5 Ways To Improve The Accessibility Of Your Website

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The term ‘web accessibility’ generally refers to the practice of ensuring that a website is fully usable by persons who have disabilities which ordinarily prevent them from enjoying the full use of the web pages. This is an issue that webmasters are having to face increasingly today particular as many countries are enacting legislation on the issue, notable among them Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland. There have also been clear guidelines known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 1.0 established by the World Wide Web Consortium under its project, Web Accessibility Initiative in 1999. On a general note, there are assisted technologies available for those who have some forms of disabilities in accessing the web pages on the internet. These technologies include:

i.       Screen Reader Software: These software has a feature which allows it to read out selected portions of what is displayed on the webpage or what is on display on the computer with the use of synthesized speech.

ii.     Braille Terminals: This uses a QWERTY or Braille keyboard to present a Refreshable Braille Display as Braille characters.

iii.   Screen Magnification Software: These software magnify the size of the display on the screen thus making it easier for those who have a form of visual impairment to read the screen display.

iv.   Speech Recognition: These software allow the user to give vocal commands to the computer and is very useful for those who have problem with using their limbs.

v.     Keyboard Overlays: These features are very useful to those who have problem with mobility in their limbs.

The following five ways are very effective in improving the accessibility of a website:

a.    Ensure that all images possess ALT tags: It is not possible (at this time) for a screen reader to ‘read’ a picture for the user. It can however read a description which you have in the ‘ALT’ tags used while coding the web page. In a nutshell, always ensure that the images used on your webpage(s) are described using the ‘ALT’ tags.

b.    Provide a Link to circumvent your Menu: In order to make it easier for a screen reader to read a web page for the user, it is important to help it avoid the portions of the page which could confuse it. Two ways to do this is simply to put a link that directs the user straight to the main content or alternatively, ensure that the most important content is put in first in the HTML coding for the page.

c.     Make use of Flash Objects Appropriately: Flash objects are usually a problem for screen readers and could also pose problems for those people prone to photoepileptic seizures. Use them sparingly and replace with text where possible.

d.    Use Sections on Your Webpage: This enables the screen reader with the appropriate feature to read out the various sections and low the user to choose where he/she wants to go.

e.    Javascript Device Independence: It is important that devices such as Javascript which generate certain features of the page such as mouseovers be minimized to allow the screen reader read the page properly.

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