Web accessibility goes the second mile

October 12, 2011 by cpehrson

“The internet is one of the best things that ever happened to people with disabilities.”

So states the web accessibility gurus at WebAIM, an initiative of the CPD.

For people with certain disabilities, such as vision and hearing impairments, or those with motor disabilities,  there are a variety of things that web designers can do to make it easier for them to have full access to the internet.  Making sure your web site is accessible is simply a click away when you use WebAIM’s web accessibility evaluation tool, WAVE.  Besides making web design changes, there are many adaptive and assistive technology products that people with these disabilities can use.

For people with cognitive disabilities, it can be a different story.

There is a very broad definition of cognitive disability that covers persons with minimal dysfunction, as well as persons with severe limitations.  Many argue that a great deal of web content cannot be made accessible to some people, no matter how hard the web developer tries.  Some content will always be too complex for certain audiences.

Having said that, there are still many things that designers can do to make their web site more accessible to people with cognitive disabilities.

Cognitive accessibility can be achieved by making the design…

  • Simple
  • Consistent
  • Clear
  • Multi-modal
  • Error-tolerant
  • Attention-focusing

In many cases, the techniques for making web content more accessible to people with cognitive disabilities are nothing more than techniques for effective communication.  Improving web accessibility for this audience will improve access for everyone.

The WebAIM web site provides a cognitive web accessibility checklist, along with more detailed information about how to implement the above design concepts.

The web offers so many opportunities to people with disabilities that are unavailable through any other medium. It offers independence and freedom. However, if a web site is not created with web accessibility in mind, it may exclude a segment of the population that stands to gain the most from the internet.

Making sure that your web site is accessible to all people involves going the second mile.  It is a good thing to do.

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