The following article appeared in ABILITY Magazine, Reprinted with permission.

DO-IT Creating a Level Playing Field for the World Wide Web

by Author not given

DO-IT: Creating a Level Playing Field For the World Wide Web

John, a high school student, cruises the Internet for information about potential colleges to attend. Blind since birth, he uses a text-based Web browser called Lynx. He has a screen reader and voice synthesizer on his computer so that the screen is read aloud. He encounters a Web site with a campus map and his speech synthesizer says "ISMAP." He has no way to access the information because it is in graphical form.

Samantha, an art history major at a university, finds a Web site with video clips that will be useful in developing her term paper. Unfortunately the videos are not captioned, so she cannot access the critical information she needs. She is deaf.

Duane, a salesman with a learning disability, has difficulty maneuvering through Web sites that are cluttered and use inconsistent formats.

George, who has limited use of his hands as a result of Cerebral Palsy, has little difficulty cruising the 'Net, until he encounters small buttons on the screen. His limited motor ability makes it difficult to "press" them.

The dramatic growth in availability of information on the World Wide Web, makes this a resource that a growing number of people need access to as part of their education, work and/or other life activities. With the developments in adaptive technology that make it possible for people with a variety of disabilities to access computers, the Internet has provided tremendous potential for equal and independent access to information.

Unfortunately, the multi-media features of the World Wide Web that make it attractive to many, create barriers to some. Some visitors to a Web site:

To assure that all visitors to a Web site can access its content, principles of "universal design" should be employed. Universal design means to concentrate on content rather than flashy graphics and audio, and consider the full spectrum of potential users. Documents, menu items, graphics, video clips, and other materials should be made as accessible as possible. When designing a Web site, it is important to be aware that some visitors to the site may be using adaptive technology; steps should be taken to assure that they electronic resources at the site are accessible when using that technology.

With the advent of the World Wide Web, just about anyone can be a publisher -- companies, educational institutions, recreational facilities, home users. It is, therefore, important that everyone be aware of at least the most basic design features for making World Wide Web pages accessible to everyone. For Web site developers, accessibility to the maximum number of potential customers should be a top priority.

This article introduces a few of the basic design concepts. Many of the accessibility issues and tips presented make a favorable impression for all Web users, regardless of abilities and disabilities.

World Wide Web Design Tips

When care is taken to assure that Web sites adhere to universal design principles, a larger audience of Internet users will be able to make use of the wealth of information resources on the Net.

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.
Director, DO-IT

Dan Comden
Adaptive Technology Specialist

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane