This page is about designing accessible websites. To learn more about using the accessibility features of this site, see our Site Accessibility page. For information about the services we offer in the field of web accessibility, see our Accessibility Consultancy page.
Accessibility is simply web design that allows everyone to access your website. Around 8.5 million people in the UK alone have some form of disability. With good design, your website can be accessed by users browsing with a screen reader (a software device that reads aloud the content of websites), or, thanks to resizable images and text, accessed by partially sighted users. In fact, by designing with accessibility in mind, WAP, mobile phone & PDA users can more effectively browse your website too.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Part III - Code of Practice requires service providers to ensure that disabled users are not disadvantaged by design which fails to take account of their needs. Specifically:
2.2 (p7): “The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public.”
4.7 (p39): “From 1st October 1999 a service provider has to take reasonable steps to change a practice which makes it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of its services.”
2.13 – 2.17 (p11-13): “What services are affected by the Disability Discrimination Act? An airline company provides a flight reservation and booking service to the public on its website. This is a provision of a service and is subject to the act.”
5.23 (p71): “For people with visual impairments, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible should include … accessible websites.”
5.26 (p68): “For people with hearing disabilities, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible should include … accessible websites.”
The part of the DDA that states websites must be made accessible came into force on 1 October 1999, meaning that website’s failing to conform to the act have been illegal for over 6 years. By failing to adhere to the law your company may be sued; although this may sound alarming, there is an easy solution: allow MicroAngelo to build you a website that is compliant.
The following features are designed to improve website accessibility:
Re-sizable text: The ability to increase the size of the text on a website (for example, in the “Customise this Site” menu in the top-right corner of our website) is vital to the site’s accessibility; however it does require careful design and planning.
Semantic Design: A major shift in the design methodology of the web is based upon the separation of a website into 2 components: the content (text and images) and the style (the layout, colours, fonts, etc). This is important both for accessibility and to improve the ease of updating the site (either the style or the content). Blind users rely upon a Screen Reader to vocalise the content of a website, and semantic design allows the screen reader to read only the actual content of the site, in the logical order of the document.
High Contrast Design: Semantic design also allows multiple styles for your site (e.g. the same content, but with a totally different look). Therefore offering a high contrast style for your webpage can further increase accessibility for the partially sighted. For an example of multiple styles please select “Choose Design Style” in the “Customise this site” menu in the top right corner of this site. Alternatively, to view the raw content of the site (without any styling), click View, Page Style, No Style (for Mozilla Firefox and Opera users only).
Alt tags: Providing alternative text for users that cannot see or display images can help to increase the coherence and meaning of a site for these users.
Access Keys: The links (text, images or buttons that link to other pages or sites on the web) on your website can now be assigned access keys allowing keyboard navigation of your website.
The major pages and sections of the MicroAngelo website have access keys. To learn how to use access keys in your web browser, please see the Site Accessibility Page. Access Keys are useful for everyone, especially those who don't use a mouse and those using a Screen Reader.
Skip Links: When using a Screen Reader (a text-to-speech browser) the navigation and menus on the page can be skipped over if the page is designed with skip-links. These allow the user to skip over the list of links and navigation, to get straight to the content.
For example the MicroAngelo site implements skip links: press the Tab button and you'll see a message written in the top left of your browser window:
Press Enter or ALT+1 and the browser moves straight to the navigation part of the page. Or press Tab again and the message changes to:
These allow the user to move directly to either the content or the navigation at any time (using the access keys). These functions may not seem very important to your average user with a modern computer and large screen, but it really comes into it's own when the user is browsing using other devices, or screen readers (for blind users) or a text only browser.
Site Accessibility Page: Every website should have a page explaining the design features that have been implemented to aid accessibility, and how to use them. The importance of an Accessibility page was formally recognised by a EU report on web accessibility, that included Accessibility Pages in an overview of good practice.
Designing accessible websites requires forethought, but results in a more intuitive experience for everyone. There is no need to exclude anyone from using your website, and the Disability Discrimination Act prevents you from doing so.
The elderly and disabled find gathering information and shopping much easier online, if the website designs for their needs. At MicroAngelo we are experienced at designing accessible websites; please contact us to see how we can help you.