Too often when we talk about accessibility issues for people with visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive disabilities we’re talking about physical infrastructure only. What about the web? There is a great post over at Bitch called The Transcontinental Disability Choir: How to make your blog accessible in five not-very-complicated steps. The five steps, in short, are:
1. Transcribe video and audio
2. Describe your pictures
3. Make your link-text something relevant
4. Don’t over-ride browser defaults for your text
5. Look at your blog/site in a different browser, at least once.
The Bitch blogger, Anna Palindrome, also suggests a web access evaluation tool called WAVE. There you can plug in the URL of your site or blog and see how accessiblit is. I plugged in the URL of a recent Utne Reader blog post and it triggered this message: Uh oh! WAVE has detected 28 accessibility errors. The Bitchpost about accessibility has 13 errors. We’ve all got some work to do.
The internet is one of the best things that ever happened to people with disabilities. You may not have thought about it that way, but all you have to do is think back to the days before the internet to see why this is so. For example, before the internet, how did blind people read newspapers? They mostly didn’t. Audiotapes or Braille printouts were expensive – a Braille version of the Sunday New York Times would be too bulky to be practical. At best, they could ask a family member or friend to read the newspaper to them. This method works, but it makes blind people dependent upon others.
…Despite the web’s great potential for people with disabilities, this potential is still largely unrealized. For example, some sites can only be navigated using a mouse, and only a very small percentage of video or multimedia content has been captioned for the Deaf. What if the internet content is only accessible by using a mouse? What do people do if they can’t use a mouse? And what if web developers use graphics instead of text? If screen readers can only read text, how would they read the graphics to people who are blind?
As soon as you start asking these types of questions, you begin to see that there are a few potential glitches in the accessibility of the internet to people with disabilities. The internet has the potential to revolutionize disability access to information, but if we’re not careful, we can place obstacles along the way that destroy that potential and which leave people with disabilities just as discouraged and dependent upon others as before.