Monday, March 27, 2006

Web Accessibility

Some quick quotes, then some commentary...

"The percentage of people with disabilities in many populations is between 10% and 20%."
"...the number of people using the Web is steadily increasing, and for people with disabilities access to this technology is sometimes even more critical than for the general population..."
"21.1% of people with “vision problems” have Internet access (1,542,410 people)
27.2% of people with “hearing problems” (1,893,392)
22.5% of people with “difficulty using hands” (1,411,200)
42.2% of people with a learning disability (1,242,790)"
"Target is being sued because the retail giant's website cannot be accessed by blind internet users."

In the United Kingdom it is REQUIRED BY LAW to build accessible web sites. Here in the United States Section 508 requires federal agencies to make electronic data accessible to those with disabilities. And although we don't have specific laws pertaining to web accessibility in the public sector, there are ongoing cases where traditional (non electronic) disabilitiy laws are being tested against web sites.

The legal aspect is only one part of the picture. What about the 6+ million U.S. web users who are potentially customers of your web site? I think that we would all like to have more customers than we do now.

Accessibility for your site also extends far beyond those with dissabilities. Accessibility is about making your site accessible to ALL users, regardless of disability, regardless of user client, regardless of connection speed. Is your site accessible to a user with Netscape 4.0 on a slow disl-up connection? If not, then your site isn't very accessible.

Often you hear that "you can't design for all browsers", but I disagree. By using web standards like XHTML and especially CSS, it is possible to cater to ALL users, and it shouldn't cost you more to do so. Note that when I say that the site will be accessible, I don't mean that the site will be still be as visually appealing, but it will be useable.

Here is a good example of an accessible site. Firefox allows you to turn off both images and styling, so it is an ideal browser for testing accessibility. If you go to and turn off both CSS and images you will see that the site is still very much accessible.

Next, go to your web site and try the same test. How did you do?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.