Nathan Wiggin, our Chief Solutions Officer, recently gave a presentation about the necessity of accessible online surveys at the 2021 Sawtooth Software Conference. Every year many researchers and insights professionals submit papers to present at the Sawtooth Software Conference. A selection committee carefully reviews and selects papers that fit best within the conference to ensure the conference is unique and provides value and learning for attendees. ComEngage was invited to present the topic “Making Online Surveys Accessible to People with Disabilities”.
When working with a client that required adaptations for visually impaired users, we realized the importance of, and need for, an out of the box survey solution that can be used by everyone, including those users with disabilities that can make completing online surveys difficult. When testing our survey with Mary Ann Mendez, our usability expert who is also blind, we found that there weren’t a lot of options, or solutions available, to make our surveys easily navigated by the visually impaired. Working with Mary Ann and Sawtooth, it took time, patience and a lot of work, and we continue to improve the solution, but we have arrived at a point where we have created a survey that has been successfully completed, by individuals with visual impairment, in a real world survey deployment.
Scope of the Situation
We need to ensure that we aren’t leaving out a significant portion of our communities!
- Census report from 2014 indicates roughly 12 million Americans have a serious vision impairment1
- Worldwide upwards of 190 million people experience significant disabilities
This population often gets overlooked, especially in Market Research communities
What we found working on this solution
Our original survey was simply not navigable with a screen reader. How do we know this? We TRIED it! Put yourself in the shoes of a visually impaired user, and try to use your survey from their perspective.
How do you do this?
- Get yourself a screen reader. We used JAWS by Freedom Scientific. There are other software options out there, JAWS is one of the most commonly used. Mac OS has a built in option, called Apple VoiceOver, and Non-visual Desktop Access (NVDA) provides a free software option.
- Make sure you have a pair of good quality headphones
- Bring your patience along, this manner of navigation can take some getting used to
- Keep yourself from cheating – bring along a blindfold! We used a Chrome Extension: ChromeLens; once installed it can be activated by pressing F12
In the presentation, we show the results of using the screen reader with our original and 2nd version of our survey. In our third iteration, which we also demonstrate in the video, we were able to produce a solution that could be successfully navigated and submitted by visually impaired users.
We aren’t stopping here – Our Next Steps
We learned so much during this process. Several important take-aways:
- We take site/vision for granted
- Blind users don’t use a mouse
- Try it yourself
- Use an expert
- Have blind and visually impaired people test the survey and provide feedback
- Save and comment your code
- Use the questionnaire library!
- Sawtooth Support is amazing
What’s next? We will continue to incorporate additional languages into one file AND have it work with Jaws. We are continuing to refine the process, so it is easier for proficient users to navigate. Sawtooth released a major update in early April to drastically improve out-of-the-box accessibility and they are continually working to update and improve the product.
Links to the Video and Full Presentation
Check out Nathan’s full video below. We have also have his presentation available for download below