Section 1 - Introduction to accessibility


The basics of web accessibility

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As more businesses and organizations recognize the importance of web accessibility, the demand for basic accessibility knowledge grows.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is a way of designing websites, tools, and technologies so that everyone, including people with disabilities, can use them as easily as possible. There are several different types of disabilities with a range of different needs to consider when building or enhancing a website’s accessibility:

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Blindness and low vision

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Deafness and hearing loss

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Limited movement

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Speech disabilities

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Neurological limitations

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Cognitive limitations

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Temporary disabilities

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Situational impairments

It is worth noting that while sight and hearing disabilities are talked about most when it comes to web accessibility, people with cognitive disabilities represent the largest number of internet users with disabilities, according to the National Center on Disability and Access to Education. Because these types of disabilities contain a wide range of nuanced conditions and an even wider range of severity, it is difficult to present a comprehensive set of accessibility standards. From a web development perspective, it is better to think about cognitive disorders from a purely functional standpoint and focus on removing barriers to improve the user experience.

What is assistive technology?

When optimizing your website for users with disabilities, it is important to understand what kind of issues they may encounter depending on the type of assistive technology they use. When talking about assistive devices that aid visitors with disabilities, the first device that comes to people’s mind is a screen reader. A screen reader is a software application that reads pages aloud to people with blindness, low vision, or severe dyslexia. While screen readers are a vital assistive device, they are by no means the only one.

Assistive technologies that support a wide range of disabilities include:

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Screen readers

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Zoom magnification

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Dragon Voice command software

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Built-in Windows and Mac accessibility features

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Color contrast analyzers

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Toolbars / extensions / plugins

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Mobile devices

Assistive hardware that supports a wide range of disabilities includes:

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Keyboard

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Switch controls

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Pointing wands

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Sip and puff switches

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Braille translators

Which accessibility standards do I need to comply with?

Depending on where you are located, there may be various sets of accessibility standards you need to follow. Fortunately, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a comprehensive list called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). They have been widely adopted around the world and are the base set of guidelines for most national standards. Here are a few examples of location-specific standards: