Improving Accessibility for Seniors in a Life-long Learning Network: A Usability Study of Learning Websites

Improving Accessibility for Seniors in a Life-long Learning Network: A Usability Study of Learning Websites

Xiaoqing Gu (East China Normal University, China), Rui Ding (East China Normal University, China) and Shirong Fu (East China Normal University, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2062-9.ch004
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Abstract

Senior citizens are comparatively vulnerable in accessing learning opportunities offered on the Internet due to usability problems in current web design. In an effort to build a senior-friendly learning web as a part of the Life-long Learning Network in Shanghai, usability studies of two websites currently available to Shanghai senior citizens were conducted, with the intention of integrating these websites into a senior learning web as well as promoting accessibility for senior users. Through this study usability problems were identified generating suggested changes for designing websites focused on learning by seniors. This study contributes empirical findings to the field of information system design and its accessibility for seniors.
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Research shows that seniors are increasingly using the Internet to access information, to meet their needs for fun and mental stimulation, for education, to increase their social interaction and to serve as a useful medium to provide them information with a high level of interest in health information (Hendrix, 2000; Nahm et al., 2006; Arch, 2008). However, even websites that are designed to be compliant with accessibility standards catering to specific impairments may be ineffective in enabling access for older adults (Dickinson et al., 2007). The accessibility problems aged people encounter are mainly attributed to the lack of awareness and implementation of usability design guidelines dedicated especially for the senior users group (Morrell, 2005; Dickinson et al., 2007; Aula, 2005).

As a group older adults are vulnerable with lower education, cognition effects and chronic disabilities normal for aging such as poor vision, hearing impairments, and declining motor skills (Becker, 2004b; Kurniawan et al., 2006; Wick, 2004; Emery et al., 2003; Arch, 2008).

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