31 October 2008, by A. Cedilla
Part 1 of 2
The Americans With Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to protect persons with disabilities from being discriminated against. Designed to help guarantee equal opportunities for people with disabilities in any public area, this act covers regulations in areas of transportation, telecommunications, and state and local government services, to start.
Now, one of the really wonderful things that the Internet today has given us is the gateway it opens to new worlds for people who otherwise would have difficulty moving around in the regular world because of their disability.
Due to the very nature of the manufacturing process, for example, Braille books are painfully expensive and hard to get for everyone who needs them. But with specialized equipment, a blind person can access the internet and a whole world beyond the one his blindness has previously limited him to. People with restricted physical mobility can use the internet to ˜see” the world.
With a little extra effort, you can also offer what you’ve got to these readers and possibly help give them a bigger, newer view of the world, if not help them improve their lives with your product or service. You may not have thought about this when you established your presence on the Internet, but wouldn’t it be great if everyone who can benefit from your offerings , even if they have a disability, can get access?
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 isn’t the definitive checklist of 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 standalone 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?
10. When using data tables, have you identified the row and column headers?
Part 2 covers the next ten things you can do to make your website accessible. For more information you can visit Dr. Jakob Nielsen‘s site, Alertbox, to learn more about usability and accessibility principles that can enhance your website.
An older site, All Things Web, has basic, classic principles that are still very much applicable today, even though most of the writing is geared to a time when 14.4 kbps was the norm. Ignoring the outdated information, this site has a great deal of relevant information that can help you design a better site. Check out their resources here
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