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Towards defining the nature of the beast

Whilst the term ‘accessibility’ can mean different things to different people, look it up in Wikipedia and it comes up with the following really useful definition:

Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product (e.g., device, service, environment) is accessible by as many people as possible. Accessibility can be viewed as the “ability to access” the functionality, and possible benefit, of some system or entity. Accessibility is often used to focus on people with disabilities and their right of access to entities, often through use of assistive technology.

Then look up the term ‘web accessibility’ and it lists the essential factors that should be considered in making not just web resources but all digital resources and materials accessible.

Web accessibility refers to the practice of making websites (and other digital resources) usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users can have equal access to information and functionality. For example,

  • when a site is coded with semantically meaningful HTML, with textual equivalents provided for images and with links named meaningfully, this helps blind users using text-to-speech software and/or text-to-Braille hardware.
  • When text and images are large and/or enlargeable, it is easier for users with poor sight to read and understand the content.
  • When links are underlined (or otherwise differentiated) as well as coloured, this ensures that color blind users will be able to notice them.
  • When clickable links and areas are large, this helps users who cannot control a mouse with precision.
  • When pages are coded so that users can navigate by means of the keyboard alone, or a single switch access device alone, this helps users who cannot use a mouse or even a standard keyboard.
  • When videos are closed captioned or a sign language version is available, deaf and hard of hearing users can understand video.
  • When flashing effects are avoided or made optional, users prone to seizures caused by these effects are not put at risk. And
  • when content is written in plain language and illustrated with instructional diagrams and animations, users with dyslexia and learning difficulties are better able to understand the content.
  • When sites are correctly built and maintained, all of these users can be accommodated while not impacting on the usability of the site for non-disabled users.
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