What is Web Accessibility?
People who use the web have a growing variety of characteristics. As web developers, we can not assume that all our users are accessing our content using the same web browser or operating system as we are, nor can we assume they’re using a traditional
monitor for output, or keyboard and mouse for input. Consider these user characteristics:
- Unable to see. Individuals who are blind use either audible output (products called screen readers that read web content using synthesized speech) or tactile output (a refreshable
- Has dyslexia. Individuals with learning disabilities such as dyslexia may also use audible output, along with software that highlights words or phrases as they’re read aloud using synthesized speech.
- Has low vision. Individuals with low vision may use screen magnification software that allows them to zoom into all or a portion of the visual screen. Many others with less-than-perfect eyesight may enlarge the font on websites using standard
browser functions, such as Ctrl + in Windows browsers or Command + in Mac browsers.
- Has a physical disability. Individuals with physical disabilities that affect their use of hands may be unable to use a mouse, and instead may rely exclusively on a keyboard or use assistive technologies such as speech recognition, head pointers,
mouth sticks, or eye-gaze tracking systems.
- Unable to hear. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are unable to access audio content, so video needs to be captioned and audio needs to be transcribed.
- Using a mobile device. Individuals who are accessing the web using a compact mobile device such as a phone face accessibility barriers, just like individuals with disabilities do. They’re using a small screen and may need to zoom in or
increase the font size, and they are likely to be using a touch interface rather than a mouse. Also, Apple’s iPhone and iPad do not support Adobe Flash.
- Limited bandwidth. Individuals may be on slow Internet connections if they’re located in a rural area or lack the financial resources to access high-speed Internet. These users benefit from pages that load quickly (use graphics sparingly)
and transcripts for video.
- Limited time. Very busy individuals may have too little time to watch an entire video or audio recording, but can quickly access its content if a transcript is available.
An accessible website works for all of these users, and countless others not mentioned.