Stress Experience Empathy

In my talks on Making the Extremes Mainstream I have pointed out the categories of Human Factors and Ergonomics studies where they identified how a situational context can create a temporary disability for people who are otherwise considered “enabled”. For example, excessive workload, or lack of trust – two categories of Cognitive Ergonomics – can create stress for many individuals. Let’s examine what stress itself can do to an individual! The very informative article 5 Surprising Ways That Stress Affects Your Brain, by Kendra Cherry posted on verywellmind, presents the following as outcomes of experiencing stress on a continuous basis:
  1. Chronic Stress Increases Mental Illness – reslting in anxiety disorder
  2. Stress Changes the Brain’s Structure – effecting decision making and problems solving abilities
  3. Stress Kills Brain Cells – effecting memory, amongst other things
  4. Stress Shrinks the Brain – effecting emotions, and memory
  5. Stress Hurts Your Memory – effecting short-term memory and memory retrieval
One case which clearly causes extra workload and continuous stress is caregiving. This was a situational context that is becoming more and more prevalent for many, due to the aging population. COVID-19 is also increasing the number of caregivers due to its complications and long-term effects on those who have experienced it. As I have written before, I was a caregiver for three years. I, too, experienced the effects of high levels of stress, first hand. To be honest, months later, I am still suffering from some of these effects. You may ask, why am I sharing all of this with you! I am bringing this point up to remind everyone that when we design and develop application that are accessible for people with cognitive constraints, we are helping ourselves – especially, those of us who are stressed, yet not clinically declared disabled! Yet, we suffer from cognitive constraints as well, temporarily or not! The following are some of the considerations asked from our designers and developers to meet digitial accessibility standards:
  • Maintain a coherent hierarchy of information for the users to follow.
  • Make it easy to navigate through the site, including returning to previous screens and steps.
  • Make simple calculations within the application/site – such as duration of a flight, the total charges, etc.
  • Make the language of the application easy to read and comprehend. The rule of thumb is making it easy for an 8th grader to do so.
  • Prevent errors, and present clear and helpful messaging to resolve them.
  • Present important form elements initially, and in meaningful groups. Present optional information on demand as much as possible, with easy interactions to disclose and access.
  • Present information in sensible chunks, rather than presenting an overwhelming amount of text and let the users struggle to read.
These don’t seem very difficult tasks to follow. Do they? Yet, we come across so many applications that don’t follow such simple considerations to make their products accessible, and they make it difficult for everyone to complete their tasks. Let’s have a little more empathy for our users…or ourselves…and create accessible products and services! Some Good Examples…
A trip details indicating duration time for the trip and the layovers.
Trip Details indicating duration times: Total trip / Layovers
A trip booking form with grouped form content.
A form with grouped content: One way / Round trip / Multi-destination
A form with required fields and the instructions for its indicator.
Error prevention instrustion: * Required
Example of an email form field with an error message for an invalid format
Helpful Error Messaging: Invalid email format

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