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Funkify plugin reveals impaired browsing to all users

A new browser plugin that distorts web pages to simulate the online experience for users with impairments is aiming to encourage developers to create more accessible websites and apps.

The Funkify tool is available in Google Chrome and features a range of filters, which intentionally make it difficult to read and navigate online content. The intention is to recreate how users with visual, print and motor impairments experience the internet.

Funkify was developed by a team of accessibility enthusiasts from companies and startup projects in Sweden. A prototype was created for a ‘hackathon’ competition in 2016 and was awarded a joint first place in the event.

The group then successfully applied for innovation funding to build the plugin during 2017. A new beta version has just been released for testing.

The team worked with people with a range of impairments, to develop the Funkify simulations, which imitate effects of sight loss (including blurry vision, tunnel vision and central vision loss), ‘trembling hands’, dyslexia and colour vision deficiency.

For example, the ‘tunnel vision’ filter blanks out a large part of the user’s screen, leaving only a small area to read text on the page, while the ‘trembling hand’ filter causes the cursor to judder constantly.

To make the simulations as authentic as possible, the team “interviewed, brainstormed and tested” with people with different impairments.

Speaking to e-Access Bulletin, one of Funkify’s co-founders, Lena Furberg, said: “We strive to make the experience as memorable as possible, so that people remember it and have accessibility in mind the next time they create a colour palette, choose font sizes or decide on the height of click targets.”

She added: “Of course, everyone experiences things differently, and we’re not saying that people will understand exactly what life is like with – for example – a tremor if you try the ‘trembling hand’ simulator.”

Reactions from users without impairments using Funkify have been positive, but the goal remains to drive forward inclusive web design and content by sharing the tool with developers. “It’s nice to see some people get the point of ‘design for all’ and accessibility for the very first time when they use Funkify,” Furberg said. “We hope to reach as many web and app developers as possible and make them understand the importance of making their products accessible, and prioritise this higher than they do today.”

As a follow-up to the project, the team behind Funkify are also building a separate tool that will simulate cognitive impairments, including ADHD and autism, which will launch in December.

Download the plugin for free at the Funkify website.


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