How Can We Make The Internet More Accessible For Disabled People?

How long it will be before e-Business, or Business web designers fully commit themselves to designing their websites for use by the disabled? In a report carried out by the Center for Human Computer Interaction Design, at City University, London, for the Disability Rights Commission of the UK it found that over 81% of websites fail to satisfy the basic Web Accessibility Initiative category. Only a mere 19% of websites complied with even the lowest priority checkpoints for accessibility.

These original conclusions, to begin with, were obtained by using fifty disabled people from the following different categories and stages of impairment:

  1. Blindness
  2. Partial Sight
  3. Dyslexia
  4. Profound deafness, including people who use sign language to communicate and slight hearing loss.
  5. People with physical impairment that affects their use of access to the web, such as lack of dexterity, tremors, and lack of control of hands and arms.
  6. Whether the sex of a disabled person made any significant difference to their accessibility needs.
  7. What age group of disabled persons found the most difficulty in their ability to use the web.

More automated testing used over a thousand web pages across a hundred websites. A controlled study chose a sample of six websites to focus the disabled persons needs upon.

The findings were that blind users who employ screen readers to access the web are disadvantaged by websites, whose design does not take full account of their needs. Another good cross section of disabled users also said, that site designs do not take sufficient account of their specific needs.

The recommendation is that Web developers should familiarize themselves more, with the needs of disabled people. A good way of overcoming this problem would be to involve disabled people in the setting up of guidelines for the World Wide Web, and in the design of more easily accessible websites.

However involving disabled people in the design of websites may do little to improve usability, as many of the problems experienced by handicapped people are also experienced by normal users, who find many websites confusing. With these sort of findings, how long will it be before there is legislation passed to make website owners comply and each website is issued with a kite-mark for good practice?

So what makes a better Website for the disabled?

We as website owners could make small changes, like using larger font sizes, using colors that are compatible with the disabled, maybe having audio reading on the website,and easier linking to other parts of the website. Make blocks of information more readable by breaking them up into smaller chunks.

Use software to tell the disabled person when the page changes, or when a pop up blocker appears. One possible obstacle to instigate any change, would be the expense to website owners and the cost of installing software on disabled peoples computers. Maybe software companies could develop new programs and install them into all new computers before they leave the factory.

Then there are the Browsers, surely they have a duty to disabled people around the world to change things for the better. It does not have to be all about profit. It is no good ignoring this important problem, it is not going to go away. The more legislation there is about disabled peoples rights, the more, we as responsible site owners, should begin make a difference to the lives of handicapped internet users.

If many of us, that have no disabilities, could view life through the eyes of a disabled person, the quicker these changes would be instigated. So let us all agree to make things better for disabled Web users. Just one small step at a time, is all that is required.

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