The main objective of this site is to simplify learning understanding and implementing accessibility. You can think of it as my personal notes on accessibility for passing WCAG 2.0's tough exams.
Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users can have equal access to information and functionality. For example, when a site is coded with semantically meaningful HTML, with textual equivalents provided for images and with links named meaningfully, this helps blind users using text-to-speech software and/or text-to-Braille hardware. When text and images are large and/or enlargeable, it is easier for users with poor sight to read and understand the content. When links are underlined (or otherwise differentiated) as well as colored, this ensures that color blind users will be able to notice them. When clickable links and areas are large, this helps users who cannot control a mouse with precision. When pages are coded so that users can navigate by means of the keyboard alone, or a single switch access device alone, this helps users who cannot use a mouse or even a standard keyboard. When videos are closed captioned or a sign language version is available, deaf and hard-of-hearing users can understand the video. When flashing effects are avoided or made optional, users prone to seizures caused by these effects are not put at risk. And when content is written in plain language and illustrated with instructional diagrams and animations, users with dyslexia and learning difficulties are better able to understand the content. When sites are correctly built and maintained, all of these users can be accommodated without decreasing the usability of the site for non-disabled users.
Assistive technologies used for web browsing
Individuals living with a disability use assistive technologies such as the following to enable and assist web browsing:
Screen reader software
It can read out, using synthesized speech, either selected elements of what is being displayed on the monitor (helpful for users with reading or learning difficulties), or which can read out everything that is happening on the computer (used by blind and vision impaired users).
It consists of a Refreshable Braille display which renders text as Braille characters (usually by means of raising pegs through holes in a flat surface) and either a QWERTY or Braille keyboard.
Screen magnification software
It enlarges what is displayed on the computer monitor, making it easier to read for vision impaired users.
Speech recognition software
A Software that can accept spoken commands to the computer, or turn dictation into grammatically correct text - useful for those who have difficulty using a mouse or a keyboard.
This can make typing easier and more accurate for those who have motor control difficulties.
Why web Accessibility?
The Web is an increasingly important resource in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more. It is essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities.
Often people have misconception as accessibility is only for screen reader users, but in fact accessibility is for all. An accessible Web can give you more advantages beyond social inclusion as follows.
Accessibility & SEO
Accessibility and SEO come hand in hand. Many of the search engine algorithms overlaps with accessibility best practices like appropriate page title, meaningful links(not having only click here, more etc), semantic heading mark up, images with appropriate alternate text and audio/videos with transcripts and Captions. See more @ SEO section in Semantic Markup. Thus following accessibility helps indexing your content well by search engines, thereby gets you more traffic.
Cross platform compatible
Following a semantic markup and table less layout for separating content from presentation, and responsive design will render your content well across the browsers and devices such as mobile and tablets. Thus reduces the cost of maintaining device dependency web sites
Usability and accessibility co-relates. Pages with good color contrast are easy to read including for persons with low vision, senior citizens, and color deficiency users, pages with consistent layout and content in plane language will be understandable to basic internet users and cognitive(learning) disabled, and videos with captions/sub titles helps understanding non-English speaking users and hearing impaired users Accessible content will be usable but the converse need not be true, for example an input field with spanned label text helps understands to sited users what the control is but is not accessible to screen reader users.. Thus accessibility helps your content usable to widest audiences.
Over 10% (1 billion) of global population is disabled as per World Health Organization ( WHO )latest report, fortunately due to advent of various Assistive technologies most of them are able to access the web. But less than 10% of the web sites are accessible so far, making your site accessible gets you these potential customers.
These days growing number of countries have accessibility legislations. With the inception of UNCRPD ( United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability ) in 2007, 153 countries signed and ratified, which requires accessibility under article 9, some countries just have a legislation and some have both legislation and own guidelines(example, US has Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and India has GIGW) as per UNCRPD. Some developed countries like US, UK and Australia has accessibility legislation since many years. If your website does not meet the Accessibility Guidelines, then the website owner could be sued for discrimination.
In 2006 Target Corporation was sued for $6 Million to make its web site accessible. Here is some Accessibility Legislations
- US: ADA(Americans with Disability Act) and Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- UK: Equality Act 2010
- Australia: DDA(Disability Discrimination ACT 1992
More on accessibility legislations @ WAI and Web Aim Accessibility Guide Lines
So far we learnt Accessibility and it's importance. Here are some standard guidelines for testing Accessibility. Basically there are two types of guidelines
- International guidelines such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines" developed by Wworld Wide Web Consortium ( W3C ).
- Country specific guidelines like For U.S. : Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973