Inclusive Design

Last week I wrote about visual accessibility. This week I’d like to talk about other accessibility issues. The internet has opened up the world to people around the globe. For example, people in small town Meeteese, WY can connect people in Sri Lanka to sell goods or exchange information. It has also opened up the world to other people as well, the disabled. It is not by accident that the internet is called the information superhighway.

“[The Internet is] an essential tool. And, literally, a lifeline for many disabled people. . . . Many disabled people have to spend long hours alone. Voice-activated computers are a means of communication that can prevent a sense of isolation.” – Christopher Reeve, WebAim

When someone is blind, deaf, or a paraplegic the internet can be a challenge to negotiate. As web designers these individuals summon our creativity to expand the usability of the internet with intelligent design.

Two hands shaking

Reach out your hand.

There are no easy answers for designing an accessible web site. Planning begins at the outset of a project. From focus groups to usability testing, designing for accessibility takes time and commitment.

There are guidelines for web accessibility. The W3C’s Web Content Guidelines is the official and most comprehensive discussion. Usability.gov also has an extensive discussion of how to plan accessibility from the beginning.

10 Basic Guidelines taken from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

  1. Provide text alternatives for non-text content such as images.
  2. Provide alternatives for time-based media such as using a transcript for audio or video.
  3. Allow your content to be adaptable, for example a simpler layout.
  4. Make your content easy to distinguish between foreground and background.
  5. Make all content functionality available by keyboard or mouse.
  6. Do not design content in a way this is known to cause seizures.
  7. Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  8. Make text written for the web easy to understand and read.
  9. Make sure input errors are noticed and easy to correct.
  10. Maximize compatibility with assistive technologies.

These guidelines are just a beginning. Let’s make the web usable to everyone no matter how isolated.

Resources

  1. Mark Sunderman

    Thanks for the reminder! I do a lot of teaching online (and development) and I need to be reminded about the accessibility issue. Hate to admit that I have done a POOR job when it comes to many of the points you have listed.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. It is easy to forget.

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