June 6, 2012 | by Liam

Web Accessibility Explained

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect” Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

 

Web accessibility concerns making a website useable by all internet users (disabled and non disabled). Accessibility depends on how a persons disability affects the way they perceive the information on the web page and how they navigate between pages. There are a number of elements that affect accessibility including:

 

  • Visual impairment – people with little or no vision.
  • Hearing impairment – people with little or no hearing.
  • Cognitive impairment – dyslexia, short term memory loss, limited reading skills …
  • Use of alternative web clients – people who may be using a mobile device, a tablet, a speciality browser or a games console.
  • Physical impairment – people lacking in ability to use a mouse or keyboard.
  • Technologically limited – people in remote locations or developing countries where there is low bandwidth or low network reliability.

 

It is very important to pay attention to the usability of your website because if someone who has a disability cannot access information on your website then it can be seen as discrimination.The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide them any service which it provides to able bodied members of the public.

 

There are also benefits to you in having an accessible website:

 

  • Your website will appear higher in search engines – search engines don’t usually recognise images, Javascript, Flash, audio and video so by providing alternative content all areas of your website will be accessible to search engines.
  • Your website will be future proof – people are making use of new technologies to access web sites so having an accessible web site will overcome viewing problems on various alternative web clients (mobile phone, games console…).
  • Page download time will improve – an accessible website will download quicker than one with poor accessibility.

 

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where member organisations, staff and the public work together to develop web standards and their mission is to lead the Web to it’s full potential. For further information on the W3C visit http://www.w3.org/Consortium/

In December 2010 the British Standards Institution launched the first British standard to address accessibility and the challenge of digital inclusion. Guidance notes can be read here.

 

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