In this blogpost I’d love to talk about ‘simplify the layout’. In other words this means making the lay-out easier to understand. In this blogpost I am going to tell you how to make a layout for an app that’s really accessible. Easy to use.
I am going to focus on people with autism,
learning disabilities (in other words intellectual or cognitive disabilities)
and people that are distracted very often. An example is people on the ADD /
How to start with simplifying the
You can start simplifying the layout of your application with cutting
down the content of your application. Simplifying the lay-out is making the
screen easy to understand. This can be done with less content par screen. Big
busy screens with lot of divided content isn’t easy for everyone.
And I know, a lot of
developers want to build applications with as much as possible options. Eye –
catchers. For people that have difficulties with understanding the basic usage
of your application are this options eye – killer.
Another adjustment to
make an accessible lay-out is a bigger font. Of course, a bigger font is
helpful for people with vision loss. But also for people with intellectual
disabilities it’s easier to recognize words and text if the font is bigger.
For many people with
disabilities it’s easy to have enough contrast. Use dark text on a white
background. Specific for people with intellectual disabilities a white or light
background is easier.
But if you really want to be accessible and inclusive for a lot of people you can add the option to switch to a dark background with a light text-color scheme. Some people with autism prefer this combination. They have the feeling to have less sensory overload with a dark color scheme.
Let’s introduce you to
Color By Function. The vision of Color By Function is that you color the
controls in you app by function and not or not only by control type or the
place that makes the layout most beautiful.
Specifying functions by category
First you have to separate
functions of an application. You need to make categories of functions.
There can be similar tasks in each category.
Here an examples:
Category ‘navigate to another page’. Different
tasks in this category:
– Navigate to Settings Page.
– Navigate to About Page
Our Main categories
We have currently
We have button’s that read-aloud some text. This is called text-to-speech. (Yellow)
We have buttons or other controls that navigate within a dataset. In fact you change the content of some controls but you stay in the same view. (Dark Gray)
We have buttons or other controls that navigate you to another view/page in the application. (Blue)
At this time I made
apps with 3 these main categories. If I need an application with another main
control function I have to link another color.
Multiple app approach
It’s also important if
you plan to develop different apps for people with disabilities always make the
same color by function color choices.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak at JavaZone in Oslo, Norway. It was my first conference this Fall. And I know.. Officially Fall start next Monday but for me, last week Fall is kicked-off for me. This Fall I do a lot of conferences as a speaker and at least one conference as an attendee.
So let’s talk Java?
Most of you know that I am a Microsoft MVP and developing on the Microsoft stack (in .NET and Azure). Right! I am still the same Dennie, the same Microsoft MVP and developer on the Microsoft stack. But I really want a big reach on accessibility and quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities and / or autism. At JavaZone I presented a session about autism and communication.
And what for session? My first co-talk with my lovely mom, Ivette Marchand. We have found ways for communicating about work, limits and borders. This starts from my autism and is helpful for a lot of people.
Although even as a .NET developer I visited some talks that are really helpful. Here below I do a little series “What does a .Net developer at a Java conference?” As you will see I learned lot!
What does a .Net developer at a Java
I went to the psychologist!
What’s better to start the conference with a visit to the psychologist? Rosanne Joosten is a psychologist that transformed into a programmer. Rosanne talked about the link between how developers write code and their personality. Some parts were really confronting…
I learned about Web Assembly
Web assembly is a
project started form the browser companies. Web assembly is a way for native
code in the browser. Blazor, Microsoft’s implementation of Web Assembly was
also covered, of course this was between the other Web Assembly solutions.
And yes, there were sessions about accessibility! And this makes me happy! I saw 2 refreshing talks. I like accessibility talks with people with disabilities involved as a presenter. Tom is a person who’s blind. He was surrounded with 2 other speakers (Lotte and Tor-Martin). If I see how a blind person is learning other people how to make the web accessible then I shiver from respect! I saw interesting Aria ideas and other refreshing ideas for navigation.
Another session about accessibility was on the 2nd day from Kamilla. Kamilla did a lighting talk about accessibility. I loved that she was including a variety of disabilities and not just the most spoken ones!
I learned to hack a cat
Nial Merrigan is also a Microsoft MVP, he’s a specialist into security. He presented a cross code /cross platform introduction into security. Where do you need to be aware off? He gave us insights beyond traditional attack vendors. Sometimes the talk was scary, sometimes it was laughing out loud! I like this kind of talks!
I went on a survival
Patricia Aas presented “Survival Tips For Women in Tech”. This talk was my opportunity to go to a talk together with my mom. A no – code talk about woman! As an inclusive developer I like to go to a lot of talks about diversity and inclusion in the broad scene. This talk showed me how difficult it can be for women in tech as a minority. The talk opened my eyes but I saw also equal situations as for me as a person with autism in tech. The way Patricia introduced this talk, and why she needs this introduction is very equal to my intros. I love the openness how she talked about a lot of topics in being different to “white man between 30 – 50 in Tech”!
And then.. Finally.. Our talk!
I presented “How do I help my son?” the inaugural of my mom! Our first co- talk! We had a blast and ended with a standing ovation! I loved it!
In this talk I was
very open about my past, why I am a volunteer in tech? We also talked a lot
about the fact that I was bullied a lot in the past. How bullying, educational
choices and a hard period in a factory lead to a volunteering job in tech?
People love this
openness and it feels more comfortable to talk about bullying, maybe just a bit
more comfortable because my mom is on my side. Or not? In the past talks I
presented a few talks about autism, every time I was also about at lot of
things. But being bullied is not always a topic in my talk. With my mom on my
side it’s more easy!
So folks, my magic fall is started, up to the next one!
At this time many
people around the world are using apps, computers and smartphones. Most of this
people can do a lot of interesting stuff with this modern communication.
This modern communication made many people their life easier. So I going go tell you a story to show how modern and mobile technology helped our family and myself.
“We are 1995, I was a child and went on vacation with my parents to a family resort in my own country. There were business people and just working- life families. I was in the scene of a normal life family, my dad was working in the metal industry and my mom was selling pizza’s at a market. We walked to the swimming pool and we saw a business man calling with a mobile cell phone. We found it funny, my dad was laughing out loud with the ‘mobile phone’ and in our family we made a role – playing – theater about calling with mobile phones.
4 Years later, my parents had a mobile phone. 7 Year later I had a mobile phone. After a while I switched do a PDA. Internet enabled device. And since quite long time we all have an smartphone, and are continuously connected to the outer world. I even have a Twitter account and via digital media I worked myself into a worldwide well known conference speaker.”
Without this technology my speaker life wasn’t there. I have a lot of QoL (Quality of Life) improvements due to this modern technology.
So let me make the
link through people with disabilities. Not all the people with disabilities
have a smartphone yet. I have proven that it’s possible to make special-made
apps that are user friendly for people who can’t read or have difficulties with
most of the apps in Market Place / App Store.
Shouldn’t it be nice
if we can open up the world also for those people. If we can not only make the
impossible possible for people without disabilities, but also for people with
This is the point were “Inclusion” comes in. People with disabilities (PWD) are living the same life as people without disabilities. All people together have a good life and a good QoL. This is inclusion this is my pride!
How do you to this?
Well on this http://accessibledreams.home.blog I post a lot of blog about accessible
software. I even share my speaker schedule. I am going to do a lot of blog
posts ant talks about accessible software.
To give you a sneak
preview: I talk a lot about Simplify the Layout, Color By
Function and Text To Speech. More about this terms in
Some people prefer a dark color scheme, some people prefer a light color scheme. And some people are just weird (people just like me). More and more Microsoft and third party software provides the option to have a dark color mode and a light color mode. As I teased in the 2nd sentence: some people are just weird (like me), I point that fact due to my autism that of course is also a disability. Most of the time I prefer the color scheme that is the basic and first color scheme of the software application. There is a special part in my brain telling me that this is the preferred layout- scheme by the developer team. For me it sounds irreligious to change this color scheme. It can take weeks or months of worrying if I should switch the color scheme. Of course in this timespan I have to learn myself that the developer team wanted to give me the choice, otherwise the option wouldn’t be in the product.
Since I am working in
accessibility I talk to a lot of people with disabilities about their preferred
color scheme. Most of the people with autism prefer a dark color scheme and
most of the people with learning disabilities (in the past I used the term
intellectual disabilities) prefer the light color scheme.
People with autism are telling me that the dark color scheme limits incentives from the outer world. incentives from the outer world can hurt people with autism. In this example it’s a visual incentive and it can hurt the eyes of the person. Some people with autism really feel physical pain due to the incentives.
I also hear that the
dark color scheme is easier for the mind. Some people have headache with bright
screen light and with a dark color scheme you limit the screen light.
If I talk about people with learning disabilities the situation is reversed. Most of the users with learning disabilities prefer a light color scheme. This is because it’s the color scheme as closest to the ‘normal-paper-analog-world’. The more similarities between the analog paper world and the digital world, the easier it seems to be for this people.
Let’s talk about my preferred color scheme. Most of the time I prefer a light color scheme. In the beginning of this post I talked about the irreligious fact to change the color scheme. I changed the color scheme for some applications: Visual Studio Code, and Microsoft Learn.
Visual Studio Code has as default the dark color scheme I changed it after a long time of worrying to the light color scheme. I made this choice for 2 reasons:
1st of all I prefer the light color scheme.
2nd for me it more aligns to the Microsoft Visual Studio experience
The other application is Microsoft Learn, here I changed to dark mode.
Let’s analyze myself why I prefer the Dark Mode for Microsoft Learn. For me it is first of all a bigger separation between the learning theory and my developing environment.
2nd It aligns more to PluralSight, the learning platform I used in my years as developer before. My autistic brain really links the first time that I use a product or a technology to further uses of this technologies and (competing) variations of the technology.
So that were my insights in Color Schemes! Feel free to share your experiences!
On Thursday 1st of August at 6 PM
I was shivering. I got a beautiful mail that I became an MVP Developer
A Microsoft MVP or Most Valuable Professional
is an award for your work in the community. Community work is by example:
running a user group, speaking at conferences, contributing to OSS and a few
Most of the MVP’s have besides their MVP
status work as a paid job. For me being an MVP without a paid job is a real
honor for me. I know that I am with the little few. I promise to take my
responsibility for the community.
And want to thank you all. All of you
attended sessions from me at conferences or Meetups. Organizers of conferences
and meetups who gave me the chance to speak to their audience. Without the
opportunity to talk at a lot of conferences and meetups last year I wouldn’t be
I plan to speak a lot more conferences in the
next year (I mean from September until July). I hope to surprise you with new
topics within my expertise. I believe I can make a difference in Accessibility
and Diversity and Inclusion. But not only in these fields.
So I plan also a series of technical talks
where I do discuss technologies that I use to make our (DDSoft) ‘s accessible
software. I want to reach people that aren’t in the scope of accessibility but
that will benefit from my product/technology knowledge.
And I have a little surprise: in one of the coming blog posts, I do an announcement…
So as I make apps for people with
disabilities and my biggest user base at this time are people with intellectual
disabilities in Belgium means that an accessible and easy to digest UI is
really important on Android phones. Most of the people in this category live on
a fee and an iPhone is most of the times too expensive. But I have an iPhone
thanks to a beautiful sponsorship for our nonprofit from Rotary. So testing my
UI was in the past pretty difficult. Android emulators are mostly pretty slow,
even on a quite good laptop. So the time it takes to stop debugging, do some UI
changes and rebuild and reload on the emulator can take some time. Do we want
I was choked from the 🔥🔄 announcement at the Xamarin Dev Summit. I wasn’t there in person but as a good Microsoft fan, I watch pretty much every live stream. Thanks to Maddy Leger I had the opportunity to go into the early access preview and in 1 week time, Hot Reload changed my life!
Adjusting little tweaks in UI, adjusting
bigger UI changes, it’s all in the speed of light. It’s pretty fast!
I can write hours about this, but maybe a video about me playing with 🔥🔄 will show you how easy you make an accessible UI:
What I am doing in
-I add text to the
-I change the text
-I change the
Here you have before and after:
So in less than 3 minutes, I made my application more accessible. Is this the end of this application? NO! It’s just a play around in 5 minutes. Before this recording, I’d played already with 🔥🔄 and I experimented with changing form a stack panel to a grid, and I played even with Shell and Visual! Hot Reload works pretty fast and fluid!