ACCESSABILITY

This portion of the website will go in-depth into the different tools and techniques that are used in the development of a website in order to make it available for all users, as well as aid them in their use of the website giving them ease of access/use. Website accessibility features the removing of barriers that would otherwise prevent the interaction/usability of a website by those with disabilities. If a site is correctly planned, produced and edited then all users will have unrestricted equal access to the sites information and functionality elements e.g. hyperlinks, images/slideshows, videos etc.

Some of the main issues web accessibility address includes the breaking down of restricting barriers for users with either visual, motor, cognitive/intellectual, auditory, seizure difficulties as well as cross-platform usability. It is important for websites to cater for these users and adapt their websites in order to widen their potential user base regardless of their physical or mental limitations.

Providing accessibility to users with visual problems would mean altering or providing tools to aid those with sight impairments, blindness and users with poor vision or colour blindness (people who have trouble differentiating between certain colours) whilst they are browsing a website. This could involve the increasing of text size or the changing of font, the emboldening of some items of text or the simplification of the website’s layout entirely. For those with colour blindness, limiting the use of colours (which my site makes great use e.g. red, white and black with the exception of images) that are on the website would be the main area of concern; this, in turn, makes the website’s appearance more simple, clean-cut and professional. In cases with users with blindness the mouse and keyboard are not that useful when accessing content on a computer, therefore, rely on their hearing and can make use of this from narrator software programs that read out the text presented on a computer screen. Another feature that is used in the aiding of blind/visually impaired people when on the internet is an audio description which describes the relative visual elements of a video or for example audio books which makes literary works available to those who cannot read or are blind.

Linking in with visual problems, the issue of seizures is also a thing website designers must take into account. Therefore, they must ensure that any videos used on their sites or any animation that features any bright or flashing effects are removed or that the user is warned beforehand (like seen at the begging of movies where viewers are warned of certain content). As mentioned my website doesn’t feature any video or animation content, therefore, there is little to no risk for users with tendencies of photo epileptic seizures to be triggered.

On the otherhand, if a user has hearing disabilities then website designers would need to adapt their sites in order to allow these users to be able to engage with audio-based content in another form that they would otherwise not have access to. For example, YouTube videos allow users or content creators the ability to implement subtitles/captions on their videos; this allows people who are death or partially death the opportunity to access this media. Videos or even podcasts on other websites can also include a transcript to give those with hearing difficulties equal access. My tourism website features no use of videos and is all text or image based which is very beneficial when it comes to reaching out to an extended audience i.e. those with hearing problems.

It is also important to take into account potential site users with any motor difficulty or inability e.g. if they have no use of their hands, have tremors, lack of muscle controls and or muscle slowness. These can be brought on as a result of medical conditions like: Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. These users tend to gain access to the internet via using keyboard only, specialised keyboards/switches or other input devices, voice recognition software and or head pointers/eye gaze systems. Ways web designers can help these users gain access to their sites and its content include expanding the width or height of any clickable area wherever possible, altering a webpages CSS code command display: block to all the elements in a vertical list would result in the full column being clickable instead of the as well as the actual text itself. The inclusion of images is another example of a large clickable area which is featured in my own site where the user doesn’t just access the image but also relevant information regarding the image and sometimes links as well. Using JavaScript can also be used to increase the size of a clickable area to certain elements on a website and also make accompanying text and or images clickable too. Visible ‘skip to content’ links) which can be included by altering the pages CSS to disable the hide to focus/active) are also helpful especially for keyboard only computer users.

Users with cognitive or intellectual impairments that affect memory, attention, development ‘maturity’ as well as logic and problem-solving skills are a result of various developmental /learning disabilities like dyscalculia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)etc.  In order for a website to have with good usability and access for users with intellectual/cognitive limitations website designers must ensure that their sites are easy to use and understand with the use of simple readable font and try to avoid moving or flashing images/animations. Large bodies of text, as well as wide columns, also tend to make life hard for dyslexic people when browsing a website, therefore, it would be good to try and avoid using these. For users with general cognitive conditions websites with inconsistent/ever change layouts, unexpected content updates, required quick responses, long and complex sentences and lack of guidance/instructions are all negative features that web designers should consider not including if they wish to make their sites accessible to those with learning/cognitive disabilities.

Another issue is the issue of language barriers as everyone doesn’t speak English and therefore there would need to be a translated version of the website. Website designers can make their website internationally friendly by hiring translators to translate the website’s content into a particular language so that they can switch the English text with this language which can be accessed by the language speaker.

Lastly, when website designers are in the process of planning and developing their website they may tend to forget about other platforms that users may wish to view their website from such as smartphones, tablets or even gaming consoles. It is also important to take into consideration different web browsers that their users may use and focus on the most popular e.g. GoogleChrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari. Not everyone has access to or owns a laptop or computer, therefore, it is important to consider making websites available across multiple platforms and offer the same usability and quality as offered on a computer. This will help significantly expand the websites potential audience and make it for users browsing on the go. When editing a website to be suitable for different platforms it is crucial to ensure that everything functions and is presented well.

In conclusion, the main benefits of website accessibility include the avoidance of discriminating against minority groups as well as legal complications.  Accessibility also makes the website and its designers more favourable in the eyes of the user which builds positive public relations. Improved SEO (search engine optimisation) is all a benefit of good website accessibility e.g. when including accessibility features like alt text for image, the sites Search Engine Optimisation improves just like the users experience and as a result makes your website easier to find. The most obvious benefit is the drastically improved user experience due to the sites huge level of usability and unrestricted access for anyone with any form of disability mental or physical as well as age, nationality or cross-platform integration. The last benefit which has already been mentioned multiple times is the benefit of a broadened audience/market penetration as the website is more usable this means there is an increased number of potential site users who are happier with the added accessibility features that suit their needs and expectations.