Read time: 2 minutes 30 seconds
When researching with people with disability, it’s important to plan your sessions carefully, treat participants with respect and take account of individual abilities.
The Office for Digital Government can also help with usability testing as-a-service.
Why it's important
- This series of accessibility perspectives videos from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) demonstrate how accessibility can be essential for some, but useful for all.
- Video: make technology work for everyone (YouTube) provides a short introduction to digital accessibility. It also covers some of the reasons why it's so important.
Steps to take
Follow the Australian Government User Research Digital Guide to understand the needs of all your users at every stage.
Think about what you need to do to make sessions easy and comfortable for participants, both before they start and when they are underway.
Before a session
If you’re running a session at your office or other venue:
- Meet the participant at reception (or arrange for someone else to).
- If they have one, don’t pat a participant’s assistance dog unless they say you can.
- Bring them to your lab or research room (tips on how to guide a blind or partially sighted person)
- Introduce yourself and explain who else is with you (like observers or note takers) and what their role is.
- Ask if they need you to set up any equipment they’ve brought - this can take time so make sure you plan for it.
- Explain where the nearest toilets are, including the accessible one.
- Explain what will happen if the fire alarm goes off.
- Make sure they can use and understand the consent form.
If your participants need to use assistive technology, ask them to bring it with them. This is because it’s hard to recreate someone’s personal settings on a different device.
If a participant can’t bring their technology, it’s best to visit them instead.
During a session
Regardless of what you’re researching and which user research method you’re using:
- Talk directly to the participant, not to their interpreter or helper
- Speak clearly and use everyday language without worrying about causing offence. For example, people who are blind or partially sighted use common phrases like ‘see you later’ and ‘see what I mean’.
- Check if they need you to speak up or slow down.
- Don’t guess what the participant is saying if their speech isn’t clear - take your time - check for understanding and allow participant time to process and correct any miscommunication as necessary.
- Don’t guess or make assumptions about what they can or can’t do - ask before you help them with something.
- Don’t guess or make assumptions about how they feel or why they did something. If you want to know, ask.
- If you’re unsure how to refer to the participant’s disability or impairment, ask them what terminology they prefer.
- Ask how their disability affects their use of technology, if this isn’t clear.
After a session
When the research session is finished, thank the participant for taking part.
If you’re at your office or other venue:
- Make sure participant has all the assistive technology they brought with them.
- Check if they need help to book a taxi or arrange for someone to meet them.
- Learn more about interacting with people with disability in the book ‘Just Ask: Integrating accessibility throughout design’
- Our guide to inclusive user experience (UX) design
- Our guide to assistive technology
- How the UK passport service was tested with visually impaired users (GOV.UK)
- Interviews with people with disability (GOV.UK)
- Barriers users face when accessing digital services (GOV.UK)
Last update: 25 June 2019, update to 'during a session' section as a result of feedback
Content on this page published with acknowledgement.