Designing Sites For The Disabled

First Published:
Date Published: 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Kevin Savetz

Persons who are blind, deaf, or have other disabilities use the Web for business and pleasure along with everyone else.

With a little care, webmasters can assure that disabled computer users can effectively utilize any website.

Building sites that work effectively with multiple browsers is a chore that Web designers have come to accept. Designing sites that everyone can access also means keeping disabled users in mind.

For instance, blind users may use screen readers (tech-to-speech technology) or Braille displays. Do you know if your graphics-rich site is usable on these systems?

What about your site's archive of QuickTime movies? Can hearing-impaired users access the dialog? Perhaps your site's color scheme makes it impossible for color-blind people to read the text.

A variety of documents and software are available to help Web designers address these issues.

What are the most important things busy webmasters can do to make their sites more accessible to disabled people? Geoff Freed, Project Manager of the Web Access Project at the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media, offered these four suggestions:

Freed recommends Webmasters read the Web Accessibility Initiative's "quick tips" card, which spells out the 10 most important things to remember when designing sites.

The W3C's Content Accessibility Guidelines explain in more detail how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the document suggests developers ensure that text and graphics are understandable when viewed without color, and use markup that facilitates pronunciation or interpretation of foreign text.

The W3C also provides Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines. Its purpose is to assist developers in designing authoring tools that produce accessible Web content.

"Turn off the images and scripting in your browser and see whether or not the pages are still usable and all information is still presented," suggested Gregg C. Vanderheiden, co-editor of the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. "If your page works for all the different mobile technologies, you'll generally find it's very accessible." More from Webtools

Articles by Kevin Savetz