Helping people with disabilities attain the equipment they need is only one part of the King of Prussia-based Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation’s (PATF) mission. Providing those individuals with financial education is another, and the new StudyMoney.us website is the tool to get that done.
Development Manager Emily Taylor said the StudyMoney.us website was originally designed in 2017 as a companion to PATF’s “Cents & Sensibility: A Guide to Money Management.” That publication was a catalyst for PATF’s full financial education curriculum which now also includes an educator’s manual, Money Clubs programs and the StudyMoney.us website.
In 2020, the website got a redesign before launching on May 18, 2021 with full accessibility and interactivity. Meeting the financial education needs of people with disabilities was a focus of the website’s design process.
“The biggest thing is the website was designed specifically for the end user, a person with a disability, or their instructors or educators,” Taylor said via email. “It fills the gap in information and financial resources for people with disabilities, while understanding their unique needs from a financial education and accessibility standpoint.”
A grant from the Stabler Foundation that was drafted by PATF Communications Director Susie Daily was used to support the website’s design. Aardvark Brigade, a New Jersey-based full service web design agency that specializes in interactivity, user experience and gamification, handled the design.
Designing with accessibility in mind was another goal in developing the StudyMoney.us website that was only possible with user testing.
“For full accessibility, it is critical to incorporate user testing throughout the development process,” Daily said. “We had user testing in the wireframe stage of the site and again just before launch. While designing for [Web Content Accessibility Guidelines] standards was a good foundation, having people with a variety of disabilities and learning styles who use a variety of assistive technology to navigate the internet is invaluable. We’re so grateful to our community members for providing the feedback that helped make this website not just accessible but also truly user-friendly and effective.”
The website follows WCAG 2 Level AA accessibility standards and has gone through several rounds of testing to ensure it can work for people with low-vision or who are blind, student groups with intellectual disabilities, and people who use a range of assistive technology devices and services to navigate the internet.
Taylor said the website has built-in gamification to continue to motivate and reward the participant.
“Each financial education topic includes interactive activities, section quizzes, and an opportunity to win a badge for topic completion,” she said. “Some activities (i.e. Money Fundamentals) have rows that users can fill in their specific answers when writing down ‘their wants’ and ‘their needs,’ which will be saved for future activities and calculations (as long as they are using the same computer/device).”
Auto-calculations also allow users to enter their real budgets or expenses for activities, and have it calculated for them, eliminating a barrier for use for people. The website is hosted on WordPress and is integrated with Google Sheets, but requires no sign-in system to access, allowing users to save progress they make via their Google accounts.
The site’s users have a chance at winning $200 thanks to the #StudyMoneyWithUs giveaway. Through May 31, website users who complete an activity and share it on social media will automatically be entered in the contest to win.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.-30-