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March 26, 2019

Accessible Information Websites - Overview
Alexandra Andrews

The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

-- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

What is website accessibility?
The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability. [1]

As I wrote in Websites For All [2]
These are three general categories of web users.

1. The urban environment user.
- These users have access to fast broadband internet connections.
- They have the latest and greatest in computer equipment.
- Usually dominated by younger users under 30.

2. The profoundly disabled user.
- The disabilities of these users include blindness and compromised physical movement. They need special adaptive equipment for computer use and Internet access. [3]

3. The third and largest group.
- The rural area population.
- Those without the latest and greatest in computer technology. I see many Windows NT users in my log files.
- This group includes those with barriers such as: not eagle-eyed, elderly, cataracts, broken bones, illness, cancer, lymphedema, strokes, palsy, etc.
- Those with financial limitations.
- Those unable or unwilling to buy the latest and greatest computer equipment.
- Those with a slow internet connection.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites. [4,5] There are websites that deny access, isolate and deprive users, including those who live in rural areas, [6,7] BUT there is more than one digital divide. When creating accessible websites, consider the type of site. What happens when programmers and web designers try to write information websites using music and video special effects? When a measurable segment of the population is unable to access information for their daily needs. Lawsuits are the result.

The following ideas are an overview of my thoughts regarding how to build accessible information websites.

What is the purpose of this website?
A business website has a different goal, than an informational website. A hip-hop website is not the same as a medical website. Depending on the audience, web design and display are different.

Who is the target audience?
(A site that I helped to clean up.) Here is an example of disconnect between the programmer and the user. A blind organization web site, that no blind or visually impaired person could use. In this case, the programmer used nothing but pictures of text in tiny print. There was no alternative text (alt tag) code to read. An example of the code used - IMG ="homenav.03.gif". Can you read this? Does it make sense to you ?

What is wrong? Users cannot change the size of the browser text.
- 1. The keyboard shortcut of holding down the Ctrl(control) key and press the + to increase the font size or - to decrease the font size.
- 2. Using the mouse (or keyboard shortcut) to click on the zoom option under the browser View menu
- 3. Lack of alternate text (alt tags) Alt tags provide visible text for screen reader to read. A screen reader is a device (similar to a talking book) which enables the blind to access the text on a website.

What is the number of web pages? Will the site scale easily?
A simple website of under 10 pages is not the same as a site containing mulitple pages. My sites contain hundreds of pages. They started out small, but then they grew.

How will the site be organized?
Should the site pages be divided into directories or not? Sometimes having pages on the same directory level improves loading time. Speed counts!

Who are the users?
My websites specialize in cancer and medical issues. These users are not interested in bouncing bunny rabbits, they want information to live one more day. Sickness and death are great levelers. When facing a serious illness - religion, age, sex, economic status, race, and education become trivial considerations.

Where are the users located? What device? What browser?
Because we have a large worldwide audience of 50+ ICANN TLDs, a global approach is needed. There are many different browsers, types of devices, sizes of monitors, speed of access and so on. Always Responsive Accessible Web Page Display and Printing For Any Device This simple code creates pages adjustable and printable worldwide. [8]

Backwards Compatibility
A website attracting global visitors and medical groups must include backwards compatability in all page code. Example: A local hospital hired a team for a new website look. Yes, the design was beautiful; but the majority of patients could not use it. Why? The design team believed all users would have the latest and greatest in terms of browsers, monitors, devices, and connections. The problem - the design team *never* looked at the log files.

What is the internet connection?
How quickly will the site load? Instead of trusting an emulator, test the site using a very slow connection. I recommend going to local libraries and community centers and then trying out your site using their computers.

What about printing?
There may be a special page to print. Do users need to play, Printer, printer where is the printer, to print the form or information? Can the page be printed straight from the net or not?

Are there PDF alternates?
If you are using PDFs is there an alternate version in either text or HTML? You need the alternate version for the PDFs to meet [9,10]

Fancy code additions
What about additions such as JavaScript? If your users disable graphics, JavaScript, Flash, videos, animations, etc, how will your site look?

What about security?
How secure is your website? Have you protected it from web pirates?

The above are a few ideas on how to construct an information website. Above all follow the KISS principal. Let me again recommend testing the site using the Lynx text browser. [11] Check how your pages display. Will the page text scale up and down? Is it backwards compatible? Can it be read with any browser? [12]

Remember! The civil rights of the Internet embodies the egalitarian ideal. Ask yourself - Do I want to design websites for only the special few? With common sense creating accessible information Websites is easy.

Articles in this Series

Accessible Information Websites - Text and Fonts

Accessible Information Websites – Colors and Graphics

Links Of Interest

1. Introduction to Web Accessibility
2. Websites For All
3.Websites For The Blind
4. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
5 Website Accessibility Under Title II of the ADA
6. The Internet Crisis in Rural America
7. Why rural areas can't catch a break on speedy broadband
8. Always Responsive Accessible Web Page Display and Printing For Any Device
9. GSA Information Technology Policy
10. GSA Section
11. Lynx is the text web browser
12 Delorie Software HTML Authoring Services

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