Accessibility is a concept that is intertwined with the concept of usability. It refers to creating the website content available to all people. The Internet has transformed the lives of people during the past decade. People have been able to do things that they were not able to do before, this includes the people with disabilities. People who are impaired do not have as much opportunities compared to people who are well and able.
The Internet has provided them avenues for communication, information gathering, social interaction, engaging in cultural activities and it provides them with employment opportunities. However, statistics have shown that the potential of the Internet to provide these certain opportunities is still not maximised because the people with disabilities are hindered by usability issues from using it to the fullest.
The benefits of improving accessibility of websites will not only benefit the people who have impairments but will affect the whole web community. Businesses, services, information campaigners, everyone will benefit. Some features include: provision of inter-operability of applications; access for the disabled; localisation and customisation.
Recommendations for Improving Website Accessibility
Listed below are some of the key recommendations from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which was developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C on how to improve the accessibility of the contents of a website.
1. Provide alternatives to audio-visual content
Not all people will be able to use different kinds of content. These people may be disabled or may have a lower version of Internet browsers. Movies, sound clips, animations and other contents should be translated into text alternatives so as to provide information to the broadest range of viewers.
2. Developers should not rely on colour alone
Many people are impaired in colour differentiation. Developers should not rely too much on the use of colours to relay information in the websites. Charts that are colour-coded should be modified and the background and foreground colours of the websites should have enough contrast to enable people with colour differentiation impairment to easily navigate the site.
3. Clarification of the use of natural language
Content developers usually mark up the changes in natural language in their websites. They should be able to identify the dominant language that is used in the site so as to avoid confusion.
4. Control of content changes that are time-sensitive
This issue particularly involves people who have visual or cognitive impairments and those who are not able to read texts that are moving quickly. Movement is seen as an over-all enhancer to the look of the site, but it may pose some problems to people with cognitive impairments.
5. Accessibility of user interfaces that are embedded
Objects that have their own interfaces should be made accessible, and alternative solutions must be provided if this is not possible.
6. Provision of orientation and context information
The provision of information on how the objects are organised is important to provide people with guidance on how to access information.
There are other ways of improving a website’s over-all accessibility to make it more usable. Developers should take into consideration the different people who are going to view their websites and make them focal points in the designing process.