What is web site accessibility?
It is estimated that around 20% of internet users have disabilities which affect how they access the web.
The design and engineering of a website needs to take account of these users in order that they can access the same information as all other visitors with the same ease.
For example, a blind user may use screen reading software, such as JAWS, to navigate around a website. However, if the web site has not been coded properly, JAWS will find it difficult to guide the user around the site.
Accessible websites load faster, are more reliable and easier to use. So everyone benefits! Accessibility should not be considered an "add-on" for websites, it is the careful avoidance of creating barriers during the building process.
Website owners are required by disability discrimination laws such as the DDA in the UK to make 'reasonable' efforts to make their sites accessible.
How can I tell if a website is accessible?
There are several checking tools available, that can check a website's accessibility. These are not exhaustive and are no substitute for genuine user feedback.
The W3C Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines are widely accepted as the starting point for assessing accessibility. The complete guidelines text is fairly lengthy, for more information visit WAI website.
How do I make my own website more accessible?
The following quick tips are one of the many resources available from the WAI Resources page:
- Images & animations; Use the alt attribute to describe the function of each visual.
- Image maps; Use the client-side map and text for hotspots.
- Multimedia; Provide captioning and transcripts of audio, and descriptions of video.
- Hypertext links; Use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid "click here."
- Page organisation; Use headings, lists, and consistent structure. Use CSS for layout and style where possible.
- Graphs & charts; Summarise or use the longdesc attribute.
- Scripts, applets, & plug-ins; Provide alternative content in case active features are inaccessible or unsupported.
- Frames; Use the noframes element and meaningful titles.
- Tables; Make line-by-line reading sensible. Summarise.
Check your work, validate your work. You can use the WCAG tools, checklist, and guidelines.
Changing settings in my browser, to make a website more accessible
There are a number of settings you can change in an internet browser, to make a web site more accessible for you.
These settings can include changing the text size, changing to a "plain layout" view or making various colour changes.
Visit this page to find out how to do this.