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Web site design with the disabled in mind

Internet navigation can present a challenge for anyone, but for those with disabilities “surfing the web” is often a trying task, ultimately leading to frustration and thwarted efforts to obtain desired information.

Whether impaired eyesight or hearing, colorblindness, the presence of tremors or musculoskeletal issues, disabled individuals rely on adaptive technology to navigate the Internet. Consider making your business or organization web site more accessible with a few basic optimizing mechanisms.

The use of alternative attributes, (alt-tags) and title tags should be used to label all images and videos; screen readers – a computer’s output that employs synthesized text-to-speech technology – will automatically interpret them for visually impaired individuals. Avoid crowded “busy” pages that can prove confusing to those using a screen reader. Braille output devices are likewise available.

Enlarging text to is one simple change that can serve to accommodate people with limited vision. It’s best not to use graphics when plain text will convey the message. Keep in mind that text can be enlarged by any browser, but graphics can appear jagged or blurry if enlarged.

Provide captioning, transcripts or both for all videos and if graphics contain important information, make sure that data is available in text form. If a site includes a multimedia file, the file should be closed-captioned to allow use of a visible text track.

Web pages with buttons, controls, menus and form fields that require the user to “click” can present a problem for people unable to operate a mouse. As such, all controls should be operable with a keyboard, as well.

Cascading menus – secondary menus that appear when holding the cursor over an item on the primary menu – should be avoided to accommodate users with disabilities. Not only are they difficult to control by someone with a condition such as Parkinson’s disease, they are often impossible for adaptive technology to interpret. Scrolling should also be kept to a minimum as the repetitive motion for those with stress injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome, can be difficult and painful.

Since colorblindness affects a significant number of people, strong color contrast should be utilized to differentiate between text and background. Moreover, redundant color information is a sound idea; so if your business offers golf bags in various colors, label the image with the corresponding word, as example “blue” or “red.”

The more accessible your web site, the greater its potential to attract traffic and ultimately business.