Simplify The Layout

Image of an application to communicate about emotions. The app don't have a name right now and is not published. It's a proof of concept.

In this blogpost I’d love to talk about ‘simplify the layout’. In other words this means making the lay-out easier to understand. In this blogpost I am going to tell you how to make a layout for an app that’s really accessible. Easy to use.

I am going to focus on people with autism, learning disabilities (in other words intellectual or cognitive disabilities) and people that are distracted very often. An example is people on the ADD / ADHD spectrum.

How to start with simplifying the layout?

You can start  simplifying  the layout of your application with cutting down the content of your application. Simplifying the lay-out is making the screen easy to understand. This can be done with less content par screen. Big busy screens with lot of divided content isn’t easy for everyone.

And I know, a lot of developers want to build applications with as much as possible options. Eye – catchers. For people that have difficulties with understanding the basic usage of your application are this options eye – killer.

Another adjustment to make an accessible lay-out is a bigger font. Of course, a bigger font is helpful for people with vision loss. But also for people with intellectual disabilities it’s easier to recognize words and text if the font is bigger.

For many people with disabilities it’s easy to have enough contrast. Use dark text on a white background. Specific for people with intellectual disabilities a white or light background is easier.

But if you really want to be accessible and inclusive for a lot of people you can add the option to switch to a dark background with a light text-color scheme. Some people with autism prefer this combination. They have the feeling to have less sensory overload with a dark color scheme.

Color By Function

Let’s introduce you to Color By Function. The vision of Color By Function is that you color the controls in you app by function and not or not only by control type or the place that makes the layout most beautiful.

Specifying functions by category

First you have to separate functions of an application. You need to make categories of functions. There can be similar tasks in each category.

Here an examples:

Category ‘navigate to another page’. Different tasks in this category:

–  Navigate to Settings Page.  

– Navigate to About Page

Our Main categories

We have currently following categories:

  1. We have button’s that read-aloud some text. This is called text-to-speech. (Yellow)
  2. We have buttons or other controls that navigate within a dataset. In fact you change the content of some controls but you stay in the same view. (Dark Gray)
  3. We have buttons or other controls that navigate you to another view/page in the application. (Blue)

At this time I made apps with 3 these main categories. If I need an application with another main control function I have to link another color.

Multiple app approach

It’s also important if you plan to develop different apps for people with disabilities always make the same color by function color choices.


JavaZone kickstarted my Magic Fall

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at JavaZone in Oslo, Norway. It was my first conference this Fall. And I know.. Officially Fall start next Monday but for me, last week Fall is kicked-off for me. This Fall I do a lot of conferences as a speaker and at least one conference as an attendee.

So let’s talk Java?

Most of you know that I am a Microsoft MVP and developing on the Microsoft stack (in .NET and Azure). Right! I am still the same Dennie, the same Microsoft MVP and developer on the Microsoft stack. But I really want a big reach on accessibility and quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities and / or autism.  At JavaZone I presented a session about autism and communication.

And what for session? My first co-talk with my lovely mom, Ivette Marchand. We have found ways for communicating about work, limits and borders. This starts from my autism and is helpful for a lot of people.

Although even as a .NET developer I visited some talks that are really helpful. Here below I do a little series “What does a .Net developer at a Java conference?” As you will see I learned lot!

What does a .Net developer at a Java Conference:

I went to the psychologist!

Visit to the psychologist with Rosanne Joosten..

What’s better to start the conference with a visit to the psychologist? Rosanne Joosten is a psychologist that transformed into a programmer. Rosanne talked about the link between how developers write code and their personality. Some parts were really confronting…

I learned about Web Assembly

Web assembly is a project started form the browser companies. Web assembly is a way for native code in the browser. Blazor, Microsoft’s implementation of Web Assembly was also covered, of course this was between the other Web Assembly solutions.


Accessibility hero's Tom, Lotte and Tor-Martin

And yes, there were sessions about accessibility! And this makes me happy! I saw 2 refreshing talks. I like accessibility talks with people with disabilities involved as a presenter. Tom is a person who’s blind. He was surrounded with 2 other speakers (Lotte and Tor-Martin). If I see how a blind person is learning other people how to make the web accessible then I shiver from respect! I saw interesting Aria ideas and other refreshing ideas for navigation.

Another session about accessibility was on the 2nd day from Kamilla. Kamilla did a lighting talk about accessibility. I loved that she was including a variety of disabilities and not just the most spoken ones!

I learned to hack a cat

Hacking a cat with Nail Merrigan

Nial Merrigan is also a Microsoft MVP, he’s a specialist into security. He presented a cross code  /cross platform introduction into security. Where do you need to be aware off? He gave us insights beyond traditional attack vendors. Sometimes the talk was scary, sometimes it was laughing out loud! I like this kind of talks!

I went on a survival

Patricia Aas presented “Survival Tips For Women in Tech”. This talk was my opportunity to go to a talk together with my mom. A no – code talk about woman! As an inclusive developer I like to go to a lot of talks about diversity and inclusion in the broad scene. This talk showed me how difficult it can be for women in tech as a minority. The talk opened my eyes but I saw also equal situations as for me as a person with autism in tech. The way Patricia introduced this talk, and why she needs this introduction is very equal to my intros. I love the openness how she talked about a lot of topics in being different to “white man between 30 – 50 in Tech”!

And then.. Finally.. Our talk!

I presented “How do I help my son?” the inaugural of my mom! Our first co- talk! We had a blast and ended with a standing ovation! I loved it!

In this talk I was very open about my past, why I am a volunteer in tech? We also talked a lot about the fact that I was bullied a lot in the past. How bullying, educational choices and a hard period in a factory lead to a volunteering job in tech?

People love this openness and it feels more comfortable to talk about bullying, maybe just a bit more comfortable because my mom is on my side. Or not? In the past talks I presented a few talks about autism, every time I was also about at lot of things. But being bullied is not always a topic in my talk. With my mom on my side it’s more easy!

So folks, my magic fall is started, up to the next one!

Overview expo

The Need of Accessible Apps

At this time many people around the world are using apps, computers and smartphones. Most of this people can do a lot of interesting stuff with this modern communication.

This modern communication made many people their life easier. So I going go tell you a story to show how modern and mobile technology helped our family and myself.

Center Parcs

“We are 1995, I was a child and went on vacation with my parents to a family resort in my own country. There were business people and just working- life families. I was in the scene of a normal life family, my dad was working in the metal industry and my mom was selling pizza’s at a market. We walked to the swimming pool and we saw a business man calling with a mobile cell phone. We found it funny, my dad was laughing out loud with the  ‘mobile phone’ and in our family we made a role – playing – theater about calling with mobile phones.

4 Years later, my parents had a mobile phone. 7 Year later I had a mobile phone. After a while I switched do a PDA. Internet enabled device. And since quite long time we all have an smartphone, and are continuously connected to the outer world. I even have a Twitter account and via digital media I worked myself into a worldwide well known conference speaker.”

Dennie Declercq

Without this technology my speaker life wasn’t there. I have a lot of QoL (Quality of Life) improvements due to this modern technology.

Image of an application to communicate about emotions. The app don't have a name right now and is not published. It's a proof of concept.

So let me make the link through people with disabilities. Not all the people with disabilities have a smartphone yet. I have proven that it’s possible to make special-made apps that are user friendly for people who can’t read or have difficulties with most of the apps in Market Place / App Store.

Shouldn’t it be nice if we can open up the world also for those people. If we can not only make the impossible possible for people without disabilities, but also for people with disabilities?

This is the point were “Inclusion” comes in. People with disabilities (PWD) are living the same life as people without disabilities. All people together have a good life and a good QoL. This is inclusion this is my pride!

How do you to this? Well on this I post a lot of blog about accessible software. I even share my speaker schedule. I am going to do a lot of blog posts ant talks about accessible software.

To give you a sneak preview: I talk a lot about Simplify the Layout, Color By Function and Text To Speech. More about this terms in following posts.

Yours, Dennie