What is Accessibility?
Accessibility is a term that is more associated with architectural thought, rather than web site design. There is legislation which determines the minimum standards for new buildings. As a result, new buildings today have wheelchair ramps, accessible lifts and disability parking spaces, allowing anyone with disabilities to gain access to a building, use the provided services, buy the products, and chat with the people inside.
With web sites, the term traditionally refers to the development of sites that are accessible to “all” users who may want to access them — in other words, “Universal Web Sites.”
Even though the World Wide Web is continuously growing, many users:
- use speech browsers, e.g. visually-impaired or blind people, as well as businessmen in cars;
- don’t have the latest graphical browsers and plug-ins;
- can’t see the wonderful graphics, hear the real-time audio, or navigate an interactive site;
- surf with slow modems, or reside in rural or remote areas with limited access to the Internet;
- browse without graphics, using text-only browsers or subscribe to non-graphic services;
- access in noisy, high- or low-light environments
Accessibility increases benefits for both parties: the User and the Web site Provider.
Every user, regardless of physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities, constraints and/or technological barriers can:
- access the information
- use the services
- buy the products
- talk to the people associated with each Web site.
In other words, satisfied users may become loyal users, continue using the web site, and even recommend to others.
- Increase audience
- Improve maintainability and efficiency
- Improve and regain reputation
- Satisfy existing and future legal requirements
Accessibility is critical for a web site’s success. This narrow focus is at the expense of a much larger segment of society with milder impairments, such as partial sight, poor hearing, and poor language skills. The needs of this larger group can be more easily accommodated with simple and inexpensive design tips such as resizable text, large tactile buttons, and clear, easy-to-follow instructions.