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Web Accessibility For Users With Disabilities


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With the advent of the World Wide Web and Internet shopping, more and more people are now opting to log
online and visit the endless range of virtual storefronts that have the potential to satisfy all their retail needs.
This option is particularly useful and offers many benefits to the members of our society who may be
experiencing a varying range of disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairments, or even cognitive

At the forefront of these developments arises the issue of Web site accessibility concerning disabled users.
Subsequently, legislation is slowly being introduced to address and combat these issues. This document examines an article on this very subject and attempts to present a critical analaysis of its content.

Published in: Education, Design, Technology
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Web Accessibility For Users With Disabilities

  1. 1. Web Accessibility for Users with Disabilities By Olivia Moran [] 1 © Olivia Moran []
  2. 2. About The Author Olivia Moran is a leading training specialist who specialises in E- Learning instructional design and is a certified Moodle expert. She has been working as a trainer and course developer for 3 years developing and delivery training courses for traditional classroom, blended learning and E-learning.Courses Olivia Moran Has Delivered:● MOS● ECDL● Internet Marketing● Social Media● Google [Getting Irish Businesses Online]● Web Design [FETAC Level 5]● Adobe Dreamweaver● Adobe Flash● MoodleSpecialties:★Moodle [MCCC Moodle Certified Expert]★ E Learning Tools/ Technologies [Commercial & Open Source]★ Microsoft Office Specialist★ Web Design & Online Content Writer★ Adobe Dreamweaver, Flash & Photoshop 2 © Olivia Moran []
  3. 3. IntroductionWith the advent of the World Wide Web and Internet shopping, more and more people are now opting to logonline and visit the endless range of virtual storefronts that have the potential to satisfy all their retail needs.This option is particularly useful and offers many benefits to the members of our society who may beexperiencing a varying range of disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairments, or even cognitiveincapacities.At the forefront of these developments arises the issue of Web site accessibility concerning disabled users.Subsequently, legislation is slowly being introduced to address and combat these issues. Currently in Americasuch legislation has been put in place. Within this legislative framework, it is now deemed mandatory for allfederal Web sites as well as those that receive federal grants to provide accessibility to all. This moves us to amore inclusive society.It is now only natural to presume that the scope of this legislation will eventually be extended to the retailsector in the near future or that new bills will be passed. Only such moves will secure full inclusive rights andaccessibility for all.MotivationIn the face of this legislation change, arrives the motivation for the examined article. The article in questionstrived to examine the readiness of online American based retail stores, to meet the changing demands byGovernment, when they inevitably occur.The degrees to which online retail companies were equipped to cope with changing accessibility legislationwas not clear. Hence, a number of questions arose. “How accessible are Web sites of online retailers?Which types of accessibility barriers occur most frequently on these sites? Is there a significant difference inWeb site accessibility for certain online business sectors?” (Loiacono & Mc Coy 2004). Unsurprisingly, a lot ofuncertainty came about when trying to answer these questions. How best does one assess the true level ofaccessibility of online storefronts? How do we measure a company’s readiness to respond to changinglegislation both effectively and efficiently?Proposed SolutionAn indepth study and analysis was carried out in order to find solutions to the above questions. The study wascomprised of 45 companies operating over 8 sectors. Chosen samples were considered to be the currentleaders in the field of buying and selling products and services online. The study focused on the homepage ofeach site. Each home page was examined and their level of accessibility was measured. 3 © Olivia Moran []
  4. 4. The ‘Bobby Worldwide’ test was selected, as it is “the most prominent accessibility validator used to assistpeople in checking the accessibility of their web pages” (Loiacono & McCoy 2004). This method was used tocompile a report, outlining “the type, number and location of accessibility barriers” (Loiacono & Mc Coy2004). ‘Bobby’ benchmarks the various sites in compliance with the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines1.0” (World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) 1998) and the Section 508 guidelines (Section 508 of theRehabilitation Act Amendments 1998).The ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ propose that there are 3 priority levels of accessibility. Failing themost basis level of priority 1 requirements will mean that at least one or more groups of people experiencingdisabilities will be unable to access the content.Requirements at this minimum level include alt tags (alternative text) for both images and buttons. Followingthis, the next level on this spectrum is priority 2 requirements. Failing to meet these will make it extremelydifficult, although not entirely impossible to access the content. Examples of priority 2 requirements includeusing relative values for tables, event handlers that don’t require mouse commands and using public testidentifiers etc. Finally challenged with priority 3 requirements, failure to comply will result in 1 or more groupsfinding full access a little difficult.Testing for Section 508 compliance, involves determining the degree to which Web sites are accessible topeople with disabilities. ‘Bobby’ identifies numerous accessibility barriers to determine which ones occur mostfrequently on the examined homepages.The results were recorded and an Excel spreadsheet was utilized to calculate the relative frequency of eachbarrier. These results indicated that only 9% of Web sites tested were free from all Section 508 barriers. Only16% met the W3C priority 1 guidelines, while priority 2 and 3 barriers were evident in all. The study alsohighlighted the most commonly occurring 1, 2 and 3 barriers. Results indicated that there was no significantdifference in the level of accessibility between sectors.Evaluation Of ProposedSolutionWhile ‘Bobby’ did provide a fairly good indication as to the accessibility levels of Web sites, the resultshowever, were not infallible. ‘Bobby’ is incapable of assessing all the guidelines laid down by the WAI,therefore additional manual analysis needs to be conducted. This study falls short in that it did not considerthe areas that required a manual review. For example, it would be able to confirm that an image has an alt tagattached but it is incapable of determining whether or not the alt tag actually describes the picture to which itis attached.Hence the validity of the evaluation tool used is questionable. Some may argue that ‘Bobby’ does not trulyassess all aspects of accessibility and therefore, it can only determine whether a site is not accessible, asopposed to accessible. 4 © Olivia Moran []
  5. 5. Nonetheless the proposed solution can be deemed a success. It was competent in answering the questionsproposed. Samples chosen were broad and relevant enough to make generalisations. This study has providedus with sufficient evidence to argue that American based online retail stores are not prepared to deal with anyimmediate changes in legislation regarding accessibility.The study included detailed tables outlining all relevant information which aided the readers understanding ofthe content.ContributionsThe authors of this study have contributed significantly to the field of online accessibility issues. It wassuccessful in creating an awareness of the current situation companies are finding themselves in. It gives thema better understanding of how they stand should relating legislation be introduced. It may motivate them totake proactive action now.This study also creates a higher awareness of the rights of people with disabilities to be fully included in oursociety. This is perhaps even a human rights issue in relation to fair and equal treatment for all.Future Direction/ResearchAccessibility is a global issue. Studies should be carried out on a wider scale. They should stretch beyond theAmerican waters and include worldwide samples from additional countries such as Europe and Japan.Case studies should be compiled in a collaborative manner. This should include members of the disabledcommunity having the opportunity to present their thoughts, opinions and experiences, as they are the onesdirectly affected by the issue.New evaluation tools should be sought in addition to ‘Bobby’ in order to minimize the limitations of any onetool.The issue of accessibility for the disabled should be more widely communicated in our so-called inclusivesociety.Web developers can easily ensure accessibility without incurring excessive expenses and time through the useof alt tags, user-friendly navigation, relative tables, appropriate font sizes and colour contrasts. They shouldincorporate these in the initial planning and design stages of development. There is no need for thesesimplications to be viewed as extra tasks adding to an already heavy workload. 5 © Olivia Moran []
  6. 6. The way in which accessibility issues are viewed needs to be addressed. Companies far too often see theinclusion of this group of people in a negative light. They wrongly view it as a burden and a costly endeavor,which does not necessarily reap any real benefits for them and their shareholders. They fail to appreciate theopportunities that arise from providing full access for all their customers, not just those without disabilities.An increased customer based and a good public image has the potential to increase revenue significantly andshould not be underestimated. Solutions for changing this way of thinking should be sought.ConclusionThis review examined the arising issues relating to Web site accessibility in the online American based retailsector. It considered the motives that drove the research and the proposed solution presented. It evaluatedthis solution and considered its conviction. The main contributions and the future direction for this researchwere also addressed.As is evident in today’s ever changing and dynamic environment, there is no escaping the issue of Web siteaccessibility for disabled users. Current American legislation has set the ball rolling for future research in thisarea and we are undoubtedly living in exciting times. Companies need to be ready to adapt to changinglegislative demands when they eventually occur. The research shows that companies need to take proactiveaction now, as they are not currently in a satisfactory position to combat the issues at hand.BibiliographyLoiacono, E. & McCoy, S. (2004) Web site accessibility: an online sector analysis. Information Technology &People [Internet], 17 (1), pp.87-101. Available from: <> [Accessed 16 October 2006].Yates, R. (2005) Web site accessibility and usability: towards more functional sites for all.C ampus-WideInformation Systems [Internet], 22 (4), pp.180-188. Available from:<> [Accessed 16 October 2006].Holly, Y. (2002) Web accessibility and the law: recommendations for implementation. Library Hi Tech[Internet], 20 (4), pp.406-419. Available from:<> [Accessed 16 October 2006]. 6 © Olivia Moran []