Greg Norman talks about content overload and cognitive impairments

Greg tells us that pages with too much text or too many moving elements make it nearly impossible for him to access the content.


Thanks to Tenon for sponsoring the transcript for this episode.


Nic:    Hi, I’m Nic Steenhout. You’re listening to the Accessibility Rules soundbite. A series of short podcasts where people with disabilities explain their impairments and what barriers they encounter on the web.

Thanks to Tenon for sponsoring the transcript for this episode. Tenon provide accessibility as a service. The offer testing, training, and tooling to help fix accessibility fast.

Hello, everyone today I’m speaking with Greg Norman. Greg, hi. Welcome on the show.

Greg:    Yeah, hi. Glad to be here.

Nic:    I’m glad to have you. So, Greg, you’re an individual with a disability. CAn you tell us a little bit about your disability or impairment or however you prefer to refer to that?

Greg:    Yeah, sure. I have Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. Also called EDS. I think you’ve had other guests who have had this as well, and it’s a genetic collagen disorder that affects basically… causes problems throughout the body because of all the things collagen is used for. So, problems with muscles and joints but also things like cognitive impairment, gastrointestinal issues, sleep issues … the list just goes on and on.

Nic:    How does that impact your interactions on the web? What kind of significant barriers do you encounter when you surf the web that relates to your impairment?

Greg:    My problems with the web specifically are mostly cognitive, because, I have a lot of other impairments and issues but the ones that affect my work on the web … I permanently have to deal with, if you’re not familiar with the term ‘brain fog’ it’s what it’s often called when you have a cognitive impairment related to fatigue or other things affecting your thought processes. So, I have a lot of issues with processing information and memory. So, I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, but this is a little more complex than that in which I literally have problems processing – making sense of too much information or complex ideas.

Nic:    What does that mean when you come across a web page? What’s the impact? What kind of pages are making your life more difficult? What kind of pages are making your life easier?

Greg:    What really makes it difficult for me is basically information overload and that’s pervasive across the web. But especially on pages that just have too much information. Especially long blocks of text, you know, the quintessential wall of text pages. But also pages with too many moving parts and poor information architecture.

Nic:    Okay

Greg:    So… you can’t really make sense of what you’re looking at or where you’re supposed to go. Where you are and where you’re supposed to go.

And a lot of pages I get to will simply… it’s like running into a wall. I just don’t know what to do next. I can’t make sense of where I’m supposed to go. A lot of this, basically that I think about a lot is that it’s centered around essential usability and sites that practice good usability and clean information and clean presentation of information and navigation and information hierarchy… those are a lot easier for me to use. And, while also just being good design and good practice to follow for all users to make sense of your content and your site. When you have too much information it makes every…any user dislike your site or just not be able to use it very effectively. Whereas somebody like me that impact is 100 times worse because it makes it so… [crosstalk]

Nic:    Yeah

Greg:    … you can’t even make sense of it. So… the best example I always refer people to is the… sort of the quintessential usability book that a lot of developers use which is Steve Krug’s ‘Don’t make me think.’

Nic:    Yeah. Excellent book.

Greg:    Mmhmm. [crosstalk] Yeah, so a lot of developers … a lot of developers have read that or listened to it and learned a lot about usability and it’s written from a usability standpoint, so it takes a lot of ideas and makes them very concise and easy to understand and intuitive. And it really focuses on making information and presentation intuitive, so you don’t have to think about things. And sites that follow those concepts, to me are really helpful. Whereas anytime that you are making me think… my thinking doesn’t work too well sometimes, and that means it takes me a lot longer to figure things out.

Nic:    What would be one thing you’d like designers or developers to remember about accessibility?

Greg:    Really the key thing there is that idea that we need to sort of design for the extreme. You’re designing for everyone. So the things that are going to make your site just better and easier to use for all of your users, which benefits your business or whatever it is you’re doing… especially is going to help people with accessibility needs and impairments. Basically, I think of accessibility as a type of usability. As an extreme type of usability need. And if you build things well, and smart and clean… focus your content and your navigation, all that stuff, you’re going to really help people who need that kind of ease of use to just make use of your site.

Nic:    Wonderful. Thank you, Greg. I think that makes a lot of sense and I like this idea of designing for the extremes benefitting all users. I think we have to think about that a little bit more when we build websites and apps.

Greg:    Yeah

Nic:    So, thank you for that.

Greg:    Mmhmm. Yeah, sure.

Nic:    Anything else you’d like to add before we go?

Greg:    No, I don’t think so. That’s the main… the main thing I wanted to get across that I think about a lot. Especially as a developer myself. I’m always trying to think of obviously my own needs but in terms of all types of accessibility. I always try to keep it in mind what… how can I be just developing things cleaner and better from all standpoints in terms of screenreaders and all this other stuff that just means it makes it more accessible to everyone, including people who don’t have impairments and people who do and … etc.

Nic:    Greg Norman, thank you for joining me on the Accessibility Rules soundbite, and I’ll see you around.

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening.

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