The Nordics: Is Cashless the way to go? An accessibility point of view.

First, I love Sweden, I love the Nordics! If I go to there as a conference speaker, I always have a great time. The Nordics are innovative. And I am really looking forward to my next 3 trips to the Nordics in the beginning of 2020. I start with Oslo (Norway) in January, Stockholm (Sweden) in February and Helsinki (Finland) in March.

Thanks to my great network I saw this movie:

Movie that triggers this blog post

As I saw this movie I was worried as an expert in accessibility and inclusion.

So, let’s open the discussion on accessibility and inclusion from my part of view: people with disabilities.

To do this, I am going to focus on 2 disabilities: autism / Asperger (youngers with autism / Asperger) and people with learning disabilities.

(Youngsters) with autism  / Asperger

For a lot of people with autism / Asperger, especially for youngsters the physical world is important. The physical view of a banknote and how this banknote can be divided into other banknotes and in the end in coins is a very important view. Also, if you are caring an amount of physical money into your wallet and you want to go to a toy store it’s very concrete, what you can combine with the amount of money and what’s beyond your budget.

People with learning disabilities

There are people with learning disabilities. This can be adults with the knowledge of children below 10. There’s a lot of theory of learning disabilities. The most famous disability on this field is people with Downs Syndrome. But Downs isn’t the only disability that causes learning disabilities. As I tell in my story as a speaker each disability is a spectrum and the knowledge and intellectual functioning is different par person. Some adults have the IQ of a child of 9, even 6 or below 3. there are also adaptive skills and so on.

But what I see in the field if I work with people with learning disabilities is also the same as with youngsters with autism: the physical form of money is very important. As a parent or coach for a person with learning disabilities it’s very concrete t give a banknote of money and help them to split this into costs. A digital translation of money can be challenging.

Do you trust everybody?

Nice question. Can you give the bank card / the mobile application to pay to everybody surrounding the person with the disability (if this is a youngster with autism / Asperger or a person with learning disability it’s doesn’t matter)?

How to control the usage of the account linked to the card / app?

How to create a visible system that the persons with the disability understand. That provides trust and transparency for parents / care givers / coaches?

How to prevent that inclusion is going backwards?

Do make the last question concrete: I mean: Currently there are quite a lot of people with disabilities going to shops / warehouses on their own. How to prevent that these persons must be surrounded with a caregiver / coach for the payment?

How to build in safety for these vulnerable persons? If you have a banknote of 50 (Dollar by example / it doesn’t matter). The largest amount of money that can be stolen is 50 Dollar. If you share a bank account / app / card with the budget of 1000 Dollar, maybe 1000 Dollar can be stolen…

Are mobile apps the solution?

I believe. There are a lot of mobile payment apps. And as you all can read on my blog (in other blogposts). There a lot of possibilities to make mobile apps more accessible. Using Text To Speech, Color by Function, Simplify The Layout, Images and pictographs and so on.

At this time. I haven’t seen one mobile banking app that implements this accessibility concepts. I hope governments and banks will investigate how they make their apps accessible for people with different disabilities.

This is very important because we don’t want inclusion is going backwards.

A demo of an accessible app that shows people with disabilities what's on the menu to eat. In this image you see that on the menu is fries and burgers. I show this via text in combination with pictographs and an accessible layout.
Accessible Demo 1: Food applications
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.
Accessible Demo 2: Emotion boards

More info on my accessibility concepts:

The Need of Accessible Apps

Simplify the layout

Color by Function

More concepts coming soon!

Thanks for reading! Can’t wait for your reactions.

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.


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

Color schemes and contrast

Some people prefer a dark color scheme, some people prefer a light color scheme. And some people are just weird (people just like me).  More and more Microsoft and third party software provides the option to have a dark color mode and a light color mode. As I teased in the 2nd sentence: some people are just weird (like me), I point that fact due to my autism that of course is also a disability. Most of the time I prefer the color scheme that is the basic and first color scheme of the software application. There is a special part in my brain telling me that this is the preferred layout- scheme by the developer team. For me it sounds irreligious to change this color scheme. It can take weeks or months of worrying if I should switch the color scheme. Of course in this timespan I have to learn myself that the developer team wanted to give me the choice, otherwise the option wouldn’t be in the product.

Since I am working in accessibility I talk to a lot of people with disabilities about their preferred color scheme. Most of the people with autism prefer a dark color scheme and most of the people with learning disabilities (in the past I used the term intellectual disabilities) prefer the light color scheme.

People with autism are telling me that the dark color scheme limits incentives from the outer world. incentives from the outer world can hurt people with autism. In this example it’s a visual incentive and it can hurt the eyes of the person. Some people with autism really feel physical pain due to the incentives.

I also hear that the dark color scheme is easier for the mind. Some people have headache with bright screen light and with a dark color scheme you limit the screen light.

If I talk about people with learning disabilities the situation is reversed. Most of the users with learning disabilities prefer a light color scheme. This is because it’s the color scheme as closest to the ‘normal-paper-analog-world’. The more similarities between the analog paper world and the digital world, the easier it seems to be for this people.

Let’s talk about my preferred color scheme. Most of the time I prefer a light color scheme. In the beginning of this post I talked about the irreligious fact to change the color scheme. I changed the color scheme for some applications: Visual Studio Code, and Microsoft Learn.

Visual Studio Code with an open YAML File. Visual Studio Code has the light color scheme in this picture.

Visual Studio Code has as default the dark color scheme  I changed it after a long time of worrying to the light color scheme. I made this choice for 2 reasons:

  • 1st of all I prefer the light color scheme.
  • 2nd for me it more aligns to the Microsoft Visual Studio experience

The other application is Microsoft Learn, here I changed to dark mode.

Microsoft Learn with the course Hosting a web application with Azure App service. Microsoft Learn has the dark color scheme in this image.

Let’s analyze myself why I prefer the Dark Mode for Microsoft Learn. For me it is first of all a bigger separation between the learning theory and my developing environment.

2nd It aligns more to PluralSight, the learning platform I used in my years as developer before. My autistic brain really links the first time that I use a product or a technology to further uses of this technologies and (competing) variations of the technology.

So that were my insights in Color Schemes! Feel free to share your experiences!

Let’s talk 🔥🔄 (Hot Reload) and accessibility!

So as I make apps for people with disabilities and my biggest user base at this time are people with intellectual disabilities in Belgium means that an accessible and easy to digest UI is really important on Android phones. Most of the people in this category live on a fee and an iPhone is most of the times too expensive. But I have an iPhone thanks to a beautiful sponsorship for our nonprofit from Rotary. So testing my UI was in the past pretty difficult. Android emulators are mostly pretty slow, even on a quite good laptop. So the time it takes to stop debugging, do some UI changes and rebuild and reload on the emulator can take some time. Do we want this? 

I was choked from the 🔥🔄  announcement at the Xamarin Dev Summit. I wasn’t there in person but as a good Microsoft fan, I  watch pretty much every live stream. Thanks to Maddy Leger I had the opportunity to go into the early access preview and in 1 week time, Hot Reload changed my life! 

Adjusting little tweaks in UI, adjusting bigger UI changes, it’s all in the speed of light. It’s pretty fast! 

I can write hours about this, but maybe a video about me playing with 🔥🔄 will show you how easy you make an accessible UI:

Playing with 🔥🔄

What I am doing in this recording:

-I add text to the Emoji’s

-I change the text color

-I change the background color.

Here you have before and after:

So in less than 3 minutes, I made my application more accessible. Is this the end of this application? NO! It’s just a play around in 5 minutes. Before this recording, I’d played already with  🔥🔄 and I experimented with changing form a stack panel to a grid, and I played even with Shell and Visual! Hot Reload works pretty fast and fluid!

I am 10x autistic!

On the night of 13th of July (CET +1) the 10x hype, or the 10x Engineer hype raised on Twitter! As some of you may know, I am not a fan of hypes. Or am I not? I don’t want to be a fan of hypes. But sometimes I am a fan of some hypes, and do participate in some hypes. Just to tease: I am planning to make a conference talk: “Mind the Hype”. This talk will be about the good, the bad and the ugly of hypes. If people are interested in this talk, please let me know!

So, let the introduction behind, let’s talk about the I am 10x, or the 10x Engineer hype!

Today I posted this tweet:

This tweet was based on the 10x engineer hype. I didn’t put in ‘engineer’ and I forgot the hashtag. Of course I didn’t forgot my own two hashtags. So I even could add: “I am too impulsive”. I see the Tweet and as fast as possible I want to make my own tweet without taking enough time to check if I added the correct hashtags or if I don’t have typo’s! If you see Tweets from me with typo’s it’s because I was too impulsive, a drawback of my autism.

But it’s not all negative. This tweet has a negative sound. But to be clear: autism also has a lot of advantages. So I could write:

“I am 10x autistic

– I am a proud volunteer

– I have unique insights

– I love to share my stories

– I am very honest.”

Accessible Design / Inclusive Design / Enabling Design / Empowering Design

This blogpost is the first blogpost about accessibility and inclusive design. It’s about naming.

Case 1: Enabling

I started submitting for conferences and user groups in 2016 and in my first slide I called ‘it’ – with ‘it’ I mean a way for making applications for people with disabilities – enabling apps, enabling design. The vision of enabling apps is clear and concrete: ‘apps that enable’. Apps that let people do things that the are not used to do before the use of the app.

The vision comes from the verb: ‘to enable’: to make tings possible. If you dig deeper in this approach, make things happen that are not able before. I give you some examples: let people who cannot read digest information. Inform people about x or y. Help people to get information via mobile.

Case 2: Accessible

Accessible apps / make things accessible. The most know term about accessibility is like accessible websites. The basic concept of accessibility is: you have something that works for people without disabilities, make it also work for people with disabilities. In websites it can be bigger fonts, it can be the use of headings in a way that narrators can read. .. Accessibility is hot on the web. In 2018 I gave a talk Accessible apps in Xamarin:

The biggest advantage with accessible apps in stead of enabling apps is: more and more people know what accessibility is. The biggest disadvantage: in apps it is not used a lot and the apps I am making is more to make things happen, to enable than just making things accessible.

Case 3: Inclusive

I did a few times a talk called: the power of inclusion. Inclusion is he fact more and more different kind of people are using pc’s, smartphones and apps and software. But inclusion is big. Where I got in contact with the fact inclusion it was only about people with or without disabilities. These days inclusion is more about all different kind of people. This means Also people with a different gender, people with language barrier, migration background and also people on the LGBT spectrum. At least the last part of LGBT is more about inclusive working environment. At this time I haven’t heard about LGBT apps or software and the need. But you aren’t allowed to think: something is not needed and if you do, some developer find a good use case.

Like I am saying in all of my talks I really strongly believe that the right apps can improve and help inclusion.

Case 4: Empowering

Do we need to change to another term who encapsulates making things happen and accessibility. Do we stay with accessibility? Move to inclusive apps?

Some things are sure: I make thing that change lives I strongly believe it’s more than accessibility and inclusion. But at this time there are some buzzwords do we need a new one?

So this was my first blog on the accessibility spectrum. Please comment on Twitter, here on this blog or everywhere you want.

Yours, Dennie