Many people have disabilities and diminishing abilities (due to age), but some of these disabilities and diminishing abilities do not have to exist as impairments when using the Internet.
Screen readers, screen magnification and other adaptive devices exist to help computer users remove barriers that they may face in everyday life. Tim Berners-Lee says “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone, regardless of disability, is an essential aspect”.
So, why are some websites still inaccessible?
Yesterday I attended a FIS Inforum Workshop on Accessible Web Design by Sambhavi Chandrashekar and it was excellent. I highly recommend that everyone at FIS take this workshop. Everyone, but most especially libraries, museums and cultural institutions, should provide accessible websites. From Sam’s workshop I learned just how difficult it can be for many people with blindness, deafness and/or motor disabilities to access information on the Internet and that it really does not have to be that way. A few lines of html code and a website can be made accessible and this has the benefit of being able to improve the site for all users.
Have you got a website on the ‘net? You can check if it is accessible under WCAG (and other guidelines) using the A-Checker a service provided by the Adaptive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) at the University Of Toronto. You might even want to take a look at whether your local library has an accessible site. If their site is not accessible, the A-Checker provides codes to resolve the access issue.
You might be wondering “Why make websites accessible?”. Sam spoke about the ‘curb-cut advantage’. Accessibility features can and do benefit people without disabilities. For instance, people on bikes, skateboards, pushing strollers, etc. use curbs and ramps which were designed for people in wheelchairs. Design factors implemented with websites can create improved accessibility for people with disabilities as well as for people with low bandwidth, in noisy environments, with low literacy levels, speaking English as a second language, etc. It makes information accessible at a more universal level, provides better usability of content, reflects social responsibility and improves visibility of website and content. All this, and it really doesn’t require many extra steps to get these benefits.
More Accessibility Tools:
And, in case you are wondering what it is like to encounter barriers on the web: