Is Your Website Disabled Friendly?
Are You Reaching The Whole Internet Audience On Your Site?
There are many who surf the net who are visually disabled or who are using voice activated systems that "read" the screen to them. The net used to be much more friendly to the disabled community. Now all the fancy images and such limits us greatly. What was once a place where all people were equal, despite their disability, is slowly becoming more and more closed to the disabled. As the babyboom generation grows, so will an audience on the web that will demand easy to navigate, easily read and low graphic websites.
There are some ways you can help, these are only suggestions and are not meant to belittle or demean any webmaster or website. They are listed here in the spirit that you might find them useful as you create or modify your webpages.
It is only good html practice to ensure EVERY graphic you put on your page uses an "alt tag" for example <img SRC="enter.gif " Alt="Picture of a soaring Eagle. Click here to go to the next page"≫ The only graphics you don't need to use an "alt tag" are your background gifs and line gifs if you are using line gifs on your pages. Visually impaired people run their mouse across your picture and your alt comment will pop up at them, giving them more information. You can also use alt tags to give the general population that visit your site more information! They are a very good idea!
Remember, systems that "read" a screen out loud to the computer user cannot read graphics. They have no way of knowing if there are words on the graphic. They only read the actual text on the page. The Visually impaired and those with severe learning disabilities use this sort of software.
Consider limiting the amount of shining flashing stars and falling flowers and such on your sites. They look pretty but for people with learning disorders, they are VERY distracting. Flashing script and graphics can trigger migraine headaches and worse for some people. Epeletics have reported seisures.
Consider limiting graphics - period. No need to have 30 graphics on one page, really, unless it's a page that is just to display cool graphics. If it is, list it as so, so someone looking for actual textual content can move to the page on your site where you discuss anything of interest to them.
MIE users - Remember that your page may look great to Microsoft explorer but might not work on Netscape. Netscape pages always work on Microsoft Explorer pages though, so check back and forth. Fancy cursors are fun to use, but those with poor motor control find them very awkward to direct across their page.
Flash and shockwave sites are disability unfriendly. They are not readable by voice recognition software. Think of them as a huge staircase with no wheelchair ramp, elevator, or lift in sight. Please consider making including a "skip intro" option on all pages that carry flash and shockwave. Remember to place the link to that option in a visible place on your page.
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