The Top 20 Things You Can Do to Make Your Website Accessible
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by Congress. The law was designed to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against, because of a physical or mental disability.
The act was put into place to help guarantee equal opportunity for people with disabilities in any public area – and it covers regulations for employment, transportation, state and local government services, telecommunications, etc.
But what about your Website? Have you done all you can, to assure that your Website is accessible?
Here is a checklist you can use, to determine if your Website is as accessible as it could be. (Note: These actions vary from fairly simple to complex, and this list is not meant to be considered the only options or actions you can take to make your site more accessible).
1. Have you provided a text equivalent for every non-text element on your site? Non-text elements include: images, graphical representations of text (including symbols), animations (including animated GIFs), image map areas, programmatic objects and applets, ASCII art, scripts, spacers, frames, images used for list bullets, buttons, sounds (whether automatic or by user interaction), video, audio tracks of video and stand alone audio files.
2. Have you ensured that any information conveyed with color is also available without it?
3. Are changes in the natural language of all pages on your Website and any text equivalents (such as captions) clearly identified?
4. Are all documents on your Website organized so that they can be read without style sheets?
5. Do you update all equivalents for dynamic content every time you update the dynamic content itself?
6. Have you eliminated any special effects from your Website that cause the screen to flicker?
7. Are you using clear and simple language in all content placed on your Website?
8. If you use images and image maps, are you providing redundant text links for each active region of your server-side image map?
9. If you use images and image maps, are you providing client-side image maps (instead of server-side) whenever possible?
11. If you use frames, have you titled each frame to make it easier for users to navigate your site and identify the frames?
12. When using applets and scripts, have you made sure that the pages are useable when all programmatic objects are not supported, or turned off? (If that isn’t possible, have you provided the information on an alternative accessible page?)
13. When using multimedia, have you provided an auditory description of the most important visual information on a multimedia presentation?
14. When using any time-based multimedia presentation (such as a movie or animation), have you synchronized the equivalent alternatives such as captions or auditory descriptions of the visual track to the presentation?
15. Have you made sure that the background and foreground colors on your Website have enough contrast so that when someone with a color deficit looks at it (or your Website is viewed with a black and white screen) they can still read it clearly?
16. Have you clearly identified the target of each link?
17. Have you provided a place to get information about your site, either through the use of a site map, or table of contents?
18. Have you clearly identified the primary language of your Website?
19. Have you provided information so that users can choose how they want to receive documents – by content type, language, etc.)?
20. Have you provided summaries for all the tables on your site?
Here are some simple steps you can take that don’t require much work or technical ability:
Graphs and Charts:
When working with graphs and charts, make sure you’ve provided enough information that any graphs or charts aren’t needed to understand the article, but are just supplements to it. You can also use the “alt” tag to provide information about them.
Provide alternative text anywhere that the user must click on your Website, so that if they’ve turned off the graphics, or can’t view them, they can still understand what your site is about and can navigate around it. (Note: This method still doesn’t work with all browsers, but at least you’re trying!)
When working with headers, use the “th” attribute so that users with a visual impairment can hear the table headers from their screen reader.
When using hypertext links, use text that will make sense when a screen reader reads allowed to a visually impaired user.
When writing your sales copy, use the “em” instead of the “b” tag. By using the emphasis tag, a screen reader’s tone will change, adding emphasis to what is on the screen. If you use a bold tag, the screen reader can’t recognize the change, and all of the copy will be read in the same tone.
Multimedia (Video, applets, and Plug-ins):
Try and provide alternatives when using multimedia. If you’re using streaming video for example, which has sounds or dialog, your two best options would be to either provide closed-captioning for the video or provide a text version for the dialogue. (This actually helps non-visually impaired viewers who have dial up instead of DSL, or for the times when the amateur video sound quality is poor.
When you use applets or plug-ins, look for alternative methods of presenting information such as text links, without relying on the applet or plug-in for navigating around your Webpages.
So, how do you know if your Website meets the accessibility guidelines?
You can use the Bobby Program. “Bobby” is a free Java-based program that searches through your Website to check its accessibility. Although it can’t analyze page content, it can analyze coding and the readability of your Website.
If you’re interested in finding out how accessible your Website is already considered to be, you can go to: http://webxact.watchfire.com/
WebXACT is a free online service that lets you test single pages of web content for quality, accessibility, and privacy issues.
If you’re interested in learning more about web accessibility, or you know someone who needs information or access to resources for a disability, you can get more information from the following links:
AWARE: Accessible Web Authoring Resources & Education
Bobby Version 3.2
IBM Accessibility Center
IBM: Java Accessibility
Is YOUR Website Accessible?
WAI (Website Accessibility Initiative)
Rachael Willis is the webmaster of http://www.infoproductscentral.com and the publisher of “The Genuine Truth” newsletter. “The Genuine Truth”
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