Posted by Michael Gaigg
The purpose of web pages is to interactively display information. The Hypertext Markup Language was designed to encode meaning rather than appearance. Therefore
Accessibility is the extent of access to information on a webpage through user agents (e.g. browsers, screen readers,…) which translate HTML into hypertext structures (links, headers, tables, forms,…) in order to give the users a surplus value.
“As long as a page is coded for meaning, it is possible for alternative browsers to present that meaning in ways that are optimized for the abilities of individual users and thus facilitate the use of the Web by disabled users. Those disabilities are:
- Visual Disabilities
- Auditory Disabilities
- Motor Disabilities
- Cognitive Disabilities” [NIELSEN96]
Since Web pages are highly visual and interactive the most affected groups as far as accessibility is concerned are the visual disabled, i.e. blind users or users with other visual disabilities like color blindness and users with motor disabilities using alternative input devices or sometimes even just the keyboard instead of the mouse.
In the same way a sidewalk curb is necessary for wheelchair accessibility it also benefits parents with strollers, children with rollerblades and elderly persons trying to cross the street. The same is true for web pages. Designing for accessiblity will not only benefit users with disabilities but will also increase your:
- Market Share Benefits
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Technical Efficiency Benefits
- Server Bandwidth
Michael Gaigg is Lead UI Engineer in Esri's Professional Services Division.
He has been designing map applications for 15 years and is author and curator of UI Patterns for Maps.
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