could not make corrections. Saving endless previews with yet more tabs being open in her browser caused anxiety levels to rise. It was not until she found a web app that made each task clear with a submit button, that saved her work in stages, that she was able to cope. Carolyn was able to see sections of her work in the correct order and could then manage the bite size chunks of instruction, rather than have to deal with it all at once. This made it so much easier for her to complete the exercise sheets and she became confident in her use of the application to the extent she was willing to purchase the pro version.

6.4.4 Carolyn Scenario 4: Learning Information from a Video

Theoretically, Carolyn likes instructional videos, but in practice she can only concentrate well enough to learn for a few minutes at a time. Then she loses her concentration. She will usually lose focus earlier if there is more than a minute of content that she already knows. When this happens, she misses the information that she needs! Carolyn tries hard but she still cannot focus for more than a few minutes on content that she already knows. Sometimes she watches videos at high speed so that they are less boring for her, but she still loses focus within a few minutes. When a video is broken down into segments with clear headings, she can jump to the information she needs to learn, and jump forward over segments that she already knows. When she misses information that she needs she can easily jump to the correct location and focus.

6.5 Frank: A Retired Lawyer with Dementia

  • Problem: I want to turn the volume up but there is no dial?

  • Works well: There was a clear volume buttons with a label that made sense, so I knew what to press.

Frank retired from his law firm in his early 60s when he found he was forgetting important items that needed to be discussed in his complex caseload. He found that he was forgetting material that he had just read, losing and misplacing objects and having trouble planning or organizing events. Frank is a very intelligent man and that has not changed. You will often find him reading an article about the law. However, he finds he cannot learn new things that rely on remembering new information. This can include new words or symbols.

6.5.1 Frank Scenario 1: Managing Dates and Booking Holidays

Frank noticed that he had trouble with online calendars and booking flights and hotels when he was planning his summer holiday. He could not work out the way the dates had to be entered into the form and made mistakes with the month and day. If only there had been a good example or tooltip. He also found that when he was booking a flight, the table that had the various lists of airports automatically entered the initials, which was very confusing when he was checking that everything was correct. Finally, there was the issue of making sure he booked the right number of nights for his hotel stay. He knew his arrival time at the airport was a day later than when he left, but it would have helped to have had a calendar with color and clear markings for the days in the week not just numbers.

6.5.2 Frank Scenario 2: Coping with Icons that are not Recognizable

Many web pages now have their own graphic icons and ways of indicating actions that need to be completed. Frank was having problems searching for information about a care home that he thought might help him in the future. He could not work out what the various options were when he came to fill out a form for his requirements. There appeared to be a series of small images beside the edit boxes, but the minute he began to write in the form the text explanation disappeared. He wanted the instructions to remain in place above the area where he was writing and for the box to be highlighted when he found he had missed some important sections.

6.5.3 Frank Scenario 3: Support when Using Search Engines

Frank likes to surf the web for anything to do with fishing, his favorite hobby. However, he has found that the sheer number of items that appear when he types in a few words very confusing. Ideally he would like the number of search results to be reduced and perhaps have some way of seeing the items categorized in groups so that he can work out which services he needs. In this case it might also be helpful to have icons appearing when the groups are listed, so that he can see articles about fly fishing in one section and sea fishing in another. Blocks of text with more white space around them would also be helpful so that he is not having to cope with such a mass of text.

6.5.4 Frank Scenario 4: Making a Medical Appointment

Frank can be independent, but often finds unsuitable designs make him require help. For example, he was trying to make a doctor's appointment. He went to the doctor's website and clicked on “make an appointment”. Then a popup opened asking him for the date. He became distracted by the phone, and when he returned to the screen he was not sure what it was for. So he did not make the appointment. If the popup had had a clear heading he would have been reminded of what he was doing, but without this landmark he was just confused.

Later Frank tried calling to make an appointment. Unfortunately, the voice system was automated and asked him questions like “press 2 to make an appointment” Frank typically cannot remember the digit - especially while he is processing the options. He usually gets lost in these systems or types the wrong digit. Frank is reluctant to ask for help and as a result he is not getting the health care he needs.

6.5.5 Frank Scenario 5: Using the Heating

Frank recently moved to a smaller apartment that is easier to take care of. However, this means he is not used to the ICT interfaces for the heating and television system. He has tried to turn on the heat, but the menu item for selecting heat or air conditioning is labeled "mode" and he cannot remember or learn new terms. Frank cannot use the whole unit because of this one term. This has caused emergencies such as hypothermia. Frank keeps the heating on at the same temperature and will only change it when his helper comes.

The TV also has an ICT interface with a lot of symbols that Frank does not know. His helper put an “on/off” sticker next to the button that he can use, but he cannot change the channel or change the volume.

When his microwave broke he bought a new one with controls that were similar to his old one. Because the controls were familiar, Frank can use the microwave unaided, although he needs help with the TV and heating.

6.6 George: A User who Works in a Supermarket and has Down Syndrome

  • Problem: I find it hard to understand and remember such long and complex written instructions.

  • Works well: The instructions for scanning items are presented as a clear list of steps made of pictures with easy to read text next to them. If I get stuck I can quickly find a reminder of what to do in such ‘Easy Read’ content.

George enjoys his job and lives semi-independently in a small town, where he can easily find his way around. However, George finds it hard to use search engines and navigate around websites because of the need to work with large blocks of text. He has problems using the online systems at work, and needs help to search for suitable videos or music.

6.6.1 George Scenario 1: Using Symbols for Communication

George used to use Makaton symbols and gestures when at school, but is able to communicate relatively easily now, although reading and writing remains a challenge. Surfing the web is hard when most interactions require text input, but George likes to watch videos, find images and listen to music as well as playing games online. Friends have set up links with recognizable icons on his tablet and this has made it easy to visit his favorite sites. If recognizable symbols or icons could be used in more situations, George feels he would be able to reach more sites independently. There are search engines designed for children and these often use more images, but tend to be too childish for George’s taste.

6.6.2 George Scenario 2: Understanding Netiquette and its Impact on Social Media Sites

George has been told about surfing safely and not giving out personal information. He is very lucky that his family has set up his Facebook and Skype account with various privacy settings. However, George finds the way emojis change or new icons keep appearing on his message systems rather confusing and does not always realize what some of them mean. He has sometimes selected an inappropriate symbol and then receives a rather short message from a friend in return that is upsetting. He finds it hard to explain what might have happened. He knows there have been times when he really can’t choose the right symbol because it is too small and he finds it hard to accurately hit the spot. George is then very worried as he does not know how to unlike or change his symbol choice. Interacting with emojis and other symbols is much easier for him with easy ways to enlarge these features on touch interfaces and to undo errors.

6.6.3 George Scenario 3: Controls on Videos and Popup Windows

Using a mouse is not easy for everyone and double clicking can take time to learn. George has worked hard to improve his mouse skills by playing many onscreen games, but he still finds it hard to move accurately enough to skip ads on videos or to track down the close/exit method offered by some popup windows. Once again friends have come to the rescue and enabled an ad blocker extension for his browser, but this does not always capture all the ads or prevent George selecting the submit rather than a cross or exit button on a pop-up. There have been times when George has downloaded malware without any second warning appearing or been unable to reach a site because he cannot find the small cross on a transparent popup window that overlays the main page.

6.6.4 George Scenario 4: Finding ways to Read Instructions

George finds it very hard to read instructions unless they use very short and easy to read words. He needs text that has been simplified. The best option for George is when someone has taken the trouble to provide a summary of a paragraph with a well-known symbol, short bullet points and a clear diagram or image of what is required. He finds videos with instructions usually go too quickly and he has to stop them, going back time and time again. Helpful instructions with well broken up sets of phrases using easy to read words can work well and he can go back to them when he has to remember how to do a particular task.

6.7 Jonathan: A Therapist with Dyscalculia

  • Problem: It says there is a meeting at 15.34 UTH. Now is lunch time. Did I miss it?

  • Works well: There is a line marker showing what time of day it is now, so I can see the meeting is soon.

Jonathan is a massage therapist with dyscalculia. For Jonathan numbers are a foreign language. He can add simple numbers with his fingers and cope with very basic sums. However, he has particular difficulty with numbers that have a series of zeros and their relationship to each other such as 10, 100, 1000 etc. He finds complex calculations, symbols and mathematical concepts are very problematic.

6.7.1 Jonathan Scenario 1: Coping with Quantities when Shopping Online

Jonathan struggles with the actual value of products, purchasing the correct quantities, for example when buying food at the supermarket and often orders far too much or too little when using online shopping carts. He has found it is much more helpful to have symbols representing the proportional size of items per price or to have a warning when he has ordered an item that might be very large and therefore costly. He saves shopping lists that have been successful and where the amounts have been correct so that he can re-use the lists on other occasions. His bank has helped by adding restrictions on the amount he can spend whether online or using his mobile phone. This can be annoying, but has stopped him from overdrawing his account.

6.7.2 Jonathan Scenario 2: Remembering Pin Numbers and Passwords

The use of pin numbers and passwords that insist on including a number has always been an issue and most of the time Jonathan uses a secure password application when online. When it comes to the number on the back of his credit card (Card Verification Code) that is always required at the end of a payment exercise, he has to look it up each time, though autofill has helped with completing the rest of the form. Jonathan made sure that what he originally entered and saved in his browser was correct. Too many times he has had to retrace his steps due to typos and not seeing that the entry was incorrect. When he has to return to the form to make corrections, he finds it essential that the corrections needed are clearly highlighted and the instructions provided are helpful. He also feels that it is important that the data he entered previously has not been lost, as the more often he types in numbers etc. the more likely he is to make mistakes.

6.7.3 Jonathan Scenario 3: Using Spreadsheets Shared with Colleagues

At work, there are times when Jonathan has to share a spreadsheet with a colleague to ensure that the group’s accounts are in order, suppliers have been correctly invoiced and fees collected. The mass of numbers affects Jonathan’s ability to concentrate on the various areas on the spreadsheet. He has found that it helps to use color coding, increased spacing and larger font sizes in order to pick out the various elements. He uses a tool for recording his hours where he can press start and stop to see how long he has worked without using math but he is not confident to add hours worked to the spreadsheet himself. He wishes it was integrated into the work spreadsheet. Jonathan will often use the comment feature to add something that he feels his colleague need to check, rather than making the correction to the spreadsheet himself.

If the document is saved as a PDF or presented in another format, Jonathan insists that it is easy to use with his text-to-speech program which helps him to check how the numbers need to be said and that he can annotate the contents when using his tablet. This is especially important if he is presenting numbers at a meeting.

6.8 Maria: A User who has Memory Loss

  • Problem: When there are lots of buttons or menu items I often make mistakes and press the wrong ones and end up getting frustrated and wasting time.

  • Works well: I like websites that allow me to work through a series of instructions and edit boxes one after the other with clear buttons moving me to the next stage.

Maria is 50 years old, married, and lives with her family in Madrid, Spain. Maria is beginning to lose her memory but still works part-time for a local company.

6.8.1 Maria Scenario 1: Finding Key Information on Dynamic Websites

Maria needs to gather specific types of online information for her job. She often has to run through reports about the company on the company’s website. She is only able to easily read the headlines of web pages. The company’s website looks fancy, has a modern user interface and a lot of dynamic elements that change when you hover the mouse over them. For Maria this site is a total nightmare! She finally finds the link to the data she needs as it appears when she happens to hover over a certain menu item with her mouse. The link is positioned in such a bad place that she did not notice it at first. She has found that it really helps if important interactive items are placed in the usual menu areas on a screen and the icons are clearly defined and easily recognizable.

6.8.2 Maria Scenario 2: Remembering Information Entered During a Previous Step

While ordering business cards (a multi-step process), Maria has difficulty remembering information that she enters into previous screens. On the first step she sees content choices that the process expects her to remember in subsequent screens. Additionally, the prolonged mental stress that she experiences while navigating processes inhibits her brain from producing the cells necessary to form new memories. Processes that require her to remember information from one step to another need to provide her access to any previously provided information that is required to proceed, at the exact point of use that is required, otherwise she will not be able to complete the process.

6.8.3 Maria Scenario 3: Pressing the Correct Button

Maria has bad eye hand coordination, so precise movements are hard and she often touches the wrong button on her small phone screen. This means she often presses the wrong button or digit when typing on her small phone screen. With her low letter recognition this makes typing in codes or text very unreliable. She confuses left and right so she is often pressing the off button in place of the volume. In most interactions on her phone she makes some form of mistake, such as loading a new video when she intended to expand the screen of the window she was watching. To use an application successfully it needs to have a consistent back function.

6.9 Sam: A Librarian who had a Stroke and Aphasia

  • Problem: Long sentences are hard, too many strange words and I get lost.

  • Works well: I like simple short sentences with easy words.

Sam loved his work as a librarian. He had spent his entire life surrounded by books in peaceful places where he could research his love for history. In recent years, he enjoyed using the web to explore how other people around the world saw the history of his own country and the changing views on famous people from the past. Now he was becoming depressed and very frustrated due to a recent stroke. The right side of his body was paralyzed and he had difficulty having conversations with friends and family due to aphasia. To him this meant that some of his words were muddled, his understanding was not always as clear as it had been and worst of all; he could not read as fluently as he had in the past. One handed typing was slow and he found his word finding abilities often failed him.

6.9.1 Sam Scenario 1: Having Well-spaced Text with Words that are Easy to Pick Out

Despite all the difficulties that Sam had with his beloved reading, he was determined to improve and found that if a website had no clutter or background imagery he could read the headings. He also found that if there was adequate spacing and the text was not too complex, he could pick words out and with the help of text-to-speech understand the meaning. He did not like the sound of the synthesized speech, because he found it distracting having always read silently. However, over time, he learnt to enlarge the fonts and if the page had left justified text with uneven right edges, he could find his way about by the different shapes of each paragraph. As he became more confident, he began to use some browser tools and was able to increase the line spacing and change the font style on some of his old favorite online historical documents.

6.9.2 Sam Scenario 2: Using Edit Boxes where the Instructions Disappear

Sam had not expected to have to fill in so many online forms in order to receive benefits due to his disability. They caused immense frustration and feelings of self-doubt due to their lack of clarity. Every time he had to fill in an edit box, the instructions disappeared the minute he began to type and he could not remember what was required. He often had to refresh the page and start again to see the label in the box. Sam spent so long on the task that the page would time out. He had to print it out and get help. This was really upsetting as he wanted to be independent and it often reduced him to tears. This was very unlike him, but as the doctor explained, this was linked to his stroke. He also found it very frustrating when a form required a particular way of formatting information with no example as to how to complete the action. Worse still was when the error was not clearly explained, making correction even harder. Dates, postal codes and phone numbers are a particular nightmare.

6.9.3 Sam Scenario 3: Trying to Activate Elements that have been Mis-recognized

The effects of aphasia with acquired dyslexia can be exhausting and confusing but most worrying for Sam was the sense of getting lost on a web page that he thought he knew. He admitted to being nervous when he could not pick out elements in a page that required an interaction. Sometimes he said he did not dare click on a button in case he did something wrong or was sent to somewhere without warning. Sam found this aspect of his web surfing very alarming, as in the past he had been able to navigate with ease. He discovered that the edges of shapes did not appear as clear as they should have been when people use pale greys and he missed links unless expressly highlighted. If a pop-up window suddenly appeared, there were times when he could not close it to return to the page. Small crosses became a nightmare and Sam stressed that the more things happened on a page, the more confused he became. He mentioned the fact that some sites were easier on his tablet as then it all seemed to flow one way and he could just scroll up and down until he felt happy with a decision.

6.9.4 Sam Scenario 4: Coping with Complex Language

When text was written in the passive voice or in an academic manner with long complex words Sam struggled to sometimes understand their meaning even if they were in context. He also found, if he was required to use the same type of language in a form, that he had to copy the words as he could not always spell them and at times he used the wrong word. When he was able to use an app that enabled the text to be read aloud, he could cope if the language was clear and the sentences were kept short. He liked articles that were written in the active tense so he could understand the main ideas straight away.

6.10 Tom: A Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor

  • Problem: I got lost making the order and I wanted to go back to the previous step. I hit the back key in the browser and it reloaded the home page. I had to start over.

  • Works well: There was a clear back button on each step and when I used the browser back button it also worked.

Tom was involved in a very serious car crash that left him with some physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities having sustained a brain injury. He has returned to work, but often finds communications strained due to difficulties with memory recollection and visual understanding.

Tom had to learn how to walk, talk, and basically live life all over again. Medical experts informed him that his greatest chances for recovery would take place within the first 2 years after his injury. After that he may continue to recover, but at a much slower, and incremental rate. His friends and family were amazed by how quickly he regained his ability to speak, and perform his daily life functions. They were perplexed, however, by all of the cognitive difficulties he expressed having, despite his clear ability to articulate and communicate. For example, he often cannot recognize images and faces. He gets disorientated in physical spaces and often gets lost in rooms, as well as buildings, larger places, documents and websites.

He has now returned to his old company as a researcher and is back using applications and the Internet throughout his working day.

6.10.1 Tom Scenario 1: Using Speech Recognition to Navigate the Web

Tom has dexterity difficulties so he sometimes uses speech recognition to work through web pages and enter text. He finds this method the least tiring of all the possible input options. Although his speech is slow, he is able to control his computer using speech commands and dictation. It is quite easy to use simple commands to control websites, although there are times when he forgets some of the commands and has to use his cheat sheet. Tom likes the scroll commands that allow him to read slowly down a page without using any other input device and he can often retrace his steps as he has to reread items. However, there can be problems if the forms on the website are not labeled correctly or if buttons do not have clear names. Tom had help personalizing some aspects of form completion, but if an element is inaccessible via the keyboard, he has to use the mouse grid to interact with that part of the site. This is a slow process and can be frustrating as Tom finds he loses concentration.

6.10.2 Tom Scenario 2: Finding the Right Words to Use for Searching

Tom finds there are times when he spells words incorrectly and he appreciates error corrections or a system that accepts mistakes. He also has word finding problems when he is tired and he welcomes search suggestions, as these are ideas that might be related to his search. However, too many results can cause concern and Tom admits he really cannot work his way through very long lists that have not been broken up with headings and categories.

6.10.3 Tom Scenario 3: Being Confident that he Understands the Content

Tom has difficulty understanding content when it is not explicitly clear, and without any ambiguity whatsoever. He takes a notably longer amount of time to read and process information in order to be certain that he is interpreting it correctly. His interpretation of information is almost always correct, but even the slightest bit of ambiguity, or open interpretation creates sticking points that he must read over and over again, and question every which way until he can assure himself with the confidence that he understands it correctly. Examples and clear step-by-step instructions can help him have the confidence to complete his task. Simple, clear memorable graphics or large indicators of steps in a process can increase Tom’s understanding, confidence and orientation in a process.

6.10.4 Tom Scenario 4: Understanding where Information is in a Hierarchical Structure

Tom tries to understand the outline of the page and site, so that he does not get lost in the content. Sometimes he dives into the website but then he does not know where he is in the content or task. Clear and consistent headings in a hierarchical structure are needed for Tom to understand the level of importance of content and a clear site structure lets him orientate himself in the site.

He values simple, clear graphics that relate to the content and break it up. These help him orient as well as understand and remember the content. This also includes the following user needs: Symbols that emphasize the structure and role of the content or an image that accompanies the main text and makes it memorable.

6.10.5 Tom Scenario 5: Cognitive Overload

Complex presentations of information (images, diagrams, content heavy web pages, etc.) overload Tom’s cognitive functioning. This shuts his brain down and prevents him from progressing through processes, navigating, systems, and environments, and understanding the information presented, at both the micro and macro level.

Liberal use of white space can decrease the cognitive load where there is a considerable amount of content on one page.

6.10.6 Tom Scenario 5: Struggling with Directions

When using a mapping program to find his way to a location, Tom struggles to quickly respond to spoken directions and finds route changes very difficult to adjust to. Tom benefits from previewing the directions before he leaves and being able to change the settings so that directions are given using driver's side and passenger's side instead of left and right and the route does not change automatically.