Accessibility Tips - Series #3

The Pacific ADA Center has produced an Accessible IT quick tip series to benefit educators by enhancing the learning experience of students in all schools. This is the first of twelve articles that will be published on a monthly basis, distributed by post and email, and archived on our web site: http://www.adapacific.org/ To request further materials or information on Accessible IT, please call us on our free Technical Assistance hotline at 1-800-949-4232 or use the contact form on our web site. We hope that you'll find this series valuable.

Accessible Web Site Design

What Does An "Accessible Web Site" Mean?
An accessible web site is one that does not exclude people with visual, aural, learning, or physical disabilities.

Universally accessible web sites should:

  • Provide alternate descriptions of graphical elements
  • Provide headers for columns and rows in tables that contain data
  • Use identifying language for links
  • Have high contrast between background and text
  • Meet Section 508 Standards
Why Is Accessibility Necessary?
Accessibility allows your information to be available to all users. Ask the following questions about your web site accessibility:
  • Is your site's color contrast sufficient for visually impaired users?
  • Can a user who is blind or visually impaired understand the content of your graphics, charts and tables?
  • Can a user who is deaf or hearing-impaired understand the audio on your web site?
  • Is your web site too cluttered with graphics, links, or flashing text for someone with a visual or learning disability?
  • Can a user without state-of-the-art hardware access information from your site?
What Is Universal Design?

Universal Design (UD). UD is the "design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." (Center for Universal Design, NC State University) http://www.ncsu.edu/project/design-projects/udi/)

Applications with accessible code empower people who are visually impaired to interact with personal computers, PDAs and the Internet. This is achieved by enabling their screen reading software to narrate document text, give directions for operating programs and describe graphics, photos, charts, tables, menus and navigation controls.

Audio is inaccessible to deaf users, therefore text is needed. Users who are deaf depend on web designers to provide captioned text that is synchronized with audio clips on the Web site In addition, many users will appreciate being able to read the text of audio elements.

Users with learning disabilities sometimes have difficulty comprehending Web sites that are cluttered or disorganized. All users will benefit from well designed sites.

Many Internet users have older computers or slow Internet connections. If your audience includes schools, libraries, rural areas or international users, then many visitors may have barriers that limit access to your site. Web content that requires high-speed internet connections is not accessible to all.

Do Accessible Sites Have A Special Look?
Most accessible web features are developed at the source code level to interact with software that accommodates people with disabilities. Some features like alternative graphic descriptions can be accessed by all users.
How Do I Begin?
To get started, go to the Pacific ADA Center's accessible web site at: http://www.adapacific.org where you'll find basic problem-solving support and links to the resources you will need.
How Do I Test My Web Site For Accessibility?
For guidance in performing a preliminary review to check for accessibility visit: http://www.w3.org/WAI/eval/

-OR- You can do the following and see how well you are able to navigate and access all of the information on your web page:
  1. Turn off images
  2. Turn off the sound
  3. Change the font size
  4. Set screen resolution to 640x480
  5. Change display color to black and white, put away the mouse and tab through the links and form controls on each of your web pages and forms

These documents are available in alternate formats, on CD, in large print hard copy and on audiotape, by contacting the Pacific ADA Center. Please call us on our free Technical Assistance hotline at 1-800-949-4232 or use our contact form.