Playing with Infographics

I selected option 2: Data visualisation for this week’s play and reflect activities.

I had a vague idea in my mind that an infographic was simply a graphical representation of data like a bar graph or a pie chart, so I thought this task would be a piece of cake.  I didn’t understand that an infographic told a whole story of data.  I didn’t understand that this would be a time consuming and difficult task.  Nevertheless, with the optimism of the ignorant, I watched Kate Davis’ DIY Infographics video (which was very helpful), looked at some data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey 2014-2015, and began.

I was very impressed by the ABS summary video of the survey results, which includes animated data visualisations of a very high standard.  It’s a short video, and definitely worth clicking the link.  It clearly represented a summary of the findings obtained from the survey, and communicated it to me, the viewer, in a way I found very easy to understand.  Much easier than going through the Excel spreadsheets I downloaded from the website, which contained the survey data, and lovely statistical terms such as “relative standard error of proportion”.

I used Piktochart to make the very basic infographic below.  Kate Davis recommended Piktochart as one of the easiest Infographic Makers to use.  I would also like to give Canva a go, as it looked good, too.  Kate also recommended Infogr.am, Visme and easel.ly.

I found this activity really difficult at first, but was slowly getting the hang of it by the end.  There are some things I didn’t work out, but I was working on a windows 7 tablet with a touchscreen, a keyboard, and no mouse.  (I’m away from home tonight for work, in a tiny motel room, eating Smith’s chips for dinner, doing my homework and can’t believe I forgot my mouse! I miss being able to point and click!) I think this made operating some of the program’s functions a bit more difficult. (That’s what I was telling myself anyway).

I was very happy when I worked out how to do the graphs…in fact, I was very happy when I worked out how to do anything on the program!  Although my infographic is not perfect, I am happy with the result, because it represents several hours of hard work and frustration, and a learning process like that is always satisfying when you have a finished product at the end.

I think I would become a more competent user of the programs, and produce better looking infographics with more practice and familiarity with the tools, and a clearer purpose for visualising the data.  I did find it a bit difficult to choose the data to analyse.

This activity has definitely piqued my interest in using infographics to represent data.  My powerpoint presentations could be so much more interesting!

I would definitely use one of these programs in the future to create a poster or infographic…I only wish I had watched Kate’s video before I completed my persona poster!

National Health Survey Infographic: Weight and Exercise

National Health Survey Infographic: Weight and Exercise

So, yes, I think that infographics are definitely a wonderful way to visually represent a data story … as long as you have vision, and intact learning abilities.  A comment from Kathleen prompted me to think about accessibility of infographics on the internet for people with disabilities; particularly those who are blind /visually impaired, and those with learning disabilities.

There are a couple of things to address: access to a device (input), and access to the content of the webpage (output).

I found this website, Web Usability, that discusses how people with disabilities use assistive technologies to access computers / devices and the internet.  Most work has been done to improve accessibility for people with physical and visual impairments, but a lot of work is still required.

There are a lot of issues. Not only does the person need to be able to access the device with an input device (e.g. alternative keyboard, switch, head pointer, eye-tracking, voice recognition), but the website needs to be accessible, too, to output the information to the person with a disability in a way they can access it; e.g. through screen-reading software for someone who is blind / visually impaired.  A lot of work exists for website designers to think about how to make their website compatible with screen-reading software, and how to include alternative text for images / infographics, otherwise, your beautiful infographic is simply an empty space on the webpage.  This Gizmodo blog post discusses some of the issues of designing spoken websites.

I think that there is still a very long way to go to make the internet accessible for many people with intellectual disabilities.   Generally speaking, the internet is a very wordy and confusing place, which effectively excludes many people with intellectual disabilities, as they may have difficulties with literacy, language (especially abstract language), conceptual development, attention, memory and learning.   The task of understanding an infographic on a webpage may be conceptually too difficult for the person with an intellectual disability, particularly if it represents abstract concepts that are not meaningful for the person.

But see this Spectronics blog post for how iPads are being used with students with intellectual disabilities.  Touchscreens may help a person with an intellectual disability interact with computers / apps, because the person can directly touch what they see and  make the link between something happening on the screen as a result of that touch.  This article talks more about suitable apps to use, rather than assisting the person to access the internet, though.

I could see the possibility that web browsers could be modified / developed to have picture symbols representing favourite websites or search functions, that speak when touched to let the person know what they are, and then used in combination with a touch screen device to enhance internet access for people with intellectual disabilites….

Hang on a minute – doesn’t the Google search page already look like that if you are signed into Chrome?  See my screen shot below, that has all my most used websites right there, waiting for me to select them.  With a few more tweaks, something like this could really work for people with intellectual disabilities (and probably is being used as we speak – I can’t be the first person to have thought of this).  Maybe people with intellectual disabilities aren’t as far away from accessing the internet as I thought. 🙂

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

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