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Designing Accessible Websites

Accessibility and Disability Defined

Accessibility Defined

An accessible web page is a web page that can be used as effectively and for the same purpose by a person with a disability as by a person without a disability.

True Test: Can people with a disabilities use your web page?

Disability Defined

Types of Disabilities

  • Cognitive Learning
  • Auditory
  • Visual (including blind, low vision, and color blind)
  • Motor/Physical
  • Speech

The web is a highly visual medium, so many accessibility techniques focus on users with visual disabilities, but you do need to remember all categories of disabilities.

How Many People with Disabilities?

  • 54 million Americans have a disability (source: World Health Organization)
  • 36% of people age 55-65 have a disability
  • 15% of people age 22-44 have a disability Apply the 15% to the UT populations of 50,000 students and 20,000 employees and we can assume that 7,500 UT Students and 3,000 UT employees have a disability. As audience grows to include parents, alumni, Texans and the world, you can see the portion of our audience with disabilities is significant.

Quasi-Disabilities

The techniques to make a website accessible automatically support the large audience that has what I call quasi-disabilities.

  • Slow Internet Connection
  • Old Browser
  • Missing Plugins
  • No Speakers
  • Small Display (pda, mobile phone)
  • Eyes busy / Hands busy
  • Noisy Environment

The population you are helping becomes even larger when you consider this set of quasi-disabilities.

Assistive Technologies

It helps to understand how a user with a disability can use a website. Specifically, assistive technology helps people w/ disabilities access web pages by reducing or removing barriers.

Two examples of commonly used software for people with visual disabilities are:

  • JAWS by Freedom Scientific is the most popular screen reading software. JAWS uses an internal speech synthesizer and the computer sound card to read information from the computer screen aloud. 
  • Zoom Text by AI Squared is a screen magnifying software that makes computers accessible/friendly to low-vision users

These technologies works with very little help from web developers.

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