In web design, accessibility means making a site accessible to all. Sounds pretty obvious and simple, doesn’t it? You make a site, put it up on the web and everyone can read it. Can’t they?
Well, no, it’s not quite that simple. Most people automatically assume that building a website is simply a matter of graphic design, pretty much the same as painting a picture and sticking it up in a gallery; you put the text and graphics together on a webpage, and that’s it.
But that isn’t it. Putting a website together is far more like architecture, in that you have to think about the people who are going to use it. For instance, not everyone has good eyesight (or any sight at all), or can use a mouse; not everyone has the latest browser or the latest whizzy hardware, or a super-fast internet connection. To extend the painting analogy: making a website is like an artist, instead of putting their picture up on a gallery wall, standing in the gallery handing out sheets of detailed instructions telling people how to make the artwork at home using whatever paints and canvases they have. (Yes, I know – sounds like a conceptual art idea; so I’ll slap my copyright on it right now!)
Making a site accessible isn’t terribly complicated, though you need good web design skills. there are plenty of accessibility guides on the net: Accessiblenet.org, Accessify.com and the RNIB Web Access Centre are all good places to start.
So why should you make websites accessible? Well, if you had a shop or a gallery, would you deliberately make it impossible for disable people to get in? That wouldn’t be very good for your business, would it?
In any case, why not treat disabled people with respect and dignity? You might think that one is a no-brainer, but there are people out there who think otherwise, at least when it comes to making accessible websites. More than once, I’ve read comments like “I don’t want blind people on my site!” or even “Blind people don’t go on the internet – how can they read the screen?” Shocking and ignorant, yes, even more shocking is the fact that quite a lot of web designers actuall think this way.
In the US at the moment, Target, one of their biggest supermarkets is being sued because it has so far refused to make its website accessible; some of the comments on various webdesign forums illustrate how far disable people still have to go in terms of being treated with respect. For instance, here’s a random selction of posts from the thread discussing this case at Sitepoint:
Whats ignorant is thinking disabled people are normal. They are not normal. Stop drinking the PC happy juice. The idea that everyone, regardless of their personal condition, has a â€œrightâ€? to the exact same life is one of the most ridiculous notions of the modern era. Here in the US we spend 10x more per year to send one disabled kid to a normal highschool than we spend on the smartest kid in that highschool. Then we wonder why our kids arenâ€™t as smart as those from other countries. Chances are the disabled kid probably doesnâ€™t even know the difference, its only so his parents can feel their kid is normal
The internet is not a birthright, neither is the phone, neither is buying an electric blanket at Target and it has nothing to do with lack of empathy. Blind people canâ€™t drive cars either â€¦ shall we sue the auto makers that they arenâ€™t making automobiles accessible?
There are some things in this world that handicapped people just can’t do. And those of us who are not handicapped shouldn’t try to sugarcoat it for them.
Its not the sites fault people have bad eye sight, if you have bad eye sight you should expect it… its no ones fault and if the site owner wants his site for normal people then thats fair.
If they where blind then why would they be on the computer?
And these people are all professional web designers (or claiming to be such)! Yikes! How many years ago was it that Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the following?
The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
Some people have obviously never heard of it.