Make Web Sites Universally Accessible


The issue of accessibility of Graphic Interfaces is by no means recent. Software developers have been dealing with it even before the Internet appeared. Because operating systems like Windows are so popular with home and business computer users, it has become necessary to address accessibility as a real issue.

With the birth of the World Wide Web it has become obvious that transmitting and sharing information was suddenly much easier. However, with its extraordinary development the accessibility issues became more and more obvious. New tools, new technology that change rapidly year after year, can make the web less accessible.

What is 'Accessibility'

When talking about the web (although the concept applies to other domains as well), we talk about how information in web sites can be accessed by people with physical disabilities, but also those with limitations such as the ones mentioned below.

People who have physical disabilities:

  • May be visually impaired - colour blind
  • May have disabilities preventing them from reading or comprehending the text properly - dyslexia
  • May not have or are unable to use a keyboard or mouse.

Other limitations:

  • May have a text screen only, or a small sized screen
  • May have their hands, eyes or ears otherwise engaged (such as in driving etc).
  • May have older browsers, other browsers or voice browsers or other operating systems
  • May not speak or understand the language the information is written in

While people with limitations find certain web sites inaccessible only at times, people suffering from permanent physical disabilities must be aided into enjoying and using the Internet like everyone else. Access to information should not be restricted to anyone, especially when they are not at fault but the technology and software used. People with disabilities of any form have the right and should be aided into reaching the information they seek quickly and easily.

Still not clear. Why design universally accessible web sites?

Leaving aside the ethical issue, if web sites were accessible to everyone, you would be enabling more Internet users to visit your website. This reason alone can have a lot of benefits for any type of website including the commercial ones. The more people visit your website the more people are likely to become customers.

Voice browsers and users with disabilities

Visualy impared users may use a voice browser. A voice browser interprets the source code of web page and renders the content of the page in audio output. Voice browsers, unlike other standard browsers bring up a lot of web design issues that make surfing the Internet very difficult. The current accessibility guidelines are designed in order to address and solve these issues and help web designers come up with universal (or as close to it as possible) design solution for all users.

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