Visually challenged users and need for a universally accessible web site PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 July 2010 14:57
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The idea behind universally accessible web site

Universally accessible web site sounds a little idealistic or unrealistic, and it may strike your mind whether it is really possible. Well, your concern that making a web site accessible to all people across the globe is hard to achieve is perfectly true. Probably, you have taken the notion of universally accessible web site in its extreme perspective.

Universally accessible web site does not mean a web site absolutely accessible to one and all spread over the world. Basically, universally accessible website means designing such a web site which is not only accessible to average Internet users, but also to people with limitations and disabilities. It is held that if the web site will be increasingly made accessible to people with limitations and disabilities, the web site will be on its way to become a universally accessible web site eventually.

Therefore, universally accessible web site can not be thought of in absolute terms but rather be taken as a web site which is more accessible for diverse users as against average web sites thronging the web. They are the web sites which came a bit closer toward the utopian concept of universally accessible web site.

Universally accessible web site and target audience

There are two target audiences for which your web site can be made more accessible: people with limitations, and people with disabilities. People with limitations essentially means those people who are either on the lower end of technology like using small sized screen, older browsers, operating systems, low resolutions etc., or can not use the web site fully due to non-technical reasons like language, situations or others.

People with disabilities mean those people who are visually or otherwise handicapped. This article especially dwells upon needs of visually disabled people and corresponding changes in web design in order to get them as traffic to your web site which might add to your business prospects.

As it is mentioned in the beginning of this article that making web sites work for visually impaired users is not all about incorporating a couple of features in it. More importantly, it is about doing some revamp in the intrinsic web design so that such a design helps in supporting the features especially meant for visually handicapped users.

Visually impaired users and missed business opportunities

Statistics shows that there is a considerably large number of people who happens to be visually challenged. So, it is quite obvious that they do not have an easy access to such web sites as are not designed keeping their special needs into consideration. Nonetheless, they are the people who often use web sites for making their purchases, getting information or very much in the way as normal people do.

Those who are really serious to expand their businesses on the web, and wish to tap visually impaired people as target customers can do it provided they incorporate certain features in their web site which such users earnestly look forward to, and are comfortable with. However, bear it in your mind that making your web site compatible with such people is not only about addition of a few special features but all the intrinsic features in your web site should invariably support them.

Identifying visually disabled audiences and browsing alternatives

Before you go into designing a web site or modifying your existing web site so that it turn out to be accessible and at the same time enjoyable by visually disabled audiences, let’s have a look as to what sort of people constitutes visually disabled population:

  • A visually disabled may be a person who is completely or
    partially blind.
  • A visually disabled may be person who cannot read or understand
    the content of your web site due to medical reasons like dyslexia.
  • A person who is color blind also comes under the category of
    visually disabled.
  • A visually disabled may be a person who has a vision of 20/20.
  • A visually disabled may be a person who is not able to read small
    font sizes due to vision defects.

The varieties of visual disability are apparent now. It is quite understandable that web designers should see the bigger picture of disability, and devise technical alternatives that suit most of them, if not all.

Here is a brief exposition on the technological feasibilities that seek to serve the visually disabled on the web.

Browsing alternatives for the visually challenged

In a bid to assist visually handicapped people to have a comfortable browsing experience, several browsers have been developed which are characterized by features like optical character recognition, screen magnifier, screen readers, voice recognition, speech synthesizers, etc.

Here is a few of them.

  • BrailleSurf is an especially designed browser for the visually challenged that simplifies reading of the information on the net. With the help of this browser, information is presented on a Braille bar, or it can be delivered by a speech synthesizer. For the partially sighted users information can also be displayed on the monitor to help them read the same.
  • BrookesTalk is a development by Oxford Brookes University which is based on function key and provides keyboard only accessibility. This is useful for blind and partially sighted users alike. It offers a large text window which is configurable to suit the need of partially sighted users. Here in this method, prompt views of web pages are flashed using information retrieval and language processing techniques.
  • ALVA Braille is yet another browsing alternative which provides screen readers as well as Braille output. Alva Braille backs up navigation on the screen in combination with speech and Braille display.

 



Last Updated ( Friday, 26 November 2010 09:55 )
 

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