About Web Accessibility

Accessibility describes the effort to make web pages and applications readable by everyone, especially individuals with disabilities.  Accessibility and usability are strongly linked.  By making the web accessible, we are also giving “equal access and equal opportunities to people with diverse abilities”.  For more information on the accessibility efforts of the the W3C, see http://www.w3.org/WAI/.

Why Web Accessibility is Important

A Danish study found that 25% of Internet users have some kind of accessibility problem. This includes users with “biomedical” issues as well as technological challenges.

What disabilities interfere with using the Web?

Some that are obvious, and some that are not:

  • color blindness- can’t navigate sites using only colors to distinguish areas or ideas
  • repetitive stress injury– may need to use a keyboard-equivalent device to replace a mouse
  • deafness- cannot make use of audio files (e.g., captured lectures) without captions
  • blindness- needs a screen-reader that navigates via a keyboard, not a mouse
  • low vision- needs magnification capabilities
  • dyslexia- needs multiple ways to receive the information (graphics, audio, etc.)
  • cognitive impairment– needs simplified design
  • aging process- may need help with reduced vision, hearing, dexterity, and cognitive issues. (from www.w3.org)

Some technological issues affect usability:

  • Earlier versions of a browser or different browsers than the website is tested with.
  • Slow internet connection
  • Small screens
  • New platforms (e.g., mobile and wireless devices)

Principles of universal design provide benefits for more than just disabled users. Tools developed to help with accessibility can also prove useful alternative mechanisms for able-bodied users.

Many people who need your content may  have problems accessing it. Also, people who may not have problems now may have problems in the future. Taking care to consider these folks at the beginning of content creation will streamline your process in the long term.