Web Site Accessibility for the Impaired

For this blog post, ponder how your blog content is digested by readers who cannot see or hear. Create a post that incorporates text, image(s), and video(s). This content can be your own or cited works from others (used by permission, or from the Creative Commons). What will you need to do as blog content creators for supporting all audiences?  What are the best practices for those who have sight and/or hearing and/or physical issues?  What tools are used by the blind or deaf, or those who cannot easily control conventional keyboards and mice, or touch screen interfaces?

 

I have a great respect for those how cannot see or hear, and definitely a greater respect for those who can’t do both.  Anyone who has a disability has my utmost respect that I still think needs more improvement.  My mother just retired as Speech Therapist at New York School for the Deaf.  I was always amazed at what they had to accomplish with their impairment.  With this day and age of advancement for the impaired I have to say that they have more than the days of Hellen Keller’s days.  But, aside from that she was still an amazing individual who conquered her impairments.  Judging by the disabilities these days; we have come a long way, but with the ever-changing tactics for web accessibility, we still have a long way to go.

 

Considering the Disability Types:

Important

The major categories of disability types are:

eyeVisual

Blindness, low vision, color-blindness

earHearing

Deafness and hard-of-hearing

motorMotor

Inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control

brainCognitive

Learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information

I reviewed the video’s on Web Site Accessibility and I’m quite surprised that even with legalities backing it one would think we have progressed even further.

We do have the caption ability for certain things, but not all for the hearing impaired.  We have a way for the blind to get the information they need but at a cost.  For those with mobility issues, we have aides to help, but they aren’t always conducive to the web site’s mobility.  Then there is cognitive which is as perfect and can be costly to help.

Of course, it is still a work in progress and working the guidelines of the law, but it still isn’t as it should be to help those with disabilities.

I will dig deeper in something I know.  I’ve always been intrigued by the blind especially all that entails with them having it user-friendly as well as up to code.  I think considering Information Design being a visual based criteria would make this much harder for a blind individual.  They can’t see what a picture is, but can feel the words and hear the words.  But this is costly to them, and I think this is the biggest setback to those who are in the lower bracket of income.  It is still very similar to the past when the blind had to depend on someone else to get the information.  I think, for those that can afford the cost and get the help needed they have better access, but not much.  It has improved, but in order to do that websites would need to comply by disability standards.  And, I’m not quite sure all do have these features.

By doing this, they can implement:

Awareness. The foundation of any kind of commitment to web accessibility is awareness of the issues. Most web developers are not opposed to the concept of making the internet accessible to people with disabilities. Most accessibility errors on websites are the result of lack of awareness, rather than malice or apathy.

Leadership. Understanding the issues is an important first step, but it does not solve the problem, especially in large organizations. If the leadership of an organization does not express commitment to web accessibility, chances are low that the organization’s web content will be accessible. Oftentimes, a handful of developers make their own content accessible while the majority don’t bother to, since it is not expected of them.

Policies and Procedures. Even when leaders express their commitment to an idea, if the idea is not backed up by policy, the idea tends to get lost among the day-to-day routines. The best approach for a large organization is to create an internal policy that outlines specific standards, procedures, and methods for monitoring compliance.

 

Through training and technical support, there are ways to integrate web accessibility for those impaired.

Laws and standards

If you live in the United States, applicable laws include The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sections 504 and Section 508). Many international laws also address accessibility.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide an international set of guidelines. They are developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), the governing body of the web. These guidelines are the basis of most web accessibility law in the world. Version 2.0 of these guidelines, published in December 2008, are based on four principles:

  • Perceivable: Available to the senses (vision and hearing primarily) either through the browser or through assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, screen enlargers, etc.)
  • Operable: Users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device.
  • Understandable: Content is clear and limits confusion and ambiguity.
  • Robust: A wide range of technologies (including old and new user agents and assistive technologies) can access the content.

These first letters of these four principles spell the word POUR. This may help you remember them.

The above I found interesting, but have to wonder exactly how this is being enacted?  I know of a few who have gone to great lengths to get assistance to help aid them and they have been denied.  Yet, there’s strict law and standards for those who are to uphold POUR, and yet, we can’t provide for those with limited resources to access to more information by using the web.  It almost looks like a no win situation, if you ask me.

With the above video, it definitely gives you an idea what it means for those with disabilities and how Information Design is limited.  I know from my mother’s career of helping those with hearing disabilities that their limited senses are (considering other impairments aren’t an issue) mostly visual.  I know this isn’t based on Information Design, but my daughter and I have a few shows we watch together.  This year it happens to be the last year for America’s Next Top Model hosted by Tyra Banks on the CW network.  A contestant is a young male model who is deaf.  In one of the episodes, they literally shot pictures in the pitch dark and he couldn’t see or hear.  He didn’t do so great and I can understand why.  He didn’t have the visual aides to help him and was directed by the feel of photographer hitting the board so he could feel vibrations.  It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen.  However, because it is a model industry they believe you should do anything.  He has one of his senses taken away and he’s supposed to automatically know what to do as a contestant?  It was atrocious in my opinion, and even, considering that it was a competition.  I think, right then, I was glad the series was finally ending.

 

I think this embedded video is a good example on what websites need for accessibility and what designers should use as a resource.  Not so much on how to do it, but what they should have to get there.

 

I think considering all the above, we have come a long way.  However, we need to look at the bigger picture and realize it isn’t just the needs of website accessibility, it’s about making everyone have the same opportunities as everyone around them: whether they are rich, poor, middle class, disabled, or not.  It’s about accessibility for all, not some.

 

Citations:

“Introduction to Web Accessibility.” WebAIM:. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2015. <http://webaim.org/intro/#implementing&gt;.

 

 

 

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Posted on December 6, 2015, in ESC, School and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Melissa,

    Great Post! I am especially appreciating your commentary on awareness, leadership and policies and procedures, including those related to law. You mentions something very important, that we as information designers need to look at the “bigger picture” as you name it, and that is the needs of others. I think this has been the most informative module of the Information Design course so far. This is because I had not before considered limited abilities in being a factor in information design. In the context of my area of interest, social justice, this is an area of awareness that I needed, but had no idea that I needed this! I am certain that I will be returning to WebAIM again, and again to improve my understanding as well as my information design projects.

    Like

  2. Hi Melissa!
    I really enjoyed reading your post. I think what stuck out to me the most was you bringing up The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), it made me wonder how many websites try to accommodate to it. Do you know if certain websites HAVE to make sure their sites fit the criteria in order to be shown on the web or not? I just wasn’t sure if the guidelines were simple a reference point or if some companies actually made it a point to follow and abide by them. Being an aspiring graphic design marketer it’s important I learn how to incorporate these things into a website if it was necessary for a certain client I had. This module is really making me look into accessibility and how to make sure all my sites are easy to access from now on!
    Nice post.
    N Mrshl

    Like

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