Web Tip: Website Accessibility and Usability

In this article I am going to explore two area in web development.  The first is the concept of “Usability“.  The next idea will be “Accessibility

In the world of web development usability is a major issue.  By usability I am talking about testing websites to make sure that the visitor can quickly, easily and simply navigate a website.  This makes the user experience better.

The idea of Accessibility goes even further than usability in that its goal is to allow access for all people.

A little history

Nearly 1 out 5 individuals in America have some level of disability.  This translate to about 30 million people.  As the population grows older this number is expected to increase as there will be more and more senior citizens.  Do you know that in the past 10 years there was an increase of 25%.  Unfortunately, with age come physical changes.  Some of these can limit a persons ability to do things.  But keep in mind this is not the only segment of the population that suffers disabilities.  And there needs need to be met.

Making the Internet Accessible

The Internet has become an integral part our everyday lifestyle.  It allows us to do things unheard of a decade ago.  The web offers us ways to communicate.  We can obtain information on nearly every subject under the sun and beyond.  We now have social online gatherings.  The opportunities abound will limitless ways to engage cultural activities.  The list could go on.  But the sad reality is that the disabled are sometimes excluded from totally experiencing these benefits.  However there is hope in providing for standard of accessibility that will help these individuals.

Ways to Improve Accessibility

Here is a list of ideas from the Web Content Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 that was created by the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C.  These are way to increase the accessibility of web content.

1. Provide alternatives to audio-visual content

Not all people will be able to use different kinds of content. These people may be disabled or may have a lower version of Internet browsers. Movies, sound clips, animations and other contents should be translated into text alternatives so as to provide information to the broadest range of viewers.

2. Developers shouldn’t rely on color alone

Many people are impaired in color differentiation. Developers shouldn’t rely too much on the use of colors to relay information in the websites. Charts that are color-coded should be modified and the background and foreground colors of the websites should have enough contrast to enable people with color differentiation impairment to easily navigate the site.

3. Clarification of the use of natural language

Content developers usually mark up the changes in natural language in their websites. They should be able to identify the dominant language that is used in the site so as to avoid confusion.

4. Control of content changes that are time-sensitive

This issue particularly involves people who have visual or cognitive impairments and those who are not able to read texts that are moving quickly. Movement is seen as an over-all enhancer to the look of the site, but it may pose some problems to people with cognitive impairments.

5. Accessibility of user interfaces that are embedded

Objects that posses their own interfaces should be made accessible, and alternative solutions must be provided if this is not possible.

6. Provision of orientation and context information

The provision of information on how the objects are organized is important to provide people with guidance on how to access information.

This is by no means a comprehensive list but they are some practical tips to make a website more usable.  Careful consideration needs to be taken to make sure that Accessibility is included in the design process and that viable alternatives be provided.

Benefits

There are many benefits to improving accessibility of websites.  These benefit not only help those with disabilities but also improve the entire web community.  Businesses, Service Companies, Organizations and you as well will benefit.

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