To adapt a keyboard shortcut cue card for a student with a visual impairment
Providing cue sheets is standard for my work with VI students and I’ve followed on with the established historical pattern of providing them in tabular text form with word descriptions eg. Select All : Control + A. As the students are able to use them, I’d never really considered that perhaps a redesign could make a difference to their accessibility, so this exercise has proved really interesting and I definitely moved from a ‘here to there’ position by the end of it.
Original type of cue sheet:
To simplify the visual access by making it a ‘cleaner design’ with more high contrast white space. This meant removing the lines of the table and the + symbols (which aren’t really needed as a combination of keys is always an ‘and’ process).
Rather than everything looking as the same, I also decided to trial the use of different high contrast colour cues as an aid to differentiation, and to also include a memory tip.
Initially I was quite happy with the redesign. However, I found once I’d starting re-evaluating, I kept having more thoughts about trying to make them more accessible.
For the VI students the complication with the cue cards is having to access the words. Was there a way to make this a simpler task?
I decided to trial cards with an initial key and so remove the need for writing on the instruction keys. I also used a light edging around the instruction key that contained text, so it didn’t distract from the text contained within.
For two of the cards I included blocks of high contrast colour cues, but for the third I use just black, but with the addition of a shape cue ( would have tried white rectangles divided by a line horizontally or diagonally but my tech skills weren’t that advanced – all advice gratefully received).
I’d noticed on the original cue cards that the instruction keys were presented on the left and the explanation on the right, so I also decided to reverse my usual presentation to this format and see which the students preferred.
I also removed my memory tip, as on further consideration I felt the students’ memory tip should be their own. I’d mention my thoughts, but the students could use the back of the card to write whatever was meaningful to them.
I trialed all the cue cards with four of my students: 2 from Key Stage 2, 1 from Key Stage 3, and 1 from Key Stage 4. (None had any diagnosed colour difficulty).
- All preferred the cards with the initial key and no writing on the subsequent keys, and said they found them easier to work with than those with writing on every key. (One student remarked that having to think rather than try to read helped reinforce his memory.)
Having decided on the format of the cards they preferred we then moved on to the colour/shape options.
- All liked the differentiation offered by the blocks of coloured keys and felt they helped with quicker access and discrimination. 2 preferred the black and yellow combination and 2 the yellow and red.
- All of them thought the shape card could be useful, but felt that for them the colour cards offered them preferred cues.
The final decision was in regards to the placement of the explanation and key cues.
- All preferred the explanation to be placed first, with the key instructions following.
- All stated it was easier to access with this layout, and one of the students who explained more fully, said that it was difficult for him to visually track back from an explanation on the right, to the instructions on the left. (This would tally with practiced reading habits, in which we track along text from left to right – presumably it would be different for pupils in China).
What looked like a simple task has ultimately reminded me that even when things seem to be going well, it’s always useful to review accepted practice.
Although the original cue cards were usable, the redesign process has shown they could be better. The new sets will follow the reduced text format and will incorporate colour cues/shapes (or perhaps other ideas) as identified by the pupils themselves, and will hopefully prove a more accessible, user friendly resource.