Web accessibility in straight terms, means that people with disabilities can use the web like everybody else.
When it comes to developing websites and furthermore publishing information on the internet for everyone to see, recommendations of accessibility standards and guidelines have been set by groups such as World Wide Web Consortium (W3C ) who believe the world wide web should be accessible to all.
This article has been written to highlight the user groups that are referred to when we talk about web accessibility. Who are they and what are their specific accessibility requirements?
Listed below is a selection of groups with diverse abilities along with specific requirements that enable them to interact with websites
- Auditory – An auditory disability is described as those who suffer from hearing loss. This can range from mild or slight cases of hearing loss, right to the end of the spectrum with some people suffering complete loss of hearing or deafness. In order to get the most out of their web experience, people with auditory disabilities can be assisted in the following ways; providing transcripts and captions to all audio or video content; utilising media players that display captions for audio rich content and allowing the user to adjust the visibility of the captions; ability to stop, pause and adjust volume levels within the media player and independently of the system controls; and the access to high quality foreground audio that is distinguished or separated from any background noise
- Cognitive and Neurological – Cognitive and Neurological disabilities refers to disorders that attack the nervous system including the brain. This type of disability is broad but can affect how people hear, see, move speak and absorb information. Accessibility for these groups of people require clearly structured content that focuses on overview as well as orientation; consistent design across web pages functionality and naming conventions of web forms; search fields to assist in navigation; the ability to stop flashing animations or otherwise distracting elements; and by employing explanative but simple text that is used to supplement images, graphs or any non-textual information.
- Physical or Motor Disabilities – A physical disability is to do with a persons body movement and their limited or inability to use certain parts of their bodies. Accessing the web to these groups of people involves utilising specially designed hardware and software solutions, also known as assistive technologies which include; specially designed keyboard or mouse; physical aids such as head pointers or mouth sticks; onscreen keyboards and the ability to tab through content without mouse use; software that supports hands free interaction
- Speech – Speech disabilities interrupt a persons ability of producing speech and engaging with others either vocally or through voice recognition software. These groups of people particularly struggle with web services that are voice based. Services that provide automated telephone hotlines and voice command applications should further consider these groups of people by providing them with alternatives such as text-based chatlines, web applications that support keyboard commands, email contact information and feedback forms.
- Visual – Visual disabilities include slight or severe vision impairments, short or near-sightedness, blindness and colour blindness. Accessibility requirements for this group of people include the ability to increase or reduce text size and images in their browsers; ability to customise content for font, colour and spacing; specialised software that transfers text to speech, audio descriptions of multimedia elements and reading text using the tactile language of braille.