The Americans with Disabilities Act, more commonly known as the ADA, has protected disabled citizens since 1990. The main focus here is to prohibit the discrimination of those with disabilities and allow them to enjoy the same right and privileges as the non-disabled. This means “goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.”
The application of this act must adapt to new aspects of society and technological innovation. There are elements of goods and services that have dramatically altered since 1990. The most significant of these, without any doubt, is the use of internet and the momentous growth of online services.
The internet and mobile technology are both influential providers of goods, services, privileges, and advantages.
The internet is a major source of goods through online shopping. The internet provides us with information on anything we may wish to know, from social media and news to general guides and information on health and well-beings. This offer privileges and advantages to those that cannot, or wish not to attend physical stores and services.
At its core, the internet and mobile tech should be able to provide disabled users with great privilege and advantages. There should be schemes and access points to information, products, and services that may be difficult to obtain elsewhere.
However, web accessibility often limits these services, and disabled people struggle to access the web and its sites in the same manner as the non-disabled. These disadvantages class as discrimination.
Disabled people should not feel shut out and forgotten while others enjoy new opportunities and conveniences. It is, therefore, the responsibility of all website owners and app developers to do all they can to ensure that the disabled have the same level of access, and same experience and results, as the able-bodied. This is why many web developers turn to the WCAG guidelines for improvement. A strong, universal set of principles can help developers create the best content in a manner that all users can appreciate.
A global service with key guidelines ensures that all disabled users get the best possible experience through accessible websites.
Web developers out to create the very best in accessible websites need to turn to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. These broad and detailed guidelines address a range of issues and suggestions for improving sites for disabled access. They talk about the importance of catering for those with visual impairment, hearing impairment, cognitive and neurological issues, learning disabilities, limited movement, photosensitivity and more.
The problem is that these guidelines currently date from 2008, so users need to use discretion and common sense. The good news is that most factors still relate to the experience of disabled users.
These Web Accessibility Guidelines Work Under A Series Of Four Key Principles
1) The information and site must be perceivable. Therefore, all information has to be “presentable to users in ways they can perceive.” This improves clarity and readability.
2) The site must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the user interface components and navigation tools in an accessible manner. This improves physical access.
3) The site must be understandable. Similarly, both the content of the information and the operation of user interface must appear in a way that is easy for all users to understand. This improves comprehension.
4) The site must be robust. This essentially means that the site must be able to hold up to adaptations and integration with another tech, such as assistive technologies for the blind and deaf. This improves web accessibility for those with greater needs.
The First Group To Look At Here Are The Blind And Visually Impaired
Many citizens require help with their sight, either through severe loss, legal blindness or complete absence of sight. The online world may appear to be completely out of reach for some of this individual. The online world is predominantly visual, with visual multimedia content like text and video. Those with a clear sight that close their eyes wouldn’t know where to begin.
Unsurprisingly, there is a strong focus on this demographic within current approaches and guidelines. This means that there is a strong determination to work towards improved compatibility with technology such as screen readers like Jaws, NVDA, iOSx Voiceover Window.
There is also a focus on compatibility with screen magnifiers like Zoom text and Magic and speech recognition compatibility with Dragon Naturally Speaking. This is where that idea of a “robust” and “operable” site comes into play.
Important (WCAG) 2.0 Web Accessibility Guidelines For The Visually Impaired
1) The need for a tool for resizing text. This is an important step for improved readability for many conditions, especially visual impairments. The guideline states that “Except for captions and images of text” users must be able to resize text “without assistive technology, up to 200 percent, without loss of content or functionality”.
2) Developers also need to look at text alternatives. It is advisable that there should be clear alternatives for “any non-text content” to improve the readability of the site. Key suggestions here include large print, braille, speech software and other symbols.
The Deaf And Hearing Impaired
The majority of sites may be incredibly visual. Still, that doesn’t mean that the deaf and hearing impaired always have an easy time with navigating sites or using apps. The sound is an important part of the experience of many sights.
Mobile games use sound as triggers, social media sites, and news sites would struggle to function without audio files and video to engage their readers. Those with difficult hearing can struggle to follow this content at the right volume or their own pace. Deaf users simply want to know what the video said, and may feel left out without captions or other explanations.
Important (WCAG) 2.0 Web Accessibility Guidelines For The Deaf And Hearing Impaired
1) Improve all timed content. Timed content must be adjustable to give users the time to watch/listen to the information. The user must have the option to “turn off the time limit before encountering it…or adjust the time limit before encountering it”.
2) Content must be distinguishable. This is important for some impairments. Developers must make it easier for users to distinguish content separating foreground from background. The audio file on a page that plays automatically for more than 3 seconds requires a clear button to pause or stop the audio, or an in independent volume control from the overall system. The visual presentation of text requires a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.
People With Neurological Issues
There are too many individuals in society that focus on the physical disabilities, such as mobility and physical impairment. They fail to acknowledge those with “invisible illness”, such as cognitive and neurological impairments. There are many people with a range of neurological illnesses and brain damage of some degree that need a little help.
Seemingly ordinary, understandable content can be difficult to understand. Sites with a mass of content, such as text, videos, sounds, and adverts can be overwhelming. It is important that these individuals have greater access to a site. This means greater comprehension, readability and fewer triggers for neurological or psychological issues.
Important (WCAG) 2.0 Web Accessibility Guidelines That Relate To Anyone With Neurological And Cognitive Issues
1) Minimizing the seizure risk: “Three Flashes or Below Threshold.” Here developers must ensure that their web pages don’t have content that “flashes more than three times in any one second period” to avoid triggering conditions.
2) Keyboard functionality. Here all content is operable solely via the use of a keyboard with no “specific timings for individual keystrokes.” This helps the user with hand-eye coordination and other neurological impairments.
3) Ensuring that the websites are adaptable. This means that content is presentable in different ways, for ease of understanding and recognition, “without losing information or structure.” This adaptability applies to some disabilities.
People With Learning Disabilities
Then there are those that have learning difficulties and may struggle to use the internet in the same way as the able-minded. Developmental disorders and other learning impairments have a noticeable impact on a user’s ability to access a site and understand the information presented.
Complex sites with a lack of readability, navigability, and simplicity may not be of use to these users. There has to be a solution where these individuals can use a site on their own, without relying on any help. They need this level of independence and the confidence to connect with friends, watch videos and read the news all by themselves.
Important (WCAG) 2.0 Web Accessibility Guidelines For People With These Disabilities
1) The site must be predictable. All web pages must “appear and operate in predictable ways.” This helps to avoid confusion for those that used to a certain process.
2) The site must be navigable. This means that developers need to provide ways for users to navigate, find content, and determine where they are. This includes page titles, link purposes, and headings.
3) Developers must consider the readability through the language of the page. There must be the chance to chance the language of the text. This means a tool for “identifying specific definitions of words or phrases used in an unusual or restricted way.” This provides the same content in a manner that is understandable for those with lower language and comprehension skills.
There are currently no formal regulations on the creation and accessibility of websites and the ADA.
It is important to remember that the guidelines and advice set out above are just that, despite the detail and professionalism of their creation. These guidelines are essential for those struggling to create the best accessible websites, but the US can do more. The Department of Justice should submit these regulations in 2018.
It is interesting to see the number of websites and developers keen to work with the ADA, even though there is no official guideline or punishment in place. There is the clear sense that many developers see the need to help these disabled users. This is perhaps out of a kind-hearted need to help or out of a need to maintain their visitor numbers and profits. After all, all website users bring in revenue, regardless of ability.
Testing Your Service Yourself
There may be a lack of regulation and strict procedure with web accessibility. It is still important to test the site out as best you can before it goes out to the public. After all, you want to make sure that the site operates not just in navigable, clear manner for all users, but that it works at all.
There are some automated tools available that will highlight some of the worst errors, when manual checks may not be so reliable. They will add a red flag to the worst offenses. However, they may locate just 20% to 30% of the problems on a website or app. Some smaller, but no less offensive issues, may slip through.
Finding An Accessibility Specialist And Testing It Out On The Disabled
There are two approaches here for all those that work to improve their site. The site really cannot go live without both. A human tester offers a response to the experience that these automated devices cannot.
Many developers will turn to an accessibility specialist that understands the needs and guidelines for the best advice. However, this is “by the book” style feedback under regular guidelines, where sites need to tick the right boxes. It pays to test any service or site with disabled people as well. This is especially true for those with learning problems and those with assistive technologies. Real users that will appreciate the service, and are in need of it, could provide the best responses.
Web Accessibility Is About More Than Just The Right Links And A Clear Text
In the end, there is a lot to think about when creating the very best accessible websites and online experience for disabled users. Developers can’t always think like a blind or mentally impaired user. Therefore, these web accessibility guidelines are a great starting point.
This consideration for all the different principles of accessibility, the potential issues on a site and the simple tools that can help, all combine to aid disabled users. A stronger set of regulations across the board will ensure that no disabled user remains left behind. They cannot face discrimination in this increasingly online world.