Web Accessibility: Removing Barriers to Web Accessibility

Do you know who Tim Berners-Lee is? If the name sounds familiar it’s because you probably heard the name before. He created the World Wide Web (WWW) and is founder of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization that develops technological standards for the Web. He is committed to the ideal that the internet should be available to anyone, anywhere in the world, on any type of machine that has an internet connection.

This includes people with different technology resources, rural users or even people with disabilities which is estimated to be about 1 billion people worldwide.

In 2008, the W3C released version two of its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.0). The same week, two major European standards organizations the Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) adopted those WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

Barriers

The work of standards organizations help us identify what barriers people face when using the Web. There’s a plethora of information on what Web Accessibility is and what barriers there was to users on the Web. To remove these barriers we must first define what they are. I will focus on three main points that generally define what they are for all users.

  1. Perceivable: The interface and the information on a Web Page must be presented in ways that are perceivable.
  2. Operable: The navigation components and interface must be usable.
  3. Understandable: The user interface and information must be understandable.
  4. Robust: The underlying code and programming is robust, adaptable, and secure.

Along with these main points, there are also four main disabilities that can affect access to the web.

Visual

  • Text Magnification hardware/software
  • Relative font sizes
  • Use of proper CSS
  • Small or poor contrast text
  • Color identifying information

Mobility

  • Limited mobility devices
  • Mouse typically not an option

Cognitive

  • Learning disabilities benefit from well designed and organized pages

Auditory

  • Multimedia barriers to users hard or hearing or deaf

Example

Here is an example of ways to design your image ALT text to remove barriers to disabled users when using screen readers.

Because screen readers cannot interpret the content of images on a web page, the use of “ALT” text helps describe in words to the user what the image content is. Taking the time to accurately describe an image content will greatly help the Accessibility on your site.

If an image is a… The ALT Text should…
Chart or Illustration Summarize and explain
Photo or work of art Describe the image’s content
Graphic or button with text Be the same as the image’s text
Functional icon without text Describe the action to be taken
Background or other decoration Contain an empty space (” “)

Although, ALT Text is meant to be short and concise, when longer descriptions are used to explain or describe an image it can be very helpful in breaking down the Web Accessibility barriers to users on your site.

Standards in Accessibility on the Web

As the we move forward in developing web standards and adhering to those standards, we help define what barriers users experience in terms of Accessibility when using the World Wide Web. Organizations helping pave the way for these standards are helping remove barriers to users across the world by evaluating the needs of users from all demographics.

For more information on related articles and resources used in this article:

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