The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requires you to make reasonable efforts to ensure your services are accessible to people with disabilities. THIS INCLUDES YOUR WEBSITE! With a little bit of planning an entirely satisfactory situation can be achieved, with minimum fuss, effort or cost.
Web pages utilise a scripting language, to present text, images, layout, links etc. This script is used by your browser program to re-generate the page on your computer screen in the same manner it was built by the web designer. However, you might be surprised to learn that different browser programs handle HTML scripts in different ways! AND if browsers don’t get it right, how can automated reading programs hope to cope?
For many years there has been a movement to enforce standards on HTML scripts and how browsers handle them. The World Wide Web Consortium has been active here. As a minimum, check that you web pages comply with the W3C standards (click the W3C link at the bottom of this page). If it doesn’t then get your developer to put it right … no excuses!
Alternative text (alt) appears when you position your mouse pointer over a picture on a web page. Programs are available for people with sight disabilities that will read information out aloud from computer screens. Text displayed on the screen can be automatically read and either spoken by a speech synthesizer or reproduced in Braille. These programs rely on the “alt text” to convey to the user, what is “visible” on the screen in terms of pictures. The use of alt text on all images is one of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Priority 1 checkpoints and is required for Bobby - the online quality and accessibility tool status.
THE ALT TEXT SHOULD BE:
•A description of photographs, figures and pictures. This should be brief and not exceed more than 20 words
•An exact wording or summary of text images
•An asterisk or empty quotation marks on images that have no content value such as dots and dashed lines
A screen-reader is able to use the HTML tags on a web page to work out the structure of the page and therefore it is necessary to always correctly label head¬ers, paragraphs, data tables, etc. Images can also be used as headers and labelled with header tags so that they are read as such. Additionally you can specify your own styles for tags in your Cascading Style Sheet (CSS).
USE OF COLOUR
Use colours liberally to distinguish between sections, types of content, text and background and to mark links already visited. However, it is important to remember that part of your audience is colour-blind and you should not rely solely on colour.
Small font sizes are perfectly acceptable as long you make bigger alternatives availa¬ble. Browsers have font size controls and using relative font sizes permits the user to adjust to their own comfort. Non-standard fonts should be avoided.
NAVIGATION ‘MORE’ LINKS
A “more >>” link at the end of an item is unhelpful when read by a screen-reader; it gives no indication where the link takes the user and symbols such as >> have no meaning. It is much better to word the link ‘more information’ plus the title or name.
THE “TITLE” ATTRIBUTE
Additional information about a text link can be provided through the ‘title’ attribute case where it is not clear where a link will take you. The text appears, as alt text does, when you place your mouse pointer over the link.
SKIP TO CONTENT
Users’ eyes will skip straight to the content when browsing, turning to the navigation when they want to move to a new page. Generally page navigation is laid out at the top and/or on the left with the result that a screen-reader would read all the navigation items before reaching the content. To assist this, an anchor can be positioned at the start of the content and an image at the beginning of the page linked to this place. The alt text should be something like ‘skip to content’ so that users know to follow the link.
LIMITED MOUSE CONTROL
There has been a concentration so far on users with sight disabilities, but also try and consider someone who has limited control of the mouse. To assist these users, you can ensure that the clickable area of any image or text link is large enough that it can easily be located.