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Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design

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Accessibility in User-Centered Design: Example User Group Profiles

About the Examples

This section provides fictional examples of user group profiles that include accessibility considerations. The User Group Profiles section of the Analysis Phase chapter provides guidance on including accessibility considerations in user group profiles.

This section includes the following fictional example user group profiles:

Aspects of the examples that specifically relate to accessibility are highlighted, and surrounded by transparent images with alternative (ALT) text "start highlight" and "end highlight" for screen reader users and others who don't see images.

User Group Profile: Retirees

Date: August 2003


HRWeb is a Human Resources (HR) Management web-based application used by Acme Insurance. HRWeb handles HR management such as employee records, compensation, and benefits management. User Groups for HRWeb include: HR managers, HR specialists, HR administrative assistants, non-HR managers, non-HR administrative assistants, employees, retired employees.


Acme Insurance currently has 2,580 Retirees active in the HRWeb database. They range in age from 57–96. 60% are male, 40% are female. Most live throughout the U.S.start highlight

Notes about age-related considerations:

Implications for design include:


According to the 2000 U.S. census: 24.3 % of households with people over 65 had computers in their homes. [3]

Some of the Acme retirees use a computer at home. Some use a computer at the local library, senior center, neighbor, or their children's house. Most of the retirees who use a computer at home are comfortable with the way they have the workstation, chair, and desk space set up. Acme retirees reported that distractions at home include phone calls, interruptions by a spouse or grandchildren, and background noise such as television or radio in the next room. 25% of the retirees using the computer at home have a dedicated line for that purpose. Those who have only one phone line mentioned being interrupted so someone else could use the phone.

start highlightMany Acme retirees who use a computer other than at home have problems concentrating because of background noise, and a few complain of glare on the monitor because of overhead fluorescent lights.end highlight

Work-Related Computer Experience

About 20 percent of "wired seniors" said they first got Internet access for reasons related to work or school. [4]

Most of the Acme retirees had some computer experience as part of their jobs at Acme Insurance. Of those who retired in the last 15 years:

Work-Related Web Experience

Although many Acme retirees had some computer experience before they retired, less than half had Web experience. Of those who had computer experience:

Frequency of Use: General Use of Web

According to the Pew Research Center, 15% of people over age 65 report that they use the Web. A higher percentage report that they have been online at some time:

On a typical day, 69 percent of wired seniors use the Web, compared with 56 percent of all users. The five top uses of the web by senior citizens are: using e-mail, looking up hobby information, seeking financial information, reading the news and checking weather reports. [4]

Of the Acme retirees who used computers in the workplace before retirement, most still used the computer on a regular basis. On average:

Frequency of Use: HRWeb

Frequency of use of HRWeb varies greatly across the Retirees user group. Only 30% of retirees use the web-based application, the rest interact through mail and phone calls to HR. Of those who do use HRWeb:

start highlightNote: Users in the retiree group are more likely to have poor memory. Therefore, even some who use the application frequently will benefit from design that does not rely heavily on memory, particularly short-term memory. end highlight

Hardware and Software

1.3 million seniors age 64-69 access the Web using high-speed access (cable, ISDN, DSL). Three million users age 55-64 used high-speed connections. [5]

Of the Acme retirees:

start highlightA high percentage of people in this user group have difficulty using the mouse, especially for small targets close together (such as a list of text links and groups of option buttons or checkboxes). Some use keyboard shortcuts when they can. end highlight

start highlightAn informal survey of Acme retirees who use HRWeb showed that some have difficulty using some aspect of the current application due to their functional limitations (mostly vision-related), yet only a few have software modifications to help them address the problems:


  1. Age-related vision loss. Lighthouse International. (formerly at
  2. Age-Related Disease. American Society of Anesthesiologists. Yung-Fong Sung, M.D.
  3. Home Computers and Internet Use in the United States: August 2000. US Census Bureau.
  4. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Pew Research Center. April 2003.
  5. Nielsen/NetRatings. December 2002.

User Group Profile: College Students

Date: August 2003


CellCall, Inc. is revising the design of its most popular phone, model CC90210, to give it an updated look and increased functionality. The primary target user groups for model CC90210 are high school students, college students, and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.


According to 2000 census data, 15,314,000 students were enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States. Of those students:

According to Student Monitor, an organization that conducts market research studies of college students, cell phone usage has been steadily increasing since spring of 2000. Nearly 80 percent of college students in the U.S. now own and carry a cellular phone. [7]

Cahner's In-Stat Group, another market research organization, showed that at the end of 2000 there were 11 million cell phone users ages 10 to 24. [8]

start highlightThe National Center for Educational Statistics reported that in the 1999-2000 school year, 9.3% of students enrolled in post secondary education reported having a disability. [9] Reliable data on the participation of individuals with disabilities in higher education is difficult to come by, partly because of the wide variety of definitions of "disability" and the inaccuracies that result from self-reporting techniques. [10] No statistics were found regarding students with disabilities who use cell phones. end highlight

Cell Phone Usage

In a June 2000 Cellular One survey of college students [11], the students reported the following as the most important reasons for purchasing a cell phone:

In the same survey students reported that the reasons they actually used their cell phones were:


A survey conducted at the University of Texas in April of 2002 concluded that 77% of college students who owned cell phones used them between classes and while on campus.

start highlightNote that many of the considerations for cell phone usage in various environments overlap with considerations for cell phone usage by people with disabilities.end highlight For example, people want to increase the volume because they are hard of hearing or because they are in a noisy environment; people need good contrast for displays because they have low vision or they are in sunlight; people want easy-to-press buttons because they have poor fine motor control or because they are wearing winter gloves.

Experience with Product

Based on the Cahner's In-Stat report showing 11 million cell phone users ages 10 to 24, the conclusion can be drawn that college students may have had experience using a cell phone while they were in high school. In the youth market (age 10 to 24), Cahner's In-Stat forecasts the number of wireless subscribers will grow from 11 million in 2000 to more than 30 million in 2004. One-third of high school students in the U.S. own a cell phone and 84% of students aged 13 to 18 have used a cell phone.start highlight

Note: Product limited experiences

College students who are deaf or hard of hearing may have used pagers but not cell phones in high school, because most wireless digital phones were not TTY compatible until 2002.end highlight

Frequency of Use

Participants in the Cellular One college student survey stated they used their cellular phones to (respondents could choose multiple answers):

Most Requested Cell Phones Features

The Cellular One survey showed that when shopping for a cell phone, college students most often looked for these features:

Of these features, the use of text messaging has increased dramatically in the past year, in part because wireless carriers now allow subscribers to send a text message to a subscriber on a competing network.


  1. 2000 US Census data: population
  2. Student Monitor
  3. 2000 Cahner's In-Stat Group
  4. National Center for Education Statistics 1999-2000 (formerly at
  5. Burgstahler. S. Cooperative Education and Students with Disabilities
  6. 2000 Cellular One Survey


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