National Council for the Blind of Ireland

Ireland’s national sight loss agency, is a not-fo-profit that provides support and services nationwide to people experiencing sight loss.

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Re-skinning an existing web application

In Ireland, there was no system for getting books out to people who deal with visual and cognitive impairments in Ireland. The passing of the Marrakesh Treaty changed the law so that  copyrighted content could be shared across borders. The National Center for the Blind in Ireland (NCBI) saw an opportunity open up the services and bring digital formats to these communities.

Bookshare is one the largest digital library of textbooks, bestsellers, children's books, career resources, on the market. They provide NCBI access to a database of over 1,028,588 titles available in ebooks in audio, audio + highlighted text, braille, large font, and other accessible formats. Sounds great, but the team wanted to upgrade Bookshare’s default design to match their brand vision and to meet the needs of their primary audience.


As the lead designer I conducted extensive research on WCAG 2.0’s thresholds for AAA design. It was imperative that any design decision did not create barriers for communities with diminished sight, as well as the growing dyslexic community. A majority of the research centered around font treatment - san serif is easier to read, never underline text too close to the font’s baseline, line heights should be 1.5x the size of the font, left align text, fonts need meet a 4.5:1 color contrast ratio.

AAA Accessibility Design.

I was excited to work with this team because they saw our research findings as a challenge to overcome rather than a blocker. The team wanted to create an open, supportive environment where this community felt welcome. They aim to inspire their community, overcoming societal stigmas, and embracing the endless world books provide. We started with a style tile exercise to solidify the visual direction based on the team’s feedback - friendly, vibrant, simple, professional.

Focused design fixes.

The development team had limited resources, any layout and interaction decision needed to be weighed against the development budget. Though most of the default layout remained the same, I spent most defining each page's visual hierarchy. I saw an opportunity on the listing page to add a Download button which removed one interaction point before accessing a book. This decision was in service of one of the team’s main KPIs - to increase book downloads.

KPI Successes.

Since launch NCBI has added an additional 400 seats to their community and anticipate over 1,000 signups by the end of 2021. The team is thrilled with the design of their site which layout, in simple terms, what the Bookshare application provides readers and who can access this digital library.

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