The internet and digital communication technologies have, within a relatively short period of time, changed the way people around the World live their daily lives. Whilst the internet and new technologies offer opportunities for people with disabilities to access information that has previously not been available to them, often website design makes this information inaccessible. Website developers can help to overcome these difficulties by developing an awareness of the needs of people with disabilities and by formulating websites that are optimized for the latest technologies and practices to support these users’ needs. Not only will this help to support access for people with disabilities, but it will also make your website more accessible for those who are aged or situationally disadvantaged and generally bring more visitors to your site. This collection will provide you, the website developer, with the resources you need to understand the importance and value of accessible websites, and the give you the practical tools you need to make your accessible website a reality. We begin with information on why – why it is important to have an accessible website from a human perspective and a legal perspective. In this section you will also learn more about how this can benefit your organisation by bringing a larger audience to your website. The second section of this collection contains practical information about all aspects of website development, including design, html, content and usability. The importance of including a wide variety of people, including those with disabilities, in user testing activities is also touched upon. This collection will be an invaluable learning resource for not only website developers, but also for any organisation interested in promoting fair and equitable access to information in the digital age.
Why do you think it is important to make your website accessible? You may have an idea that it is important to provide access for people with disabilities, but do you realise what a huge difference this can make in the lives of these people? This short video, 'What is Accessibility?', gives a human face to the problem by asking four people with disabilities what accessibility means to them. They discuss accessibility in general, not just web accessibility. I think this is an important resource to start this discussion as it really highlights how small things that may not be noticed by others can become major hurdles for those people who have different needs. These small things are often easily fixed if only people were more aware of them. I hope that this video will get you thinking and noticing the things around you and online that could cause problems for people with disabilities. Awareness and empathy are a crucial starting point for your accessible web site.
Web accessibility expert David Berman demonstrates five reasons why we should care about accessibility on the web. They are, the opportunity to liberate people and create equal opportunity for millions, search engine optimization, attract the best people to our organisations - allow everyone to collaborate, social responsibility, legal requirements. Better business and better civilization.
The last two videos will have given you a feel for what day to day life can be like for people with disabilities when they try to access information on the web. It is important to imagine ourselves in the shoes of these people and to feel empathy for their situations in order to ensure we continue to be motivated to work towards accessibility solutions. Caryn Pagel, a web accessibility consultant in Minnesota USA, has written this thought provoking article about empathy in which she states that "Upping the empathy quotient among decision-makers, designers, and developers is integral to ensuring the creation of a digital world for everyone."
Making our websites isn't just something we do because we feel empathy and want to help people out though, you may find that it is a legal requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 (Australia). In section 24 of the act it states that "It is unlawful for a person who, whether for payment or not, provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person's disability". This includes if the manner in which the goods and services are supplied to the other person prevents them from accessing them. In other words, if your website is set up in such a way that access for people with disabilities to the goods and services you offer is curtailed you could be on very shaky legal ground.
The United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, to which Australia is a signatory, also specifies the right to information for people with disabilities. The Convention states that "States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, ... to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems". This means that the Australian government, being a signatory to the convention, is obliged to take measures to ensure that people with disabilities have access to this information. Perhaps this convention doesn't affect your business directly at present, but it is worth understanding that accessibility is a World wide requirement which could potentially be policed more stringently in the future.
Web Aim is a website produced by the Centre for Persons with Disabilities at the Utah State University, which aims to “empower organisations to make their web content accessible to people with disabilities”. This resource, Introduction to Web Accessibility, gives an overview of the need for web accessibility and a brief outline of the principles of accessible web design. This article also looks at the practicalities for organisations and the legislation that people need to be aware of. This is great starting point as we start to delve more deeply into the practicalities of creating your accessible website.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organisation for the Web. They are an International group that aims to ensure the long term grown of the Web. This group are responsible for publishing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) (these guidelines will be discussed later in this collection). This resource is a brief outline of the why, what and how of web accessibility and it is a good introduction to the role that W3C play in promoting web accessibility.
This resource is an academic paper looking at the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities and also investigating how these website features are also beneficial for people with situational restrictions. This paper discusses the role of the universal web and asks if combining strategies for supporting people with situational restrictions with accessibility for people with disabilities is a successful strategy for creating a universal web. Their conclusion is that it is still important to implement specific strategies to make the web accessible for people with disabilities as this group has specific needs.
In this section we will look at the practicalities of making your website accessible. The first step in this is to be aware of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) aim to make website content accessible to a wide range of people including those with vision impairments, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, and those with photosensitivity. This document is an essential inclusion to any discussion about web accessibility as it gives us guiding principles on which all decisions can be based. It is at first appearance, quite complex., but resources which follow will help to break it down into usable sections and to develop deeper understanding of the requirements of these guidelines.
The Australian Government has responded to the WCAG2.0 guidelines by requiring that all Federal and state government websites conform to at least double A level compliance with the WCAG2.0 guidelines by 2015. Given that these guidelines were released in 2008, and the critical importance of Government website for all members of the Australian community, it could be argued that this response is perhaps a little slow in coming. On a positive note however, Australia is one of very few countries in the World which has set a requirement for non-Government websites to also meet this level of compliance.
This document outlines the strategies used by the Australian Government to implement the WCAG2.0 guidelines across all government websites. It is quite interesting to see how this has been planned across such a large organisation. Your business may be able to use this strategy as a guide when developing your own implementation strategy.
This checklist has been developed by Webaim with the aim of making it easy for web developers to implement the Web Content accessibility guidelines. For each requirement in the guidelines this document describes points to look for in your website and html code. The checklist format is easy to follow and practical and will be invaluable for web developers.
This section of the collection will look at specific aspects of making your website accessible. These will include design, content, images, info-graphics, and testing. The first resource is an info-graphic which will give designers a head start in designing website that will accessible for people with disabilities. A good one to print out and add to the pin up board of any web design company. This document has been included in this collection in order to ensure accessibility is considered throughout the whole web development timeline.
Word processing software is commonly used by almost everyone today who is involved in the creating of websites. Further to the previous resource on writing for the web, this document, Simple tips for Word doc accessibility, from Media access Australia, provides information needed by web designers to ensure this content is in the best possible format to allow for accessibility when imported into websites.
Info-graphics have been growing in popularity over the last few years, and are often seen as a simplified way to present information. However, these items can prove challenging when it comes to ensuring accessibility. This resource has been included because it highlights the problem and prompts us to consider the question, how can we create an info-graphic where text is actually text?
This resources provides information for people who are writing web content looking specifically at the parts of the Web content accessibility guidelines that are relevant to this role. 'Accessibility for Web Writers' provides quite a lot of information on 18 different topics, but the article series format they have used makes it easy to dip in and find the specific information you need.
What is the difference between usability and accessibility? This resource explains that usability measures how easy things are to use, measured against the criteria of memorability, efficiency, errors, learn-ability, and satisfaction, whereas accessibility, as we know refers to how people with disabilities are able to use something. When web developers test their websites for usability they will often focus on the average user, however this article points out the importance having a diversity of test subjects to ensure access for everyone.
I conclude this collection with this info-graphic which shows the prominence of people with special needs in Australia today. As our population ages, the number of people living with disabilities will also increase. The internet and new technologies have the potential to create opportunities and bridge many of these disabilities, however accessible web sites are essential if this potential is to become a reality. In this collection I have explained to you the importance of creating accessible websites, both from a legal viewpoint, a personal empathetic viewpoint and from a business standing. Following this specific aspects of website design and creation have been explored and the way to make these things accessible explained. I trust that you now have the tools and information you need to go out and make your website accessible. Let's all work together to bridge the gaps and provide information and access for everybody.