Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product (e.g., device, service, environment) is accessible by as many people as possible, and the ventures to produce accessible products and services. Accessibility is often used to focus on people with disabilities and their right of access to entities, often through use of assistive technology.
Testing is vital, particularly at the border of accessibility theory and practice. I wonder, for example, if tabindex and accesskey would have made it to the HTML4 spec if there had been full testing with assistive technology users? What I really want to know from the HTML5 people is who they think is going to do this research that will provide the evidence that their gang requires before useful attributes are restored to the specification.
How is designing computer software and hardware for kids different from designing for adults? At the time of this writing, little formal research has been done on this topic. Most research done to date has focused on designing educational software, and evaluation is primarily of learning outcomes, not usability. However, usability is a prerequisite for learning.
For 40 years I had taken no notice of the locations of ramps in public buildings, the height or number of stairs, or if pay phones had instructions in Braille. My, how things have changed for me since January when I took on the challenge of writing the Special Needs SIG's Conference Guide for People with Special Needs for the Society's 50th International Conference in Dallas.
It’s taken awhile, but webmasters are starting to get the hang of designing Web sites that work for most users. But don’t rest yet: webmasters will soon need to add a completely new set of Web design skills. Increasingly, Web sites will have to accommodate disabled users. Disabled users? That’s right. Even people with no sight at all can “hear” the Web, through special browsers that read out the code on Web pages. New US regulations require that all Federal sites (and the sites of Federal contractors) work in this format. Other countries are adopting similar rules, and non-government sites are increasingly coming under pressure from users to offer options for the disabled.
When it comes to disability, I simply do not want to have to categorise people as being either able or disabled. I know that, for the purposes of legislation and for all sorts of other practical reasons, the word disabled must exist as a qualifier in order for so many of us to function in society; It is just that I do not want the folk that, for these purposes qualify as able, to think that the two categories are either forever fixed or are somehow separate when it comes to who we are as human beings and how we interact with each other.
We are all impaired to some amount. I realized this a few years ago as a musician, moving heavy amplifiers to gigs. Those little ramps that had been required by law (at least here in Australia) for wheelchairs were my saving grace.. instead of lifting the hefty equipment I could roll it into the building. It probably saved me more than once from back injury. And yet, there would be no way the institutions would have put in those ramps for my convenience.
Members of an educational community, business, or agency can all have the best intentions when it comes to creating a Web presence that is accessible to those with disabilities. Too often, however, these individuals with good intentions wait for someone to come and help lead them. Change is a difficult path. It is common to be told to acquire new skills because change is going to happen. So you do just that...you obtain the skills you were asked...you wait for some new policy, some new set of procedures, someone who will support what you were implicitly asked to do...yet nothing happens. This scenario occurs frequently when nobody takes a leadership role. Even when leadership will occur within a group, the group will be more effective if someone takes the responsibility of 'carrying the flag' to it’s intended destination. You probably remember the famous line, 'If not you, who? If not now, When? If you truly believe that accessibility to your Web site is important (or required) for your organization, then I ask you to answer this question for yourself. Your own actions or inactions will speak louder than any voice you give to this effort. You should not assume that someone else would take this role. You should not assume that it would happen in the near future. The only way you can assure that Web accessibility will become a part of the path of change in your organization is if you consider taking the lead, now.
Most policies in education focus exclusively on the practices of in-house Web development professionals. Few institutions are looking at the Web content and Web-based applications that come to them from other sources (e.g., content management systems, finance systems, student information systems, healthcare or benefit systems, human resource systems). So, what is missing in current policy? A mechanism to procure accessible Web products and services is missing. Without procurement as part of the policy, true system-level accessibility can only be an illusion.
The unique requirements for motor impaired web users can often be overlooked or poorly implemented. Motor impairments can be caused by a stroke, Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a physical disability or even a broken arm. This group of users essentially have limited or no ability to use a mouse.
Popular screen readers use a virtual buffer to allow users to interact with web content, whereby the virtual buffer provides a mechanism for screen reader users to interact with web content. This article uncovers undocumented behaviour in JAWS 7.1 and later, which allows web developers to build Ajax applications that update the virtual buffer without any interaction from the user.
A common method of limiting access to services made available over the Web is visual verification of a bitmapped image. This presents a major problem to users who are blind, have low vision, or have a learning disability such as dyslexia. This document examines a number of potential solutions that allow systems to test for human users while preserving access by users with disabilities.
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be disabled? Well, you better start thinking about it! As my collegue Gregg Vanderheiden is fond of pointing out, 'We all will have disabilities eventually, unless we die first.'
Accessibility is not something to be left to specialists hired to clean up our mess at the end. It should be a priority of the entire development team from the beginning. Yes, companies should definitely have accessibility people on-board, but they should act as much as educators and coaches as designers. Everyone on the development team must be aware of and responsive to the full spectrum of identified users if your product is to sell to the widest possible audience. That’s the only way to achieve inclusive design.
The W3C WAI Page Authoring Guidelines (Vanderheiden, et al, 1998a) contains nineteen general concepts that Web page authors should follow to make their pages more accessible and usable, not only to people with disabilities, but for newer page viewing technologies (mobile and voice), for electronic agents such as indexing robots, and etc. In this paper/presentation, we will talk about and demonstrate how scripts and style sheets can be implemented today, and still work on systems that do not support scripts and style sheets ('Transform gracefully'). We also talk about and demonstrate how the data in a table can be presented and navigated both via scripting and by an accompanying application ('Context and navigation').
To design innovative Web applications that create opportunities rather than barriers, study the variety of characteristics of people, situations, and devices in your audience--it will give you new perspective from which to approach your design.
The issue of accessible Web sites and legal arguments for providing them has seen much debate over the past eighteen months. In many countries across the world, anti-disability discrimination legislation has provided the acorn of an argument that service providers should provide their Web presence in a form that is accessible to the disabled community. However, like the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), and its associated guidelines, the providers, and indeed the designers, of the majority of Web sites have by and large ignored these arguments. However, following a recent case in Australia, there is now a very persuasive legal argument for including Web accessibility in the scope of anti-disability legislation in the UK. It is the purpose of this article to review these arguments, consider their consequences for the Web sites of Higher and Further educational institutions and, finally, to consider how the recent Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 might extend these duties further.
The Web is providing unprecedented access to information and interaction for people with disabilities. It provides opportunities to participate in society in ways otherwise not available. With accessible websites, people with disabilities can do ordinary things: children can learn, teenagers can flirt, adults can make a living, seniors can read about their grandchildren, and so on. With the Web, people with disabilities can do more things themselves, without having to rely on others.
Usability is a concept that we intuitively know when we experience it. The notion of usability can refer to ease of use, ease of learning, efficiency and usefulness. To render a satisfying user experience, a well-designed product should have a combination of these features.
ICDRI’s mission is to collect a global knowledge base of quality disability resources and best practices and to provide education, outreach and training based on these core resources.
There's a lot of bragging on the Internet about how big it is, how much information the Web has to offer. I ran across a discussion group posting a while back where the moderator announced that one of the search engines had indexed 9 billion words. I went to the University of California online catalog and did a quick calculation: 9 million titles x 300 pages x 500 words.