Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Condition of Web Accessibility in Practice and Suggestions for Its Improvement

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Condition of Web Accessibility in Practice and Suggestions for Its Improvement

Article excerpt

Introduction

The invention of the Internet can be compared with Gutenberg's press from the 15th century as one of the greatest inventions of its time. Besides electronic books and magazines it is used to satisfy various needs in informing people, entertainment, communication, e-business, e-shopping, etc.

In today's fast way of life the Internet is becoming a necessity since a lot of obligations can be fulfilled over it. Web designers in cooperation with company managements are trying to make web presentations look as attractive as possible to their customers, so the goods and services offered are presented in the best light. Web pages dealing with e-commerce display catalogs with company products enabling users to order items from various assortments from their home or office.

How much are the needs and problems of customers taken into consideration during that process?

Do all potential customers use the Internet easily and simply? Are there any user groups having difficulties in accessing the Web, who on the other hand have an increased need to use it?

Web designers should follow the basic principles of design including correctness, usability, accessibility, user oriented web design, privacy, security, etc. All these principles should be built into websites, but it should also be pointed out that without accessibility numerous users cannot even feel any benefits of the remaining rules that have been applied. Therefore, a special attention must be paid to accessibility, which is the topic of this paper.

Web Accessibility

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines a website as accessible if it allows access to people with some kind of disability (W3C, 2005). Also we can find in the Wikipedia that accessible website involves "direct access" to all people (whether they have a disability or not). There is a strong relationship between accessibility and universal design (Wikipedia, n.d.). To realize the importance of web accessibility, let us consider the following statistical facts:

According to (The EU's Human rights & Democratization Policy, 2004), disabled people are estimated to make up 10% of the world's population. In "Accessibility: Introduction to web accessibility" (2004), this number rises up to 20%, or one fifth of the world's population. More than 5% of the EU citizens consider themselves as a disabled person, ("Attitude of Europeans towards disabilities," 2001). The same source claims that almost six of ten Europeans know someone who is affected by some kind of long lasting illness or disability. Similarly, a report (U.S. Census Bureau, 1997) categorizes 19.6% of the U.S. population as having some sort of disability. A detailed categorization of human disabilities influencing web design can be found in "Introduction to Web Accessibility" (Web Accessibility in Mind, 1998). We will mention only the main categories: the visually impaired (the blind, color blind), the deaf, mobility impaired (including temporarily impaired people, e.g. people with the broken wrist), and people with cognitive disabilities.

Users Having Difficulties in Using the Web

Creating accessible websites is not only important for users with some kind of disability. There is a long list of users having difficulties when searching the Web. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, (1999), gives a list of people dealing with problems when accessing the web as they may function in circumstances very different from those of the typical user:

--People with disabilities (visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive disabilities)

--People having difficulties when reading or comprehending a text

--People who do not have or are not able to use a keyboard or a mouse

--Text only screen, small screen, or slow Internet connection owners

--People who do not speak or understand the language in which the document is

--People being in a situation where their eyes, ears, or hands are busy or interfered (e. …

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