Alternate version of the handicap sign- person in wheelchair is actively moving rather than passively sitting

Web Accessibility: Empowerment, Not Exclusion

Our topic for this week is web accessibility, which essentially means that people with disabilities can use the web. This includes people with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities- any disability that effects web access. Web accessibility is important because…

  • The web is becoming increasingly important in many aspects of our lives.
  • All people need equal access and equal opportunity, and an accessible web can help people with disabilities to actively participate in society.
  • Now that the internet is such a large part of our lives, it needs to be held to the same standards as the offline world when it comes to accessibility.
  • Rather than forcing people with disabilities to fix themselves and adapt, accessibility fixes the world and makes it more inclusive.

Reading the various articles in this week’s module taught me a lot about web accessibility and how various disabilities affect how people use the web. I was surprised at how many disabilities affect web usage; for example, I had no idea that anxiety and depression could cause a web user to be distracted easily while browsing a site.

It was also interesting to learn how web accessibility benefits everyone, including people without disabilities. Older people, people with health conditions, people with temporary disabilities (such as a broken arm), people with low literacy or who do not know a language well, and people with a slow internet connection can all benefit from accommodations on the web. Even people experiencing situational limitations, such as being in a loud environment or in bright sunlight, benefit from web accessibility.

When I read How to Make Your Blog Accessible to Blind Readers, it really made me think about whether or not my blog was accessible to people how have disabilities. I realized that when I first started making this blog, I wasn’t really thinking about accessibility. Because I don’t have any disabilities that prevent me from using the web, it’s easy for me to take things like this for granted. I consulted WordPress’s Accessibility Support Page as well, and I realized that my blog did in fact have accessibility issues for people with visual impairments. I made the following changes:

  1. I put alt text on all of my images so that people using screen readers or who cannot see the images for any other reason (such as a slow internet connection) can get a description of each image.
  2. I changed my links so that they do not open in a separate tab. I had thought that opening a new tab would be more convenient, but I learned that this can be disorienting for visually impaired people.
  3. I switched my theme. After consulting WordPress’s list of Accessibility-Ready Themes and seeing that my theme wasn’t on there, I switched to Twenty Fourteen because it was specifically listed as fully accessible- and it’s a beautiful theme, too! This meant that I had to resize and tweak my banner as well.

So many aspects of web accessibility seem like common sense, but it can be easy to forget to include them, especially if you’re lucky enough to not have any disabilities that affect your usage of the web. This is why it’s so important to include and plan for accessibility from the very beginning, not as an afterthought or separate entity.

Web accessibility empowers people with disabilities rather than excluding them, and that is why it is so important.

Want to learn more? This video by David Berman discusses why web accessibility is important and how we all have a social responsibility to make the web more accessible:

Featured Photo Credit: Giant Ginkgo via Compfight cc 

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