We are all used to such collocations as ‘get (free) access to the net’ or ‘have (free) access to the internet’, etc., but what about one more - ‘web accessibility’? At a first glance, you might mistakenly presuppose that it means the same as ‘internet access’, i.e. a possibility to use the global network, but wait - not so easy. It’s a more complex issue, connected not only with the web itself, but also with the human being and his or her own ability to use and benefit from the net. It is connected with such a burning problem of modern society as making the world more accessible to the physically or mentally disabled people, and at the same time caring about the rest of the people, say, those who are less well-off and cannot afford all the luxury of fast-evolving internet technologies. Web accessibility literally means making your website accessible to all people, despite their possible social, physical or mental problems.
The issue of web accessibility became pressing already at the end of the twentieth century. In view of the problems arising, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) launched the project under the title Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) that eventually resulted in stating web accessibility guidelines - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 1.0.. These have recently become golden rules of creating websites accessible to all users.
Key Ideas of Web Accessibility
In fact, the notion of web accessibility could be referred to from two perspectives - on the one hand, it deals with making the web accessible primarily to the disabled, on the other hand, it deals with both literally disabled people (physically or mentally) and those that have some ‘temporary’ or ‘social’ disabilities (like broken arm or not being able to afford the latest version of software, etc.).
We now life in the so called “digital era” when internet is one of the key information sources for practically all people of all ages and occupations. Moreover, it is a powerful communication tool that enables us to find new friends around the globe and stay in touch with people on a long distance without standing up from our cosy chairs at home. According to the most recent official statistics, up to 80% of US population use internet on a daily basis - and the number is constantly rising. At home, in the office, browsing the net on the way - it is spreading everywhere, so it is necessary now to think globally and provide people with all possible solutions to making the web fully accessible first of all from the point of few of usage conveniences. Moreover, thinking about internet benefits for the elderly and the disabled (of all kinds), one should also note that it could be one of the possibilities for such people to keep in touch with the rest of the world - internet works here as digital bridge to the unattainable destinations.
Web Accessibility in Details
The key concept of web accessibility is flexibility - designing web sites and software that could meet different user’s requirements, preferences and be applicable in different situations. Eliminating accessibility barriers and making the web equally usable for both normal and disabled people - this is what web accessibility idea is primarily engaged with. In practice, the following things should be taken into account:
- web content presented in the most accessible way possible - the first thing we do when browsing a new website is scan it. It means that the information on your website should be presented in a clear and pleasant way with the most important things appearing in bold, block letters, using different colors, etc. In addition to this, make sure that, say, the forms that need to be filled in by your prospective customers are compatible with different versions of software, search engines, etc.;
- usage of assistive technology - screen readers, alternative keyboards, switches, etc.;
- and many more depending on the purpose of your particular website.
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