Accessibility = Usability

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The W3C has just released a new introduction to their 2005 document entitled “How people with disabilities use the web.”  This document is only in its draft stage and will continue to be updated throughout the year.  But as I read through the sections referenced in the “What is in the document” area, I found it fascinating how helping someone with one disability actually enables others as well.  For example, many of the barriers experienced by someone who is color blind are very similar to someone who is totally blind.  Providing keyboard alternatives so that a mouse is not necessary helps a variety of disabled users, blind, motor impaired, etc.  Keeping things simple and logical, avoiding unnecessary busy graphics helps the dyslexic, as well as people with cognitive disabilities, and those who are experiencing age related conditions.

I really found the information in this document to be very informative, especially if you are a web developer with little or no experience with accessibility.  Many people just do not think in those terms when writing a site.  They don’t realize that every choice they make in the design could prevent someone from accessing what they are trying to put out for the world to see.  What really strikes me is the idea that by using accessibility techniques, you’re actually making your site more user friendly for everyone!  I cannot tell you how many times someone sighted has said that certain barriers I experience really inhibit them on the site as well.  When you think and design accessibly, you give every user many options as they access your information.  While in most cases you can’t please everyone, in terms of accessibility you can!  Designing your site accessibly will not make it unusable by anyone.  If only all web designers and companies thought this way, internet content would be not only accessible, but better for every user!

You can learn how to think and design accessibly at our upcoming AccessU conference in May!  I would love to hear comments from anyone who has taken part in AccessU in past years.  If you’re not already signed up, check your calendar and really consider coming!  You won’t be sorry, and the skills you learn will allow your sites to be user friendly for all!

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