Why Your Website Needs to be Accessible to the Disabled

Photo by Jil Wright

If you own a website, the chances are you are creating more and more interactive web pages to ensure that readers don’t just read and move on. Do you want them to buy your products, watch a video or leave a comment?

With all the focus on visuals and complicated animations it’s easy to forget that those who can’t hear or see aren’t able to experience web content the same way most people do, but it doesn’t mean this audience are any less important than the others.

A report from the 2005 US Census says that 18.7% of the population is disabled, and it’s likely to be the same for other countries. That’s not an insignificant chunk of the population that maybe struggling to use your website. This is what you need to do to make your site accessible for all:

View the Web – With Your Ears

One of the most common ways for someone who is visually impaired to navigate the net is through a screen reader, which attempts to describe the user interface and the content of a page, either by translating it into Braille output, or by using text-to-speech technology.

You need to facilitate this process by making sure all graphic content is readable. For example you should use alt tags for your images. Alt tags display text instead of images where these can’t be shown, such as with screen readers. It’s always useful to caption images too.

A Sound Solution – Without Sound

One of the technologies used to facilitate content accessibility for videos is the use of captioning or subtitles. These can be a bit distracting to those who don’t need them however, so the ideal solution is to provide “captions on demand”, i.e., they only show when a user turns them on. This can be achieved through closed captioning software.

Applications That Talk

There’s another way to make content easily accessible and that’s through self-voicing applications. When designing them you need to describe menus, program hot keys etc. – this will help the user navigate through them.

Remember – if you leave something out in your self-voicing application, a blind user will be unable to navigate it. For more info – the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a whole section dedicated to web accessibility.

Still not convinced your site needs to improve its accessibility? According to a recent survey held by WebAIM, 39.6% of screen reader users noted web site accessibility across the net hasn’t improved, while 25.2% stated that it has become worse.

This means that about 65% of visually impaired people are having difficulties with browsing the web even when using devices to help them out!

Let’s open this up – have you any experience with online disability? What can be most frustrating while trying to use the internet?

Attached Images:

Author Byline: As a personal trainer Gavin Harvey encounters people from all backgrounds. Sometimes he needs to help people regain their motor ability, thus he understands how disability can affect people’s lives. He’s also an avid writer and currently blogs for Softel Captioning.

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