Is your website ‘accessible’ enough?

The implementation of Section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in October 1999, and further legislation within the DDA in October 2004, means that there is actually a legal obligation for you make your website ‘accessible’ to blind and partially sighted users.

Why bring in this legislation?

For example, there are approximately 2 million people in the UK with a sight problem. 1 million of the 2 million people in the UK with a sight problem could be registered as blind or partially sighted.

Many different technologies are now used to access the web, e.g. computers, mobile phones, palmtop devices and WebTV, different browsers.

Blind and visually impaired people have to read web pages in special ways including software programmes that read web page content through a speaker, or Braille software that translates web pages into Braille so they can be read by touch.

Different eye conditions require web pages to be altered in some way at the point of use, to cater for the individual user, e.g. larger or smaller text, more contrasting colour schemes, or even yellow text on a black background.

So, how can you meet your obligations and make your website accessible?

Unfortunately, the DDA don’t seem to describe in detail how accessibility can be achieved to meet the legal obligation. The American World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines of May 1999 are to date the generally accepted standard. You can check for yourself how your website matches up to these standards by going to theW3C Markup validation Service website http://validator.w3.org

It is more than likely that your website is not accessible enough. So, what changes could be made to your website to make it more accessible?

1. Allow the user to choose how they want to receive the page content, e.g. a link to a text version, version with text graphics, or a version with other media.

2. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content e.g. provide a text version of content.

3. Provide a textual alternative to images and graphics e.g. describe the ‘function’ of the image/photo in text and/or write a description of an image/photo into the ‘alternative text’ (this text usually displays in a box when you pass your mouse over an image).

4. Do not rely on colour alone to convey information on your website.

5. Use clear, simple language with good grammar.

6. Provide context and orientation information

7. Provide clear navigation systems and, e.g. a site map.

8. Avoid blinking or scrolling text.

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