Accessibility is not just a buzz-word - its a requirement of good web design. JeliNet works hard to meet accessibility standards - so what is accessibility?
Accessibility is about making website content available in a format suitable for the millions of users with any number of disabilities. The most widely accepted guidelines are produced by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Most people take the use of a keyboard or mouse, or the difference between blue and green for granted. The more barriers you place on your website by not considering all users, the more you decrease the size of your audience.
Accessibility - why is it a big issue now?
The short answer is legislation. It has always been an issue and professional web design should have always addressed it. However, commercial pressures within the web design industry and the increased use of multimedia along with the proliferation of social networking websites has resulted in accessibility being overlooked.
In the UK the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 lay the foundations for the right to access information on websites. Although recent amendments to the Act were widely reported, in reality the part which related to web design has been law since 1999.
How I make websites Accessible
One important step toward making a website accessible is to separate content from structure. This is achieved by the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Traditionally websites have been structured using HTML tables which mixes up the content and structure in a way screen readers in particular have problems separating.
Other simple requirements include hidden menus for screen readers to skip menus and jump to the pages content. I avoid images and flash for menus, and if I have to use them I provide alternative text only menus. I use Alt Tags on images to describe the content of the image. I avoid too much movement or flashing elements and try to keep the contrast ratios between text and backgrounds high. Where possible I avoid using colour as a primary navigation, though it's OK to use it to support clear text based navigation.
Single, Double and Triple A Checkpoints
The WAI details 3 categories that define a website's accessibility. Level 1 must be satisfied, Level 2 ought to be satisfied and Level 3 may be adhered to if possible. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (1.0) checklist is summarised and can be viewed here.
Not all JeliNet sites are fully Accessible - why?
Well spotted! Or, if you didn't then I'm being too honest. This statement is more than most web designers are willing to make. Why confess this? Click here for the reality of Accessibility and why more sites in the future will be.
The key with Accessibility is to be aware of the issues. I'm aware of these issues and is happy to discuss how I can integrate as many of the standards as possible into your site.