Web should be accessible to a vast majority of people including those with different kind of disabilities. It is not only about those who can’t see or can’t hear or any other specific category of disability. We can make positive impact on the lives of people by making web accessible to them.
Primarily there are 4 main types of disabilities that highly affect the use of web.
People with low vision or those who are completely blind mostly rely on using the screen readers and keyboard. Specially designed keyboards are available in the market which blind users can easily use. In earlier days people with vision impairment had to use external bulky screen readers attached to their computers but these days browser extension like Chromevox and Fangs are available.
Websites should be designed and coded in a way that these should be easily recognizable for the screen readers. For example: putting appropriate alt tags in images help screen readers to read the image loud to blind users so that they get to know what that image is all about.
Also, there are huge number of people in the world who are color blind. This term may be confusing for some people. It doesn’t mean that the person is blind or can not see anything. Color blind people can see the colors but they see them differently. Green and red are the highly affected colors.
As per the survey results, 8% of men and 0.5% of women are color blind. You may wonder why this huge gender based difference. The reason why men are highly affected than woman by color blindness is: X-Chromosomes. These X-Chromosomes are responsible for sending color signals to the human brain. Men are born with one X-Chromosome whereas women are privileged to be born with two X-chromosomes and in case one is defective then the other one comes handy for women. Nature has offered extra privileges to women. :D.
Some of the famous celebrities to name with color blindness are- Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Clinton, Keanu Reeves, Prince William Windsor.
There are many ways in which we can make web accessible for color blind people. For example: include color names and show example, please see the image “Color Names”
Don’t rely on color coding only, instead try to use a combination of color texture or pattern. Please see the image “Colors and Patterns”.
You can also proof to color blindness in Photoshop and Illustrator while designing. Please see the image “Color Proof”.
Making web accessible for deaf and hearing impaired people is relatively easy. The best solution at the moment is the use of closed captioning whenever a sound appears. This technique is widely used in television where a text is displayed whenever a sound appears.
Use of signs and symbols is also a very useful technique for this category of people. Captioning the videos on web pages also ensures that search engine will more accurately index them leading to more people finding your content. There are certain tools that can help create captioning to our videos like Overstream.net that allows to caption videos hosted on other sites like YouTube.
The requirement for motor impaired web users is generally overlooked or poorly implemented. The main reason for motor impairment is stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, a broken arm/wrist/palm. To help this category of people we should always ensure to increase the width and height of the clickable area. This can greatly help the motor impaired people who can use the mouse but with limited mobility.
Some of the other easier ways are to include images for text links. Clicking images is far more easier than to click text links. Assign CSS command display:block to each link in the vertical list. This way full width is clickable instead of just the link. Use of padding on left and right of the text links can also increase the clickable area. Assigning a background color to focused links is also a very useful technique we can do to help the keyboard-only user tabbing through the web.
This type covers the difficulty with understanding, inability to focus and distractibility. We should follow universal design principles to make websites accessible to individuals with cognitive disabilities therefore making it more accessible to everyone. Mainly there are 3 principles that come handy to design the web for cognitive disabled people as explained below:
- Content of the website should be simple. We should refrain from using complicated language, technical terms, legal jargon, and professional buzzwords. If it is necessary to display complex information we must use a glossary of sections targeting different people.
- Placement, styling and consistency of navigation links. We should make sure all the navigation links are at the same location and are not scattered on different places. It becomes very uneasy for cognitively impaired people to try to locate what they are looking for.
- Using illustrations, icons and other visual cues to communicate the key idea. Images can be very effective in communicating the complex information otherwise this information may be lost in the middle of a long in-depth content.
There are also impairments that are directly not associated with the users. Environmental factors also have huge effect on how people use and interact with the web. Some of them are mentioned below:
- Low bandwidth, intermittent internet connection
- Bright light, rain or other weather conditions
- Noisy environments
- Only option to browse the web on mobile devices
There are different legal acts in effect in different countries to give equality right to disabled people and help them use the web without discrimination. Section 508 requires US federal agencies to ensure that employees and members of public with disabilities should have equal opportunity to access government information.
Target.com: In February 2006 a student of University of California-Berkley, Bruce Sexton in conjunction with “National Federation for Blind” sued Target.com because it’s website was inaccessible for the blind. This lawsuit was used as a spotlight to many corporate websites that don’t play well. Target.com had to settle the case with $6 million.