This issue’s Feature clears up four common misconceptions about accessibility, while our Guide offers tactical tips to get started with making your site more accessible. We also have a synopsis of a fascinating interview with LinkedIn accessibility pro Jennison Asuncion, himself a blind internet user, and our Case Study collects several stellar examples of accessibility upgrades. Throughout this month’s edition, we’re sharing recommendations for accessibility tools to improve your browsing experience and give you a sense of what navigating the Web is like for differently abled users.
Accessibility Apps: Screen Readers
Visual accessibility is crucial to blind people — and many others as well. It’s relevant to colorblind people (as many as 8 percent of men with Northern European ancestry), the elderly, and people using devices or connections that are incapable of downloading images (a common problem in developing markets). All told, about 285 million people worldwide experience some form of visual impairment.
Auditory accessibility — the ability to use a site without sound — helps the hearing impaired, anyone with an auditory processing disorder, and of course, anyone working in a shared office who doesn’t have earbuds handy.
Motor accessibility makes it easier to navigate a site with limited means (e.g. a single keyboard key) and enables users to take advantage of assistive technology like eye trackers and specialized keyboards. This is critical for those with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, and similar disorders. It can even help out someone who has a broken arm or a dead mouse battery that’s forcing them to navigate the Web in unusual ways.
Cognitive accessibility makes your site easier to understand for those who have challenges mentally processing information. This includes people with Down’s syndrome, autism, or dyslexia, among others. Cognitive disabilities affect more than 6% of the population.
Nearly everyone relies on Web accessibility at some point, whether they’re navigating a site in a non-native language, working with a broken mouse, browsing on a slow connection, dealing with deteriorating vision in old age, or any of countless other scenarios. A 2003 Forrester study found that 44% of U.S. computer users use some form of accessible technology, and 57% are likely or very likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology.
Marcy Sutton’s Accessibility Wins Tumblr collects examples of sites with well-executed accessibility. The “winners” it highlights include a wide variety of sites, ranging from Starbucks to Shell to United Airlines.
Actually, since most accessibility best practices align with design best practices, you probably already have most of what you need to make sure your site is accessible to all kinds of users. Plus, there is an abundance of tools available online to help you test and improve the accessibility of your site. Scroll down to our Guide to get started.
Accessibility Apps: Cryptzone
Accessibility Apps: Ai Squared
Ai Squared approaches accessibility from the end user’s point of view, with software for individual machines that offers magnification, screen reading and more. They also offer an enterprise solution that builds this technology into websites themselves.
Mitsukoshi worked with IBM to make its website more accessible for older people and those with vision issues. Using IBM’s Easy Web Browsing technology they were able to make it more usable by allowing visitors to change text size, background color and text color. The adjustments broadened the reach of seasonal gift promotions and increased sales.
In 2001, the U.K. grocery chain Tesco stopped short of a complete site overhaul, but it did create an accessible alternative that eliminated extraneous images, made navigation easier and more. Creating a parallel site doesn’t align with W3C’s best practices, but can be a viable option.
EDUPrize wanted to make their new website accessible to those with vision disabilities but lacked internal expertise to do so. They used an out-of-the-box software solution that scanned the site for elements like alt-text, forms, and more and flagged potential issues to be addressed.
The University of Texas Dallas made sure its site at least met if not exceeded minimal viable standards. It makes the point in its recap of its efforts that the content and format of a page should still be readable with style sheets turned off and that relying on style to convey core messages could leave those messages inaccessible to those with vision issues.
For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.
Mary Gaulke in Sarasota wrote this month’s Feature, Guide and Interview synopsis. Chris Thilk in Chicago provided the Case Studies and interstitial recommendations.
Matthew Keys uploaded the welcome photo to Flickr, some rights reserved.