For a few decades now, since the introduction of the Internet, the World Wide Web has become the most used form of information resource. Thousands of web sites owned by public and private sectors are currently accessible over the Internet. Aside from quick provision of information the World Wide Web provides, ease of accessibility is one of the factors that has made it a popular choice. One doesn’t need to bother going to a library, whose accessibility is usually limited within an area, and find for the necessary information from large volumes of books. With the World Wide Web, the availability of Internet cafes almost everywhere, as well as the ownership of computers in many households these days, the accessibility of information has provided convenience to many users.
A group of people in the Internet community, however, was somehow not taken into account when most of the current existing web sites were developed. This group is the disabled users. The following pages will discuss the challenges, needs, and solutions surrounding the development of web sites in making them accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Needs and Challenges of Web Site Accessibility
Because of the never-ending emergence of new technologies in web site design and programming, the attention of most web designers and developers are focused in maintaining the compatibility of their web sites with new technologies. Usually, in the process of web site development, rarely did the developers think of the concerns of minority users – the disabled. Perhaps, this happens because of their inadequate awareness regarding those with disabilities.
In response to the web accessibility problems experienced by disabled, disabilities act was passed and mandated by law in some nations. In the U.S., the U.S. Government Section 508 requires government web sites to follow the accessibility rules for people with disabilities. Private and public web sites are also to comply with the disability act. On the other hand, in UK, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) look after the concerns of British with disabilities.
US Government Section 508 is a challenge web developers and designers face in compliance to web accessibility act. Providing a web service accessible to everyone regardless of physical status could improve their web site’s goal and purpose. From RNIB News Desk, Julie Howell, indicates that RNIB and WAI want to emphasize that by making an Internet service inaccessible you potentially lose 8.5 million disabled customers, not to mention their friends, relatives and carers.”
Solutions and Design Practices for Web Accessibility
Evaluation of techniques and practices in the development of web sites for successful web accessibility is essential. Following are effective web design practices. These techniques were obtained from the list of World Wide Web Consortiums (W3C), with web site located at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-TECHS/.
Text Equivalents – Every element in a web page, such as clickable buttons, graphics, animations, and maps, must have equivalent text representations. Web Site Sample: http://www.ssbtechnologies.com/
Independency to colors – As much as possible, avoid using too much colors. Take into account that there are users who are color blind. When using colors, use those that have high contrasts between each other (i.e. light and dark colors).
Web Site Sample: http://www.webaim.org/
Use of style sheets – Information must be organized ensuring readability even without the existence of associated style sheets. Web Site Sample: http://www.bunnyfoot.com/
4. Control of changes in display – Until the user allows to do so, avoid screen display to flicker, automatic screen-refresh, animations. Or, if included, avoid looping such elements. Such may disturb those with learning disabilities. Web Site Sample: http://www.adaaccessnow.org/
5. Embedded user interfaces – Allow interfaces such as scripts and applets directly accessible to the user. Web Site Sample: http://www.webaim.org/simulations/lowvis.html
Device independence – Ensure that information are accessible without dependency to associated devices (i.e. provide a keyboard shortcut to buttons that are clickable by mouse) Web Site Sample: http://www.e-bility.com/shortcut.php
Alternatives for information provision – Provide alternative mode of information such as audio, visual, and text output. These are useful especially for the visually impaired and those with hearing disabilities. Web Site Sample: http://www.webaim.org/simulations/lowvis.html
Consistency in web page layout – Avoid changing the layout design of each web page in your web site. This is to allow a continuous flow of access of user in your web site. Web Site Sample: (http://aware.hwg.org/)
9. Interim solutions – Avoid pop-up windows or redirection to other URL without informing the user. Web Site Sample: http://www.effective-e.com/
Browser friendly – Web pages must be viewable with any browser even on text-only browser such Lynx (Marlene, Bruce).
Sample Web Site: http://www.paciellogroup.com/
Bruce, Marlene. Accessibility: More Than the Right Thing to Do.
Evolt.Org. 11 June 2003. http://www.evolt.org/article/Accessibility_more_than_the_right_thing_to_do/4090/381/index.html
W3C. Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.
2000. W3C. 11 June 2003. http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-TECHS/
W3C. Core Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0
W3C. 11 June 2003. http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-CORE-TECHS/
Smith, Michael. Website Design for Disabled Users.
2003. CFUG. 11 June 2003. http://www.cfug-md.org/articles/websitedesignfordisableduser.cfm
New RNIB Video Shows How to Net 8.5 Million New Customers.
RNIB. 11 June 2003. http://www.rnib.org.uk/whatsnew/pressrel/wtw.htm