Nov
12

Web Design: What Is Web Accessibilty and Why Does it Matter?

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If you have done even the tiniest bit of web design and entered alt text for an image, you have already encountered the concept of web accessibility. Maybe you were in a class and instructed to type a description of the image into the alt text field. You may have even received a brief explanation that alt text helps people with vision problems because a screen reader will read the words to them and they will know a specific image is being loaded onto the web page.

While alt text helps the visually impaired, there are people with other disabilities that you may not have considered when designing your website. These people may have mobility issues, deafness, color blindness, learning disabilities or difficulty concentrating. The practice of making your website usable by people of all abilities and disabilities is called “web accessibility.”

Why make your site web accessible?
The obvious reason to design a web accessible site is to make it easier for people with disabilities to use your site. However, there are two other reasons to keep in mind:

  • To avoid lawsuits and bad publicity
  • To benefit from a wider audience

Making online content more accessible
The United States Distance Learning Association offers these ideas for making online content more accessible:
1. With an audio excerpt also provide a text transcript of that excerpt.

2. Many blind students use screen readers to read a website. To help these readers, use tags in your web designs to give alternative explanations for images and links.

3. Avoid long, scrolling pages, and avoid putting important information at the bottom of a page because if a screen reader starts at the top of the page, it may take a long time to get to this content at the bottom of the page.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) offers guidelines for web page accessibility (see http://www.w3.org/WAI)

Web developers can download aDesigner for free from http://www.alphaworks.ibm.com/tech/adesigner. This tool is a disability simulator, and will test your website for accessibility problems.

Where can you learn more?
There is much to learn and much you can do to make your site available to everyone. Fortunately, there is also much information to assist you in achieving web accessibility. For starters, check out WebAIM’s site. WebAIM is a non-profit organization within the Center for Persons with Disabilities and their site is packed with information to help you understand how people with disabilities interact with the web and how you can design your website to comply with principles and standard regulations.

Here’s what you will find on their site:

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines with four legal principles (POUR)
  • Principles of Accessible Design
  • Training and technical support
  • Experiences of Students with Disabilities

See WebAIM at http://www.webaim.org/intro/.

To learn more about designing your website, visit http://imtcva.org/program/curriculum/

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Categories : web design

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