User assistance and accessibility

As an Information Developer, I often ask myself what our biggest fear is. In my opinion, that’s the fear to create useless technical content that no one reads, miscommunicate information, or fail to assist your readers when they need help the most. This fear may come true when we don’t analyze deep enough who our readers are, their needs, and how they access our content.

In this article, I would like to have a closer look at how writers create accessible content and a multisensory experience for readers with disabilities.

Multisensory experience

When going sightseeing in Italy, I was mesmerized by the architectural compositions of churches, their wall paintings, mosaics, and sculptures. However, what struck my inner writer in churches were tactile information panels that provided different kinds of accessible content for visitors with disabilities.

Figure #1. Information panel in Basilica of San Lorenzo, Milan.

Organizations like Tactie Vision Onlus and Lettura Agevolata Onlus developed the project “The churches of Milan … in every sense” to make Italian churches more accessible to people with disabilities. These organizations installed tactile information panels with a multisensory design in more than 15 churches in Milan.

Multilingual approach

Besides communicating the information in Italian and English, writers complemented the text in Braille (figure #2) and a sign language (figure #1, label 5).

Figure #2. The English text duplicated in Braille.

Tactile experience

A tactile representation of the church interior and exterior helps its visitors sense and touch architectural details and, in this way, visualize the shape of the building.

Figure #3. A tactile representation of an exterior and interior of the Basilica.

Audio and video support

NFC (Near Field Communication) (figure #1, label 4) provides an audio guide for people with visual impairment and a video guide for people with hearing loss. The video contains subtitles and translation of texts in LIS (Italian Sign Language). To download the audio-video guide, you need a smartphone or tablet equipped with NFC.

Additionally, visitors with hearing loss can ask for a live tour conducted in a sign language (figure #1, label 5). If you have an internet connection, you can view the audio-video guide by scanning the QR Code (figure #1, label 3).

Conclusion

So, when creating content, make sure that it’s not just concise and accurate, but also accessible for all your readers.

You may read about other user experience observations we made during our trips:

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