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Deep Thoughts on Web Accessiblity

Posted on 8.21.2008

Website Accessibility is becoming a hot topic on the Web. As rich media becomes a greater part of the online experience, many people with disabilties are finding themselves left behind. Website Magazine contributor Dante Monteverde posed some very important questions to three leading accessiblity experts (AOL's Tom Wlodlowski, Knowbility's Sharon Rush and Anne Taylor of the National Federation of The Blind) and we're posting those interviews online for Website Magazine readers and site visitors. Below you'll find excerpts of those interview with links to the full contents.

Describe the human element behind website accessibility?

Anne Taylor: The user experience of the blind on an inaccessible website can easily be compared to sighted individuals in a totally disorganized price club store with thousands of unlabeled products packages, mismatch labeled shelves or unlabeled isles, total confusion.  No business wants to deliver such a horrible shopping experience to the customers. Regrettably, this is what blind individuals are encountering on the inaccessible websites.  Blind individuals need accessible websites in order to benefit from products and services offered on the internet.  To surf the web, the blind must have an internet ready computer, and screen access software that will render web content into speech.  While the blind navigate through the WebPages, we listen for important HTML navigation controls such as links, edit boxes, or combo boxes.  If these controls are labeled properly, then we will have no problem accessing the sites.  However, if websites contain improperly labeled HTML controls we just simply cannot use the sites. Read more of Anne's responses on Website Accessibility

Why does it matter if websites are accessible?

Sharon Rush: People with disabilities want the same things as everyone...equal opportunities to learn, to work, to live independently and to communicate with family, friends, government and business entities.  Technology makes all of this more possible than ever before, and accessibility is the key.  People with disabilities are often less able to travel around a region and so online learning, shopping, registering for government services and other daily tasks are made much more feasible through the Internet.  If sites are not accessible, however, the experience becomes frustrating and can be completely impossible.  As a society, we can not afford to leave out this array of human talent. Read more of Sharon's thoughts on Website Accessibility

What is the business case for accessibility?

Tom Wlodkowski: While hard numbers are hard to quantify, here are some compelling statistics that drive the accessibility discussion from the business perspective:

- 1/3 of U.S. households have at least one member with a disability.
- The disability community represents $220 billion in discressionary spending power.
- The aging baby boomer generation. Boomers may not always self-identify as having a disability, but a site that offers essential accessibility features such as high contrast will be easier to use for the aging community as vision begins to deteriorate.

Read more of Tom's thoughts on Website Accessiblity


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