Web Accessibility for All
What is Web Accessibility?
Whether we are aware of it or not, web accessibility impacts all of us to some degree. Chances are that you have a family member or friend with some form of disability that limits their ability to access online content that is not accessible.
The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) defines web accessibility as the following:
“Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people
with changing abilities due to aging.”
Who Are People with Disabilities?
The names and labels used for people with disabilities can sometimes be confusing, and can often detract from their actual needs and abilities. For example, the term “handicapped’ is sometimes used to refer to a person with a disability. We are all familiar with the terms “handicapped parking” and “handicapped seating.” In recent years, the term “disability” has slowly been replacing “handicap.” There has also been an emphasis on using person-first language such as “person who is blind” and “person who uses a wheelchair.” However, not all disability groups adhere to, or even agree with, "person-first” usage. For example, the deaf community prefers terms such as “deaf person” or “hard of hearing” person, since being deaf is recognized as a source of community identity and pride. Using less judgment-laden terms such as “wheelchair user” versus “wheelchair-bound” (wheelchairs provide independence, after all) or “person with cerebral palsy” versus “person who suffers from cerebral palsy” (the person may not be suffering) can help to shift perception and expectations.
Regardless of the names and labels frequently attached to various disabilities, most of us will at some point in our lives experience a temporary or permanent “disability” of some kind. For example, a broken arm, leg, or traumatic episode or event in our lives may significantly impact our motor skills and cognition (retention or ability to focus). Changing abilities that can result in aging such as vision or hearing loss, memory loss and hand tremors can also impact individuals’ abilities to access electronic information.
WCAG 2.0 and Disabilities
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) is a set of international standards recognized by many countries, including Japan, Australia, Germany, Canada and the U.S. These standards outline a robust list of success criteria with the goal of making web content more accessible for people with disabilities. WCAG 2.0 considers a number of broad categories that the majority of disabilities fall under, including:
- Color Blindness:
- Low Vision:
- Motor Disabilities:
- Cognitive Disabilities
For organizations that are relatively new to information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility, and are seeking to meet accessibility guidelines and standards through their web-based products and services, the above-mentioned categories can initially appear quite daunting. However, it is important to keep in mind that the needs for many of the categories frequently overlap with one another. For instance, Individuals with vision loss who rely on a screen reading program such as JAWS are unable to see the mouse. Individuals with tremors or motor disabilities may also be unable to physically manipulate the mouse or keyboard. “Puff and sip” devices activated by airflow from the mouth, speech-to-text solutions, and screen readers such as JAWS all interact with computers and devices that rely heavily on keyboard functionality. Therefore, creating a website that is keyboard accessible will largely meet the needs of people with a wide range of disabilities.
Assistive Technology Snapshot
At the age of 39, Bill Miller has achieved a long list of accomplishments to his name. After becoming paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 20, Bill graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, earning a 4.0 GPA throughout the business program. He also graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Western Carolina University with a Master of Entrepreneurship degree. He was the co-founder of a startup company in Florida in 2002; he has designed more than a dozen websites, and boasts a bowling score of 255. And yes, Bill happens to have quadriplegia.
Living with C1-2 quadriplegia and the use of a ventilator, Bill compares his injury level with that of the late Christopher Reeve. As his accomplishments and active lifestyle attest, he continues to live a very busy and meaning-filled life. Bill relies on a number of technologies in order to maximize his level of independence. One of those technologies is Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a speech-to-text and computer control program. Designing websites and documents with accessibility in mind allows individuals using assistive technology solutions such as Dragon much greater access.
Bill Miller, Web Designer and Entrepreneur
View Bill’s video: Bill Miller Demonstrates NaturallySpeaking
Online Accessibility Within Reach
Creating an accessible online experience that benefits everyone is a more achievable task than many people may think. Accessible design is also smart design that benefits everyone, including ease of use and more effective search engine optimization (SEO). W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has recently published a set of resources that specifically targets web designers, writers, and developers called Tips for Getting Started with Web Accessibility
AccessGA also provides an extensive list of resources and information related to web accessibility, including archived newsletters, webinars and online publications. Visit us at: www.accessga.org
Registration Now Open for Two-Part Webinar Provided by National Experts in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Accessibility
Join us for this 2-Part Webinar Series entitled:
Starting or Revamping an Accessibility Program in an Organization
Part One: From Research to Practice
March 1st, 2016: 1:00pm – 2:30pm (EST)
Overview: Leading experts in the field discuss how to take an organization-wide approach to accessibility that goes beyond just the technical aspects.
: From Research to Practice
Part 2: Case Studies of Successful Accessibility Integration, and Q&A
March 15th, 2016: 1:00pm – 2:30pm (EST)
Overview: Presenters from across the country including state government, federal government and industry will share their real-world successes when implementing accessibility within an organization.
: Case Studies of Successful Accessibility Integration, and Q&A