An estimated 800,000 people in the UK have dementia. Most are over 65. This age group is now increasingly likely to be online, for a whole host of reasons - including staying in contact with friends and family and keeping up-to-date with current affairs, which in turn helps reduce isolation. Online shopping, banking and filling in government forms are also important services for older people. It's therefore essential that websites are accessible for people experiencing memory, organisation and orientation issues.
Lilianna Williams, an accessibility and usability consultant for AbilityNet, works with big name companies to ensure their sites meet legal inclusivity requirements, and are accessible to bigger audiences, she offers some of her top tips on designing a website for people with dementia.
Some simple ways you can make your website more accessible to people with dementia:
1 Links and buttons
Make sure links and buttons clearly indicate their purpose. Ie, they should make sense in their own right, not just in conjunction with surrounding text. For example, rather than a link or button saying 'click here for more information', it should say 'click here for more information about speaking to the bank' or 'speak to the bank here'.
2 Make essential navigation items obvious
Important parts of a page/ site ie, the Home button, the search box and a site map should be very easy and clear to locate consistently across a website.
3 Don't split one piece of information over more than one page
Splitting forms and information across several pages can lead to disorientation. Put the whole form or text on one page so a visitor can easily scroll up and down to see what they've already filled in / read.
4 Help orientation for people with dementia by using breadcrumb links
Use 'breadcrumb' links (the ones with the > arrows) in an obviously visible place on the page, so it's clear for someone to be reminded of the route they've taken to get to a page, and to see which section they're currently in. Ie current account> outgoings>today.
5 Fonts and aesthetics
Use a consistent font to minimise distractions and confusion, along with plain backgrounds and well contrasted colours. Relevant photos on the page can be very useful for comprehension, allowing a user to understand content without disorientation.
6 Words and text
Use short sentences and avoid abbreviations and jargon.