Web Accessibility

web accessibilityWHAT IS ACCESSIBILITY?

Intended Audience for These Pages on Accessibility

Initially, it should be noted that topic of accessibility addressed on these pages is directed towards the presumed audience of the field of web development.  Specifically, web developers are the ones who will be able to use the information to increase the accessibility of websites.  The content is nevertheless presented in language intended to be accessible to anyone with interest in the subject and not just to web developers.

What Accessibility Means and How It is Used on This Site

Accessibility is used here to mean complete Web accessibility for all people.  The word “accessibility” has a very broad usage with many meanings in different contexts.  The type of accessibility discussed here is an ideal in which people who are unable to access the Web by ordinary means, primarily people with disabilities, will have a range of readily available alternative tools enabling full Web access.   These tools offer solutions to Web access obstacles that are commonly encountered by disabled people.  These obstacles and their removal using alternative methods of accessing the Web are discussed here in order to increase awareness and further the goal of complete Web accessibility.  As the group most affected by the lack of alternative tools, disabled people will be, in a sense, the trailblazers for this effort.  When alternative Web access tools become routinely available, however, the benefits will be appreciated and enjoyed by a majority of people.

What Accessibility Means in General

Accessibility is an Attribute that Means Availability

Accessibility is an attribute of something, or someone, generally describing its availability.  It applies in a wide range of contexts such as whether something can be reached, entered, attained, used, understood, contacted, or acquired, to name a few.

Access Occurs in Different Forms

Physical access is easily visualized and demonstrates the general meaning of access in other contexts.  It can refer to entering a place, like a building or room, or to reaching an object, like a cookie jar.  Nonphysical access can involve a thought process, an understanding, knowledge or the ability to use knowledge.   Some forms of access, such as Web access, can require a combination of physical actions and thought processes.

SITUATIONS REQUIRING ACCESSIBILITY TOOLS AS THEY ARE ENCOUNTERED IN THE PROCESS OF ACCESSING THE WEB

Web Access in General and the Actions Required in the Process

Web access, in general, refers to a complex process.  It involves a series of different actions, both physical and mental, some of which are simultaneously or continuously performed.  First, a person must be able to physically access a computer with an internet connection. Then he must continuously perform a series of actions repeatedly, as needed for Web interaction. Physically moving a mouse or using a keyboard is necessary to interact with the software.  Looking at the screen to visually obtain the information contained in text and images, or using an alternative method, is a necessary part of the process.  A person must use cognitive processes to generate search terms, comprehend search results, navigate websites and comprehend the information presented in order to learn something or to use a function on the website.  If a website contains an audio file, she must be able to listen to it or if she cannot hear, to obtain the audio content another way.  The process of accessing the Web involves performing these actions and using them repeatedly and continuously to interact with the Web.  If any part of the process is painful, too difficult, or impossible, then the Web will be inaccessible.

How the Following Sections Address Accessibility by Using the Actions Used for Web Access

Many situations requiring ways to make the Web accessible are present in the actions described above.  The sections that follow go back to the process of accessing the Web and identify the areas calling for accessibility.  For each area that needs to be made accessible, the types of disabilities that make access difficult will be discussed.  The aspects of a website that can create inaccessibility are identified and provided with solutions employing tools that remove barriers to access that can be used to create accessible websites.