>Web Accessibility – If something is accessible does that mean it is usable?

>Imagine for a moment that you are a disabled and are no longer able to walk on your own. You must use a wheelchair to go about your everyday life. Sure, it would be a big change and some activities would be significantly more difficult to accomplish. However, you would still be able to get around and do the things you needed to do. There are ramps to help you up a curb, public transportation is able to accommodate you, and there are handicap parking spaces to allow you the extra room you need. 

Now imagine that all of those accommodations I listed are no longer available. It suddenly is much more difficult to accomplish daily tasks isn’t it? This is what happens for some people when viewing and interacting with websites. Notall websites on the Internet were designed with impaired users in mind. 

So what exactly is web accessibility? 

According to Derek Featherstone, author of chapters 22-24 in the InterACT with Web Standard book, web accessibility  
         “refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities anddisabilities” 

So how can I begin to make my website more accessible? 

The first step is to better understand accessibilityissues. There are several different types of impairments that affect a user experience. They can be lumped into four main categories.Visual ImpairmentThis includes many disabilities including: 

  • Total blindness
  • Reduced vision
  • Colorblindness
  • Obstructed vision

For users who are blind, it is important that a website makes good use of text. This is important not only for the main content on a site, but for all of the images as well. Dealing with colorblindness may be even more difficult than dealing with someone who is blind. There are different types of color blindness and this is what makes it difficult to design a website that won’t have problems with colors being unreadable. 

Mobility or Dexterity Impairment 

Not all forms of mobility impairment impact a web experience.  Some of the impairments which do affect it are: 

  • Someone with limited movement in arms
  • Someone who may only have one hand
  • Someone with difficulty controlling fine movements
  • Someone who experiences trouble holding on to a mouse
  • Someone with a tremor or shake in their hand

These individuals will have specialized hardware and software to help them interact with the website and with the computer itself. It is important that the websitebe able to interact seamlessly with this assistive hardware and software. 

Auditory Impairment 

While it may seem that users with physical and/or visual impairments may be the primary concerns when it come to web accessibility, auditory impairment is just as important. There is more to the web than visuals. Try watching some YouTube videos without any sound. They aren’t very useful are they? This can be remedied with solutions such as closed captioning. 

Cognitive Impairment 

This type of impairment can be further broken down into different types. These types are: 

  • Memory-related
  • Problem-solving
  • Attention deficits
  • Reading, linguistic, and verbal comprehension
  • Math comprehension
  • Visual comprehension

It can be a very daunting task to try and meet the needs of each type of cognitive impairment, but a good website will find the right balance to be accessible to the greatest number of people. 

Whew! That was a lot! 

Web accessibility is a large and complicated part of website design. There is a lot to keep up with and it isn’t always an easy task to do. Actually to be quite honest, it is quite a difficult task to do! I hope that I have helped you in your understanding of web accessibility and how to help your website become more accessible. Below I have provided a list of resources to provide further knowledge on the subject. This is by no means an exhaustive list so please add any resources you have found to be helpful! 


The Web Accessibility Initiative – http://www.w3.org/WAI/ 
Web AIM – http://webaim.org/ 
Section 508 – http://www.section508.gov/


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