All people, including those who have disabilities can use a website and other related tools if the website is properly coded and designed. It is observed that many tools and sites are developed without considering the limitation of some users, due to which it is not possible or difficult for these users to access all the features of the website. Ensuring that the website is accessible for everyone is beneficial for businesses, individuals and society. The international standards for web design, specify what is required to make a website accessible.
Tim Berners Lee is widely regarded as the inventor of the internet or worldwide web. He claims that the main reason why the web is so powerful is that it is universal, everyone is able to access it , regardless of whether they are disabled. The web is designed so that all people can use it irrespective of their location, language, ability, hardware or software being used. When the web conforms to this goal, it will be accessible to people with differing hearing, mobility, eyesight and intelligence.
Many disabled people are unable to interact or communicate with others because of the physical restrictions due to their condition. However these restrictions reduce or disappear when they are using the web. Yet when applications, tools, technologies and websites are poorly designed, this can create hurdles and make it difficult for some people to use the web. Hence organizations and developers who wish to create web tools and websites of the highest quality should ensure that their websites are accessible. The websites should not exclude any user from using their services and products.
Defining web accessibility
Web accessibility is defined as ensuring that technologies, tools and websites are designed, developed so that even disabled individuals can easily use them. Users should be able to read,understand, interact and navigate the website. They should also be able to contribute to the web.
All disabilities which affect web access, should be considered while making a website accessible. These disabilities include auditory or hearing, cognitive, brain related, neurological, physical handicaps, speech and visual or eyesight related.
Web accessibility is also useful for people who do not have disabilities like:
- - people using mobile phones, smart devices like watches, TVs and other gadgets with different modes of input, small screens and other features
- - older people who find that ageing has affected their ability
- - individuals who are temporarily disabled because of conditions like lost glasses or broken limbs
- - people who face situational limitations caused by being in a place where they cannot hear audio or are in bright sunlight
- - people who have only expensive, limited bandwidth or a slow, unreliable internet
Importance of Accessibility for all
Increasingly, the web is an important resource which is used in different aspect or life like commerce, government, recreation, education, employment, healthcare. Hence it is essential to ensure that the web is accessible so that people of different abilities can access it and have equal opportunities. The United Nations convention (UNC) regarding the rights of persons with disabilities (RPD) has specified that access to communication and information technologies like the web is considered a basic human right.
Compared to other option, disabled individuals are able to access information and interact more easily using the web. Web technologies can make it easier to access audio, print and visual media. In addition to helping disabled individuals socialize, it also helps older people, people living in rural areas, developing countries to interact with other people. There are many reasons why businesses should improve their accessibility. If the design is accessible, it will improve the satisfaction and experience of the user, for different applications, using different gadgets and for users who are older. Accessibility can lead to innovation, expand the market and help in brand building. In many cases, it is legally mandatory to ensure that the website is accessible to all.
Making the Web Accessible
Several components combine together to make the web accessible like web browsers, technologies, authoring tools, websites, and user agents. W3c's Web Accessibility initiative (WAI) developed the technical guidelines, specifications, supporting resources, techniques to define solutions for accessibility. These solutions are often considered international standards, for example the ISO standard, IEC 40500 is derived from WCAG2.0.
Developing an accessible website
It is fairly easy to understand most of the aspects of accessibility and implement them. Since some solutions are more complicated, more knowledge is required for implementation. Accessibility should be incorporated while starting a project, so that the user does not have to make changes at a later date.
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