Currently there are significant barriers on the Web for many people with disabilities. Because most Web developers and designers do not go out of their way to make their Web pages accessible, many people with disabilities have unnecessary difficulties using the Internet, and in some cases, cannot effectively use the Web at all. For example, when developers require mouse interaction to use a Web site, people who cannot use a mouse can have great difficulty; and when developers do not include alternative text for important images, people who are blind cannot get the information from images. We will go into this further in the article.
Most of us have heard of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in the UK or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which aims to stop discrimination faced by disabled people in accessing a company’s goods or services, but many don’t realise that this same accessibility also applies to their online services.
As well as complying with W3 Web Accessibility Initiative (WIA) and accessibility guidelines, making your site available to everyone opens up possibilities of sales to this massive market share. Disabled consumers spend approximately $185 billion a year on goods and services. This only accounts for about 4.625% of the $4 trillion spent online yearly by the rest of the world. But why say no to $185 billion.

“The DDA includes a code of practice stating that websites must be compliant. The imminent British Standard will give a definitive point of reference and will be used in courts of law should a dispute arise. Failure to ensure that a website has inclusive access could result in a claim from a disabled person who has not been able to use the site. The forthcoming British Standard review board’s Publicly Available Specification (PAS) ‘Guide to good practice in designing accessible websites’ will help with this.” British Technology Guides

The standard set by the WAI, which was formalised on July 20, 2006, recommends that websites incorporate specific features to comply. The term disabilities covers all mannor of individuals, not just the blind, partially sighted, physically challanged, or mentally challanged but also dyslexics or those with learning difficulties. Furthermore, potential users should not be missing out simply because they are not Internet savvy or have dial-up there-by loosing out on the full impact and functionality of a site.

Consider common sense measures like scalable font sizing, changing the typeface or colour of the background, providing alternative style sheets, using CSS for layout to provide an easily navigable page that screen readers can easily comprehend. Blind people need screen readers yet some partially sighted require a text magnification function.

Some Major things to consider are

  • Make sure your images have alternative text in either alt or title form – roll your mouse over the image to see if a description appears – if not this can be a major issue for a variety of users
  • When using multimedia like video, have you provided a transcript of the audio? Many people can’t access the video content so need some other way of reading it via a seperate text link. Think of it as sub-titles for tv shows.
  • Do the links on the page make sense out of context? Never use ‘click-here’ links. Try reading the links on their own – would you still know what you are linking to without the surrounding text?
  • Is your site navigation clear and in a visible area? Is it easy to see where you are going to, and how to get back to the main page? Provide a breadcrumb navigation when possible.
  • Partially sighted people find it easiest to read yellow text on a black background. Can users adjust tone and colour? By providing a secondary linked style sheet, users can choose to see an accessible version of your webpage.
  • Most users lose patience and give up on a slow site so consider the bandwidth of large files to ensure that crucial information is available to all users.