Access to information is a human right that should apply to all people, even those who are disabled. 15% of the world’s population experiences some kind of disability, making disabled people one of the biggest minority groups in the world. In a time when almost all aspects of life are being digitized, the inclusion of disabled people in website use and browsing is more important than ever.
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) describes web access as the design and development of websites, tools and technologies to accommodate the understanding, navigation, interaction and contribution for people with various disabilities. Precisely, the disabilities that affect web use in one way or another such as auditory, cognitive, physical, speech and visual.
In developed countries such as the USA, disability accessibility is mandatory in the development process of any website. Developers are expected to present an accessibility statement that details the adjustments taken on the website to make them more accessible and to demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility.
Web access involves accommodating the different ways in which disabled people interact with content on websites. This includes tools such as;
Text to Speech – which translates the written text to audio so that someone experiencing difficulty to read the screen can listen to the audio and know what is on their screen.
Captioning – This mostly applies to deaf people or people with hearing impairments. While watching videos, captions of the conversations taking place helps them follow whatever is being said in the video.
Transcripts – These are text manuscripts of any speech on the website and also describes important auditory and visual information.
Audio descriptions – These are narrations of a video which describe important visual details. In a movie, they may include a character’s outfit, his location or other visual attributes. These descriptions help visually impaired people have a detailed mental picture of the video.
Amongst the challenges that disabled people experience while trying to access various websites include;
- The website having too many ads that pop up on the screen and affect the browsing experience.
- Failure of websites to have clear landmarks that disabled people can pick out and use to navigate through the page.
- Too many images without a text or audio description to caption or offer a better understanding of the content.
- Some websites are accessible on the computer but very inaccessible when it comes to mobile versions.
- Web inaccessibility leads to disabled people having to be dependent on other people to help them navigate through the websites. Prolonging the process and making them feel like a burden.
Here is a free course you can do to make your website more accessible – “introduction to web accessibility”
Microsoft had initially developed accessibility for disabled people but a recent study shows that only 57% of its users can benefit from the assistive devices included in the software due to severe vision, hearing dexterity, speech and cognitive difficulties. This shows that website accessibility cuts across both disabled and non-disabled users, therefore making it even more important and essential.