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Context

412 Food Rescue

Role

Principal Researcher

Techniques

Heuristic Accessibility Assessment, Usability Testing (Remote)

Timeframe

Ongoing

Research Context

412 Food Rescue is a company based in Pittsburgh that connects food donations to people and organizations who need it, using volunteers ("Heroes") to deliver the food. Their primary user-facing product is a smartphone app that directs Heroes to pickup and dropoff points.

412 Food Rescue approached me to conduct an accessibility assessment of their app. Like many companies in the early stages of growth, they have not encountered any accessibility problems yet. However, because they are a company built on a strong sense of social justice, and because they want to ensure accessibility from early in their company trajectory, they are eager to ensure their product is inclusive.

Serving Food

ACCESSIBLE FROM THE START

412 Food Rescue's foresight is impressive: by acting at an early stage of their evolution to ensure accessibility, they are proactively heading off obstacles in the future that could derail company growth.

Stage 1: Heuristic Accessibility Assessment

The heuristic criteria for accessibility assessment are dictated by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These criteria are used to measure four broad properties of a website or app:

Perceivable

Operable

Understandable

Robust

This stage of the project is always a process of finding the "unknown unknowns." Because we don't have specific reports of accessibility defects (and even if we did have some), I first looked for design elements that violate WCAG criteria like insufficient contrast and conveying information only through color.

Most of my evaluative testing was done by working through a list of tasks that a user should be able to complete: accept a delivery, get directions to the pickup and drop-off points, and find relevant information in the app (such as addresses and contact details). After testing these with no assistive technologies, I then checked for features like text resizing, ability to zoom, and VoiceOver coding.

Selected Findings

VoiceOver

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Screenshot of a pop-up alert in the 412 Food Rescue app

In general, the VoiceOver experience of the app was very good! I didn't find any images or icons without alt text, and there were very few dead ends.

One problem I did notice, though, was that at a couple points in the delivery journey where a pop-up alert appears, but focus does not go to the alert box. Someone who can't see the screen would not know that the alert opened because focus stayed in the background, and as a result, they might miss some important information (such as the alert instructing a volunteer to not enter the pick-up location).

This defect is easily solved by adding the accessibilityViewIsModal property to the app code, which makes the background page unavailable to the screenreader.

Color and Contrast

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This screen (part of the enrollment process) poses two problems:

1. the unselected icons (in grey) are too light and do not provide enough contrast with the white background; and

2. the only way to know if an icon is selected is by color (it changes from light grey to green).

The fix for this problem is again fairly simple, darkening the unselected icons and adding a border box around the icons that have been chosen by the user.

Text Sizing

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Some users need larger text, and the iPhone provides a couple ways to make that happen. One way is the pinch-to-zoom that lets a user enlarge the screen. In addition, the iPhone has an accessibility feature called Dynamic Type that automatically enlarges text and reformats app elements based on a size that the user presets.

The ability to get text in a larger form is critical for people who have certain visual impairments, but the app does not allow either of the two main ways of enlarging text. The solution here is simply to allow Dynamic Text resizing to the user's preferences.

Stage 2: Usability Testing

I am in the process of recruiting for and conducting remote usability testing. I will update this section soon.