Web Site Accessibility (Universal Design)

Article excerpt

When educators speak of Universal Design, they typically mean developing and implementing curriculum that expands learning opportunities for all students across the spectrum, from the gifted and talented to those with learning disabilities. When Web developers address UD, they focus on features that give a site its widest possible reach. How accessible is a Web site to someone with low vision, physical disabilities, or poorly developed reading skills? For help in designing Web pages that comply with the requirements of Universal Design, visit the following sites.

* CAST (www.cast.org) Since 1984, the folks at the Center for Applied Special Technology have concentrated on developing technologies that expand learning opportunities for people with special needs. Visit this site for information on how technology can be used to teach every student in the digital age. Click the link to Universal Design for Learning to learn more about the theory behind this concept. You'll also find information about research studies, tools, examples, activities, and factors to consider when you design Web sites for universal accessibility.

* Bobby (www.cast.org/udl/Bobby215.cfm) How do you know if your Web site complies with UD guidelines? Get your site "Bobby Approved!" CAST (see above) developed the Web-based version of Bobby for Web designers interested in making their sites accessible to the widest possible audience. Bobby scans Web pages for "barriers to accessibility," looking for the presence of audio files lacking text captions and graphics that have no alternative text descriptions. It also displays your pages in different browsers.

* List of Checkpoints for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html) Web developers interested in UD should visit this W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) site for a list of important checkpoints to use when evaluating a Web page or Web site for accessibility. Presented as protocols outlining do's and don'ts for page authors, site designers, and authoring tool developers, it serves as an appendix to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines produced by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (www.w3.org/WAI).

* Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (www.w3. org/TR/WCAG20) Following Web content accessibility guidelines when you develop materials for the Web not only benefits people with disabilities; it also promotes universal access by making Web pages easier to get to by people who surf via PDA, mobile phone, voice browser in noisy classroom settings, a computer set up in a poorly lit room, or a hands-free environment. Here you'll find a working draft of version 2 of the current guidelines.

* How People with Disabilities Use the Web (www.w3.org/ WAI/EO/Draffs/PWD-Use-Web) If you want to know more about Web use by people with disabilities, explore W3C's quick overview of the subject in this highly readable introduction. …