Sunday, 28 August 2016

Are You Up To Date on Web Accessibility?

Did you know that there is a move to make sure that the disabled population can access websites? It is not enough for them to be able to enter buildings and services that they might require physically. In today's time, when so much information is on the internet, there is a Web Accessibility Initiative WAI to make sure that websites are also accessible. A part of this means that your website is transferable to different devices. This can be PC or laptop or smart phone or tablet. However, the device used to access your website is not the only factor that is important. The type of content you write, how easy it is to understand and various details related to the layout, use of colour and even the template all have a part to play in making sure that your website is accessible to disabled or special needs persons. 

What does this mean? Someone with a visual deficit might have difficulty with identifying colours effectively or in reading print in one colour on the background of another. Colour combination is very important and can make the difference between being able to read and being unable to. Colour is not the only problem, for those who are blind, altering the size of the font or the colour combination will not make any difference. For the blind population special software is required that can turn the written word into audio. For another person, vision might be fine but s/he lacks mobility of his or her arms to be able to use a computer in a normal manner. For someone with motor deficit the method used to use a computer or other device, is also different. This can require use of switches or the mouse in an altered manner through assistive technology. As a result, those of us who have a website need to make sure that it is easy to navigate a website using arrow keys with ease.

There are a number of countries that are working towards web accessibility. The USA is one of them and closer to home, Israel also has some laws in place. In Israel, the laws came into being in 2013 and web owners have been given until October 2016. There are certain leniencies for small business owners. I read an article that stated that small businesses can apply for exemption but in the same breath did not recommend doing so as it can draw attention to your website. To me that was rather confusing. If anyone has an answer on that point, I'd love to hear it. 

On our side, our website is currently built on weebly. I sent a question to weebly's support who was not able to assist with web accessibility. They did suggest doing a google search for any widget that can assist. So far I have not found one. If anyone reading this post knows of a suitable widget, please can you share in the comments below. Otherwise, it might be time to move on from weebly to another platform. We have researching options. So if any readers know of a website building platform that is cost effective and sensitive to website accessibility, please share the information. 

In the meantime, I am busy wading through the Web Accessibility Guidelines. There is a fortune to learn and then to put into practice. Don't be left behind. If you have a website, start now to learn what is required to make sure that your website is accessible.

Shoshanah Shear
Occupational Therapist

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