Background

According to the WHO, 1.2 million people with visual impairments live in Germany. These figures will rise in the coming years due to the ageing of our society. About 7 million individuals live with a serious eye illness, for instance age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. Advancing digitisation through electronic devices, comprehensive functionality and the expanding use of touchscreens creates barriers, as these types of devices increasingly require visual control. Because of this, the design of electronic devices should also factor in the concerns of sensory-impaired individual.

General Requirements for Accessible Electronic Devices

The main requirement for the common usability and accessibility of household and consumer electronics is devices that are easy to understand and simple to use. To make these devices accessible for use by everyone, all disabilities must be taken into account (cognitive, visual, haptic, auditory) with respect to what series of procedures users must follow to utilise the device. Derived from existing standards, these include the following processes:

  • Recognition (discoverability of the procedures)
  • Attribution (understanding the procedures)
  • Accessibility (physical)
  • Usability (regarding the user’s ergonomic and sensory abilities)
  • Possibility to inquire about all of the device’s conditions (monitoring)

For better comprehensibility, the modes for setting controls should be standardised across companies as much as possible.
Where applicable, participatory processes should be embedded into product development for establishing necessary design characteristics

Requirements for Electronic Devices for the Visually Impaired

People with visual impairments predominantly perceive their environment visually. Consequently, the following are primary requirements for enhancing visual characteristics in the design of electronic devices:

  • Having a structure and the functional assignment of control and handling elements that are easy to understand and include an associated visual status check
  • Sufficient visual contrast and antiglare screens for controls, labels and displays
  • Adequate sizes for fonts, symbols and characters
  • The possibility for individual control of contrast and font sizes where applicable

Requirements for Electronic Devices for Blind and Highly Visually Impaired People

Individuals who are blind or have serious visual impairments always require an alternative sense to perceive visual information from their environment. In order to be accessible, control and handling elements must therefore be perceivable through at least two senses (two-sense principle). Along with the visual, this also requires auditory and/or tactile perceptibility.

  • Safe recognition and operability of the individual controls and functional elements
  • Visual, tactile and acoustic ease of understanding for device functionality
  • Direct multisensory feedback for an effected setting (for example, snap-to-grid functionality, tactile comparison (switch setting), acoustic acknowledgement tone (sound or speech))
  • Unambiguous interpretability of the outgoing signal
  • Preventing activation of unwanted functions (i.e., with touchscreens)
  • Controllability of current settings, procedure status and error messages

External Control

A device’s security-relevant control functions and basic functionality must be installed so as to make these functions accessible in operation. Ideally, expanded functionality should also be able to be activated in an accessible manner on the device, or, at a minimum, made accessible through an additional barrier-free user level (tablet, remote control and internet interface). Utilising common interfaces on the market to enable provision of individual and disability-related add-on solutions.

Operating Instructions/Assistance

In general, for each specific user group it should be possible to make the use and handling of electronic devices accessible, appropriately understandable and easy to learn through barrier-free operating instructions and/or retrievable or automatic operating assistants.

Criteria for Purchasing

  • Comparable information about devices available on the market that can be used by differently-abled people.
  • The electronics sector should ensure that accessible, barrier-free products are commercially available.
  • Product range expansion for the retail sector by offering accessible devices.
  • A guarantee to provide information and advice appropriate for this target group by personnel in retail and in companies, and supplying personnel who are trained with respect to the needs of differently-abled people and the respective appropriate devices.

The following flyer has the german and in the back the english version of the requirements: