Happy Blue Beanie Day!
Today is the 4th annual Blue Beanie Day for accessibility awareness in the web community. Get out there and wear a blue beanie to support this important cause. Write a web standards haiku on Twitter with hash tag #bbd4 for a chance to win free books from Peachpit and A Book Apart. Join the celebration in making the web a valuable resource for everyone!
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is a combination of Web development, design, and content methods that provide equal access to Web content regardless of the user’s physical or technical limitations. There is a range of disabilities that may affect a website’s audience. Some website users were born with a disability while others can develop disabilities as they age, like decreased vision or hearing, or impaired motor skills.
According to the 2000 US Census, one in five people have some type of disability. As the population ages, this number is expected to rise, and so will the idea of developing accessible websites. For example, currently about eight percent of males and .5 percent of females suffer from some kind of color deficiency. Examples of limitations include:
- Visual disabilities, such as blindness , low vision, and color blindness
- Hearing impairments
- Physical disabilities
- Speech disabilities
- Cognitive and neurological disabilities
- Dyslexia and Dyscalculia
- Attention deficit disorder
- Intellectual disabilities
- Memory impairments
- Mental health disabilities
- Multiple disabilities
- Aging-related conditions
Although Web accessibility is most often discussed in conjunction with the physically disabled, building sites with accessibility in mind also benefits people without disabilities. Other groups include:
- Older people with diminishing capabilities
- People with lower-than-average literacy
- Individuals with technical disabilities, such as an older computer or a slow Internet connection
- Users who in general are not familiar with the Internet or interacting with websites.
Benefits of web accessibility
Having a site that is accessible for visually, hearing, or otherwise impaired visitors is not only a moral obligation, but it also increases your audience resulting in more sales and customers. In some instances, it is even required by law that your website be Section 508 compliant.
Be an EOE
Most organizations intend to be supportive of people with disabilities, but this support is often neglected online. True equal opportunity means that all channels of interaction with patients, employees, and the community are available to those with disabilities. Equal opportunity relates to employees as well. The administrative components of the website or Intranet should be usable by those with disabilities.
More access means more users
It is important to recognize that this relates to more than disabled users. Web accessibility makes your site easier to use for many other populations, including elderly users, those with older computers and visitors with low-bandwidth connections.
Many of the technical tools used to achieve Web accessibility such as CSS and div-based layouts are also helpful in achieving interoperability with different browsers and platforms.
An accessible site streamlines management and reduces costs
The techniques used for Web accessibility create efficient sites that download faster and are easier to maintain. By separating site content from design, pages are smaller and a consistent look and feel is enforced. Smaller pages reduce the bandwidth needs and server load, lowering overall costs.
Web accessibility helps with SEO
Web accessibility makes sites easier to read by software such as screen readers. Search engine spiders function similarly to a screen reader in many ways, making accessible websites search engine friendly as well.
Resources for more information
The Web is often thought of as a visual medium, but individuals with visual impairments can be active Web users too. Fortunately, tools such as screen readers, screen magnifiers and special browsers can act as a bridge from the visual, point-and-click world of the Web to an experience that is available to users with special needs. For assistance technologies to work effectively, your website must be correctly coded.