Web accessibility guide
This is a guide to web accessibility for all users including blind, partially sighted, and disabled people. We will explain their needs, discuss accessibility standards, and show you how you can assess your own website. Following these principles will also make your web site accessible to search engines.
Why bother making your website accessible?
As many as 20% of the UK population are disabled in some way, so you could have a lot of potential customers in this group. If your site is frustrating for them to use they will go to a competitor's site instead.
In the UK the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) 1995 requires that a reasonable effort is made to ensure that services are accessible to disabled people. Part III of the Act comes in to force in October 2004 and specifically includes web sites as services.
Accessibility for disabled people
You might wonder how a blind person can surf the net at all - surely the internet is a visual medium?
Blind and other disabled people can surf the net as long as web designers consider accessibility requirements when designing web sites.
Blind people can surf the net using speech or braille browsers. As their names suggest these browsers either speak out the text on a page or convert it to braille. These browsers only read text, so you need to be careful when using image maps as navigation bars or the blind may not be able to navigate your site.
A partially sighted person may need to view your site in a larger font size or with more contrast between the text and background. Most browsers will allow these people to adjust the text size and colours, but you will need to ensure your page allows their browser to do this.
A physically disabled person might not be able to use a mouse, and would perhaps use a keyboard or other device to tab down the links on the page. You can help by organising links in a sensible manner.
An epileptic person would be sensitive to pages that automatically refresh or by images that flash, especially at frequency between 5 and 45Hz. They could be sensitive to those flashing logos and banners and constantly changing pages that are merely tedious for everyone else.
Accessibility for everyone else
Microsoft Internet Explorer has become very popular, and many designers do not consider other browsers, so your visitors could find themselves disabled by a Macintosh computer or Netscape Browser.
Accessibility in a general sense is about making your site easy to use. This means having intuitive navigation and a clean layout. Visitors to the net are generally looking for information, and are more likely to stay on a site that provides this information in a quick and straightforward manner.