1.2 Understanding web accessibility

1.2.1 Approaches to web accessibility

Information technology specialists and others typically approach the issues related to accessible websites and their content in one of two ways.

A 'plugged-in' globe indicating 'connectedness'.

The first focuses on people. Specifically, it looks at the wide range of functional abilities or limitations that individuals possess. This approach also considers how these abilities or limitations permit people to use the web and its technologies. For example, a person with a low vision may not be able to use a website if the text size is too small or if the text and background colours do not have sufficient tonal contrast. To overcome these barriers, the web developer might provide options for users to choose a larger font or change the background colour.

The second approach looks at the web technologies themselves. It concentrates on the barriers such technologies might raise for people with disabilities and what can be done to reduce or remove those obstacles. For example, a smart phone may be designed for user input through a touch screen. However, someone with poor manual dexterity or with a vision limitation may not be able to use the touch screen. To overcome these barriers, the product designer might incorporate voice recognition to allow users to access the feature of the phone using speech, rather than touch.

In reality, developers need to consider both approaches to ensure that websites are accessible to people with disabilities.

Screen-shot of a Web browser with the cursor pointing at the website address bar.

There is an excellent set of resources that explore the human and technical aspects of accessibility on the website of the World Wide Web Consortium.