…we need to design websites with these people on our mind too. Some ways we can make websites accessible to ALL users are described in the following paragraphs.
Visual impairment users are having reduced vision that limits their capability to read text or view images clearly. As a result they need the assistance of several tools as Screen enlargers, Screen readers or Speech recognition tools to manage to obtain information from a website.
Screen enlargers (or usually known as “screen magnifiers”) work like a magnifying glass. They enlarge a portion of the screen as the user moves the focus-increasing legibility for some users. Some screen enlargers allow a user to zoom in and out on a particular area of the screen. A well-known screen magnifier is called “Lighting”
Screen readers are software programs that present graphics and text as speech. A screen reader is used to verbalize, everything on the screen including names and descriptions of control buttons, menus, text, and punctuation. The most widely used screen reader is called “JAWS“. For further reading on how a screen reader works you can visit this website.
Speech recognition systems, also called voice recognition programs, allow people to give commands and enter data using their voices rather than a mouse or keyboard. (source). Speech recognition systems convert spoken words to machine-readable input. A frequently used speech recognition system is called “Dragon Naturally Speaking”
All the tools described above can work efficiently if the website’s code complies with the accessibility standards W3C and as a result is recognisable by the various software tools.
Users with hearing impairments might be completely deaf or have hearing problems in one of their ears. Some of them have as a first language the sign language and they may or may not read a written language fluently, or speak clearly. To use the Web, many people who are deaf rely on captions for audio content. They may need to turn on the captions on an audio file as they browse a page; concentrate harder to read what is on a page; or rely on supplemental images to highlight context. (source)
Barriers that people who are deaf may come across on the Web can include:
· Lack of captions or transcripts of audio on the Web, including webcasts
· Lack of content-related images in pages full of text, which can slow comprehension for people whose first language may be a sign language instead of a written/spoken language
· Lack of clear and simple language
Users with color blindness are unable to perceive differences between some of the colors that others can distinguish. Most common is red-green color blindness. The W3C explicitly recommends: “Ensure that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or mark up.” To do this, you simply practice good web design: communicating via other means such as mark up, styles, and iconography.
What we should have in mind:
· Make sure that graphic design avoids using color coding or color contrasts alone to express information
· The use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) allows pages to be given an alternative color scheme for color-blind readers. This color scheme generator helps graphic designer see color schemes as seen by eight types of color blindness.
· Designers should take into account that color-blindness is highly sensitive to differences in material. For example, a red-green colorblind person who is incapable of distinguishing colors on a map printed on paper may have no such difficulty when viewing the map on a computer screen or television. In addition, some color blind people find it easier to distinguish problem colors on artificial materials, such as plastic or in acrylic paints, than on natural materials, such as paper or wood.
· For some color blind people, color can only be distinguished if there is a sufficient “mass” of color: thin lines might appear black while a thicker line of the same color can be perceived as having color.
Individuals with visual and auditory perceptual disabilities (learning difficulties) such as dyslexia may have difficulty processing spoken language when heard (“auditory perceptual disabilities”). They may also have difficulty with spatial orientation. To use the Web, people with visual and auditory perceptual disabilities may rely on getting information through several modalities at the same time. For instance, someone who has difficulty reading may use a screen reader plus synthesized speech to facilitate comprehension, while someone with an auditory processing disability may use captions to help understand an audio track. (source)
People with cognitive or learning difficulties such as dyslexia, literacy or other text processing disorders may have problems reading text or become confused by complex page layouts or navigation designs. Moving and/or blinking content can be distracting and impede comprehension.
1. Text size – the minimum recommended font size for users with dyslexia is 12pt. Printed material should always be made available at this size.
2. Text scaling – on a website you may wish to use a default size smaller than 12pt. If so, use a font size which scales easily, such as percent (%). This way users with dyslexia can adjust their own settings to increase the font size. Note that if you start with a base font size of around 80% (used by a lot of websites), Internet Explorer will allow a font size increase to over 12pt at the largest setting, but at 70%, a user with Internet Explorer will not be able to reach a font size of 12pt.
3. Font style – use a rounded font that is easy on the eye. Use a sans-serif style font (i.e. without curly bits). Commonly used fonts for this purpose are Arial, Comic Sans, Verdana, Helvetica, Tahoma and Trebuchet. It is important to note that not every dyslexic user dislikes serif fonts: many have no problem with them provided the line spacing is sufficient.
4. Background – an off-white background can be easier to read from a “shiny” white background. Text is also harder to read on a patterned or tiled background.
5. Spacing – use line spacing between paragraphs to break up text.
6. Justification – don’t right justify text. This leads to variable spacing between words and can create visual patterns of white space which are difficult to ignore and are extremely difficult to read.
7. Italics – avoid them if possible. They make text more difficult to read.
8. Paragraphs – keep them short.
9.Use lists to bullet point items rather than presenting continuous prose. Number menu items where appropriate.
10. Writing style – use short words where possible, and write in simple sentences. Refer to the reader as “you”.
11. Navigation – ensure your navigation is simple and stays the same across the site. It is helpful to include a site map (A site map will allow users to gain an overall feel for the layout, whilst also allowing direct access to any page on the website. If possible, include images or icons to visually sign post the different areas) and a search facility.
12. Animation – Ensure animation can be paused or switched off. Animation can be a distraction and seriously compromise the ability of people with learning disabilities to read content on a page. If you provide moving content ensure there is a way to disable the movement. Alternatively allow it to loop for a few seconds and then stop automatically.
13. Columns – Dyslexic people find that the further text is presented from one side of the screen to the other, the more difficult it becomes to read. Ideally a column should be no more than 70-80 characters wide.
14. Images & Icons – where a picture will aid comprehension, use one.
15. Document structure – as a general rule, the more structured your document is, the easier it will be to understand. Use headings, bulleted lists, numbered lists and indented quotes where appropriate.
I would be interested to hear other ways you have used to make websites more accessible to users.