Web accessibility

Accessibility

An approach to site design intended to accommodate site usage using different browsers and settings particularly required by the visually impaired.

General Packet Radio Services (GPRS)

A standard offering mobile data transfer and WAP access approximately 5 to 10 times faster than traditional GSM access.

Accessibility legislation

Legislation intended to protect users of web sites with disabilities including visual disability.

Web accessibility is another core requirement for web sites. It is about allowing all users of a web site to interact with it regardless of disabilities they may have or the web browser or platform they are using to access the site. The visually impaired are the main audience that designing an accessible web site can help. However, increased usage of mobile or wireless access devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and GPRS or 3G phones also make consideration of accessibility important.

The following quote shows the importance of accessibility to a visually impaired user who uses a screen-reader which reads out the navigation options and content on a web site.

For me being online is everything. It's my hi-fi, it's my source of income, it's my supermarket, it's my telephone. It's my way in.

(Lynn Holdsworth, screen-reader user, web developer and programmer)

Source: RNIB

Remember that many countries now have specific accessibility legislation to which web site owners are subject. This is often contained within disability and discrimination acts. In the UK, the relevant act is the Disability and Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995. Recent amendments to the DDA make it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in the way in which a company recruits and employs people, provides services, or provides education. Providing services is the part of the law that applies to web site design. Providing accessible web sites is a requirement of Part II of the Disability and Discrimination Act published in 1999 and required by law from 2002. In the 2002 code of practice there is a legal requirement for web sites to be accessible. This is most important for sites which provide a service; for example, the code of practice gives this example:

An airline company provides a flight reservation and booking service to the public on its website. This is a provision of a service and is subject to the Act.

Although there is a moral imperative for accessibility, there is also a business imperative to encourage companies to make their web sites accessible. The main arguments in favour of accessibility are:

1 Number of visually impaired people. In many countries there are millions of visually impaired people varying from 'colour blind' to partially sighted to blind.

2 Number of users of less popular browsers or variation in screen display resolution. Microsoft Internet Explorer is now the dominant browser, but there are less well-known browsers which have a loyal following amongst the visually impaired (for example, screen-readers and Lynx, a text-only browser) and early-adopters (for example, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Opera). If a web site does not display well in these browsers, then you may lose these audiences. Complete Activity 7.2 to review how much access has varied since this book was first published.

3 More visitors from natural listings of search engines. Many of the techniques used to make sites more usable also assist in search engine optimisation. For example, clearer navigation, text alternatives for images and site maps can all help improve a site's position in the search engine rankings.

4 Legal requirements. In many countries it is a legal requirement to make web sites accessible. For example, the UK has a Disability Discrimination Act that requires this.

Activity 7.2

SEO Guide for Top Rankings

SEO Guide for Top Rankings

Search engines are special sites on the web that are designed to help people find information stored on other sites. There are differences in the ways various search engines work. Learn more about this topic within this guide.

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