Usability testing with people who have accessibility needs

We’ve recently been usability testing a new digital service for SignHealth, a national charity that works to improve the health and wellbeing of deaf people.

Paper collaborated with Comic Relief on this project by supporting SignHealth as part of the Tech for Good funding initiative. SignHealth were one of only ten chosen projects in 2017.

“We found the experience a very positive one as Paper made the process easy from start to finish. We would highly recommend Paper to anyone who needs someone to do objective user testing.”

Celia Hulme, Project and Service Management Lead at SignHealth

What is the BSL Healthy Minds service?

There are around 70,000 sign language users in the UK and most healthcare providers do not provide adequate accessible support for deaf patients. Deaf people are twice as likely to develop mental health issues. To help combat this, SignHealth created BSL Healthy Minds.

This service gives deaf people access online to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). CBT combines cognitive therapy (examining the things you think) and behaviour therapy (examining the things you do). The BSL Healthy Minds service includes a confidential one-to-one messaging service with trained therapists and video content, all delivered in BSL (British Sign Language).

Paper were brought in as specialists to conduct usability testing on the new platform, prior to it being launched. Usability testing is just one part of our user research service and is a great way to gain insights from speaking with and observing people using a digital product.

We were not familiar with how the digital world and user testing combined and this is where Paper came in. They helped us by taking over the user testing section and led on the testing day with Deaf people and a sign language interpreter. The result was excellent. They provided objective feedback with recommendations on how to take things forward based on findings from the users.

Celia Hulme, Project and Service Management Lead at SignHealth

Preparing for usability testing

One of the big challenges with usability testing is recruiting the right participants. For this project we needed deaf participants with a range of digital skills and abilities. Working closely with Celia Hulme, Project Lead at SignHealth, we developed a profile to help recruit participants. Celia also helped organise the venues for testing as SignHealth have close links with a number of deaf clubs. Bolton and Bury deaf clubs which were ideal venues for this project.

Our testing script and facilitation techniques for this project had to be carefully designed. Language needed to be simpler, timings and pauses had to be carefully considered ensuring that the interpreter did not feel rushed.

We worked together on recruitment, preparing a script and they led on the testing day with Deaf people and a sign language interpreter. The result was excellent.

Celia Hulme, Project and Service Management Lead at SignHealth

Our usability testing kit - which Paper has designed to be used almost anywhere - allowed us to easily test the platform with participants at the deaf clubs. It’s really important to make sure the environment makes participants feel as comfortable and natural as possible. That’s one reason our research is always one-on-one sessions wherever possible. We adapted these testing sessions to include the interpreter, who was in clear view of the participant.

A participant testing the BSL Healthy Minds website at Bolton Deaf Club. A participant testing the BSL Healthy Minds website at Bolton Deaf Club.

How to deliver the insight in the right way

We don’t create lengthy documents (which people tend to avoid reading) and instead prefer a more collaborative and real time method of sharing insight. But this is different for every client and this client had unique needs we had to meet.

Getting the approach right for replaying the insights was important. There was a lot of information from the day that needed to be communicated, and it had to be done remotely to a deaf audience. The findings would likely needed to be shared amongst deaf people.

You can leave it in their very capable hands and be assured that you are receiving a high-quality service.

Celia Hulme, Project and Service Management Lead at SignHealth

We created a short captioned video presentation to explain the findings, to make the information easy to understand and share. These detailed insights, observations and recommendations use brief plain English descriptions with graphical representations to simplify the message for audiences whose first language is BSL, not English.

“We liked Paper’s ability to adjust when they found out that our users were Deaf sign language users. Jon (Project Director at Paper) learnt to sign his name and his company made the effort to find out about the Deaf community and how they communicate.”

Celia Hulme, Project and Service Management Lead at SignHealth

If you’d like to talk to us about usability testing for your own website or digital product, we’d love to have a conversation.

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