WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: Aural cues


From: Wendy R. Mullin
Date: Sep 17, 2002 8:39AM

Hi Ian -

I originally trained to be a school library media specialist - a.k.a.
school librarian. Evaluating educational software was a part of several of
my classes. I don't have a copy of the evaluation questions we used
anymore, but I've listed some of the evaluation questions/criteria below
that could be useful for software designed for children or adults. I've
also added some questions based upon my experience assisting others with
assistive technology for computers.

Is getting the incorrect answer more fun than getting the correct answer?
If for children (and some adults as well), don't make getting the incorrect
answer more fun than getting the correct answer. Many educational software
games and learning tools include crashes, bangs, and other sounds that many
students think are more fun than the sounds made for correct answers.

Does getting the incorrect answer cause an "insulting" or "degrading"
I have seen software meant for children that make the following type
statements in response to an incorrect answer: "Hey stupid! That's not
right." Or "Are you an idiot or what?" (These are my paraphrases. I
can't remember the actually responses, but they did include the words
"stupid" and "idiot".)

Can the software be used without the sound turned on?
* Many computers don't have speakers or sound cards.
* Will your future audience of users be in a room by themselves - where
hearing the sounds won't disturb others? (Yes, users can where headphones,
but, especially in many public schools and public computing labs,
headphones tend to "disappear".)
* If a user has a hearing impairment, will they be able to understand the
software? For accessibility, a software application should not rely on
sound alone. Even if someone can hear the sounds, even a slight hearing
impairment (such as happens to many of us as we age) can create a problem
hearing some pitches or tones.
* Some individuals (especially if your audience will be adults) don't like
dings and other audible sounds and will turn them off. Some just don't
like the sounds, but others find them annoying and distracting. * For some
individuals with ADD/ADHD or other learning disabilities, sound can be very
* If your audience will be adults, don't make the responses too "cute" or
"condescending", such as "That's right. You're doing great today!"

Does the software application have documentation? Is it written clearly
and understandably?
A good instructional manual is always desirable, but it can also be helpful
to have a shortened, version of the instructions available, such as a
"Quick Reference" instructional sheet that gives the basics of the software
application. (How many of us read through an entire manual before we start
to use a new piece of software or hardware?)

Does the software have a "help" feature included in the software itself or
online? While software manuals are great and necessary, they often are not
easily accessible. Individual users may put on a shelf or drawer. The
software may be passed onto the next person in a position without the
accompanying manual. Teachers, librarians, or others running a public
computer lab usually will lock the manual away for safe keeping. Also, if
an organization buys a site license that allows for multiple, simultaneous
users, only one or two sets of printed instructional manuals may be purchases.

Is the User Interface clear, understandable, and usable? You may or may
not have time for usability testing, but just showing the interface (even a
mock-up on paper) to someone other than yourself (and any other developers
of the software) can often give you insight into possible problem areas.

I'd be interested in the responses of others on this topic.

Wendy R. Mullin
Web Developer, University of South Carolina
<EMAIL REMOVED> | http://isg.csd.sc.edu/~wmullin/

At 02:39 PM 9/17/02 +0100, <EMAIL REMOVED> wrote:
>I am after any help/advice about use of audio in applications. For example,
>are there any standard conventions for sounds to use for events such as:
>* correct
>* incorrect
>* forward, back, up, down
>and so on.
>Or is it more a case of - nice sounds for nice things, as long as you
>explain them first?
>Ian Lloyd, Electronic Channels
>Nationwide Building Society

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or view list archives,
visit http://www.webaim.org/discussion/