Why Web Accessibility?

Web Accessibility ImageAccording to Derek Featherstone, internationally renowned speaker, author and accessibility expert, web accessibility refers to the “practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. “

Why is it important for the Web to be accessible to people with disabilities?  The use of the Web is spreading rapidly into most areas of our daily life.  Increasingly, it has become the source for research and training, government information and services, workplace and social interaction and entertainment.  In some cases, the Web is actually replacing traditional resources.  As the Web becomes a more essential component of our daily lives, it is crucial that the Web be accessible.  Like everyone else, people with disabilities want and need to access the kinds of resources offered on the Web.

But what is considered a disability?  Generally, there are four key areas of disability that are considered for accessibility adaptations:

  • Visual – Blindness, low vision, color-blindness
  • Hearing – Deafness
  • Motor – Inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control
  • Cognitive – Learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information.

Techniques and guidelines for the design and construction of accessible websites have been developed to ensure that those individuals with disabilities have the same access to information.   These standards known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are based on the following four key principles:

  1. Perceivable – Available to the senses (vision and hearing primarily) either through the browser or through assistive technologies (i.e. screen readers, etc.)
  2. Operable – Users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device.
  3. Understandable – Content is clear and limits confusion and ambiguity.
  4. Robust – A wide range of technologies (including assistive technologies) can access the content

Within these principles, 12 guidelines have been established to provide the basic objective for each area of accessibility.  These guidelines should not be considered as just a compliance checklist during the testing phase, but should be used as a guide throughout the design and construction phases.  For the Web to reach its full potential for those with disabilities, web developers must commit to always designing and building with accessibility in mind.


About Susan
I'm a wife, mother and student living in the suburbs of Atlanta. After 20 years in corporate IT, I am currently working for a non-profit as Director of Operations.

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