Designers use personas to represent the different types of people who may be accessing a website or product. In this toolkit, we have used personas to help you keep in mind the various types students and their various abilities while you’re developing content. We’ve also used these personas to introduce you to different types of hardware and software that students typically use.
We’ve adapted the personas from Sarah Horton and Whitney Queensbury’s book A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experience to be more specific to postsecondary students with print disabilities in British Columbia (based on data from CAPER-BC and the students who attended our focus group).
These are some of the students who will be reading the open textbooks that you write.
Mark is 17 years old. He is a future heavy-duty mechanic with a learning disability that was diagnosed in Grade 8. Mark absorbs information best by hearing it and enjoys making and fixing stuff with his hands. He’s in his first semester of college taking trades courses and loving it. Mark can’t wait to complete the foundation courses and move into his first apprenticeship placement. He lives at home with his family who shares one computer.
Ability: Difficulty absorbing a lot of information when reading it
Aptitude: Basic technology user
Attitude: Prefers to do things himself, but can get easily frustrated or impatient, especially with technology
Assistive technology: mp3 player
Format preference: mp3 so that he can and listen on the go
Jacob is a fourth-year business administration student who is blind and a bit of a geek. Jacob is 28 years old and can’t wait to get his last few classes out of the way so he can start his career. He shares an apartment with his girlfriend.
Ability: Blind since birth
Aptitude: Skilled technology user
Attitude: Digital native, early adopter, persists until he gets it
- Screen reader (JAWS on his laptop, VoiceOver on his iPhone)
- Victor Stream
- Audio recorder (to take notes)
- Refreshable Braille display
Format preference: Electronic text, which he can easily use in JAWS and with VoiceOver; detests PDFs
Video of student using JAWS (0s-1:31)
Diana is retraining to be a personal coach after she experienced vision loss and was unable to continue working as a bus driver. She is 48 years old and taking many of her classes online. She lives with her husband.
Ability: Gradual loss of vision; can read using magnifier easily, but eyes fatigue
Aptitude: Intermediate technology user
Attitude: Has a routine and likes to stick to it
- Text-to-Speech software (TextAloud)
Format preference: PDF or electronic text that she can enlarge on her computer or listen to using TextAloud.
Video of student using ZoomText (0-1:31)
Trish is a college student taking university transfer courses. She has a physical disability and uses print books. She is 18 years old and lives with her family.
Ability: Brain damage in accident caused paralysis and motor issues
Aptitude: Basic computer user, intermediate iPad user
Attitude: Generally dependent on family, so enjoys reading and studying independently
- Motorized wheelchair
Format preference: e-book formats, such as PDF, that can easily be loaded onto her iPad
Ann is a chemistry major with ADHD, a learning disability that makes it difficult for her to concentrate. She is 20 years old and hopes to become a pharmacist. Ann lives in a dorm on campus with two other female students.
Ability: ADHD, has difficulty concentrating
Aptitude: Intermediate computer user
Attitude: Struggles at times, but very appreciative of how much learning software has helped her
Assistive technology: Learning software (Kurzweil on laptop)
Format preference: Reading and listening at the same time
Video of student using Kurzweil on a computer (1:32-4:07)
Steven is an English major who is deaf. He is 23 years old and likes the flexibility of taking online classes. He lives by himself.
Ability: Native language is ASL; can speak and read lips
Aptitude: Intermediate technology user
Attitude: Can be annoyed about accessibility, such as lack of captions.
- CART (Communication Access Real-Time Transcription) for lectures (Watch a video demonstration of CART. Note that this video is also captioned.)
- Video chat
Format preference: No preference for textbook format, but without captions video is meaningless.