Thanks to "Disability Discrimination Act Part III - Access to Goods and Services" coming into play in the UK (October 2004), businesses are now re-evaluating their Web sites to see if they comply else running the risk of a court summons! And web site developers also run the same risk if they tender for a job after that date and the final product being found to be uncompliant.
As a business you need to be seen to be proactive in making "reasonable adjustments" to your service provision specifically to accomodate people with a disability. Don't wait for a knock at the door 'cos you'll come off worse!
How does that apply to web sites? Basically, if their is a feature upon your web site which are not "visible" to a specific audiance then this could be deemed as being discrimination. This is not limited to accomodating people with visual impairment - but also those with hearing or mobility impairment and learning disabilities.
Here are some really basic checks :
- Can the user resize the font size?
- Can the user apply an alternative colour scheme either via a locally stored style sheet or an option upon the web site?
- Is the web site still usable if viewed in a text-only browser?
- When you mouse-over an image is the information popup understandable?
You may also want to consider making the web site multi-modal ie usable on different technologies like WebTV, PDA, WAP etc. Also consider multi-language including Sign language, Web to Voice services to read the web page, Braille Style Sheets. You can also have your web site tested by a person with poor eye site, a blind person and a disabled person that uses assistive technology to use a computer.
In the UK their is no enforced "standard" for Web site Accessibility conformance. A good starting point would probably be to have "W3C level A conformity" upon all your web pages.
You may also want to include a "Web site Accessibility policy" page upon your web site to outline what principals you have applied to accomodate disabled access eg use of Accesskeys, ability to change the colour scheme/font size, use of pictograms etc.
At '58 ALL' we go the extra mile by doing the following :
- Using HTML tags that are compatible on all the main browsers
- Using a bespoke dynamic Style Sheet generator to allow background, font colour, font style and size changing.
- Allow the user to apply their own locally stored style sheet for their preferred colour scheme
- Use pictograms and Accesskeys for faster navigation
- Test the site in a text only browser
- Test the site in Opera and Firefox browsers
- Simplifying the navigation and reducing the "access levels" where possible
- Promoting the use of simple language in plain English
- Using XML for database information storage
- Use BOBBY software for validation
- Use the W3C Style Sheet validator, HTML validator, and Accessibility Validator services
- Microsoft Internet Explorer now has a built in browser magnifier option
This does not mean that your web site will be available on all platforms, operating systems, browsers, hardware, assistive technology etc etc., But it should bring you closer.
Have a play on this web site! Click on the Accessibility option at the bottom of this page.
This should give you the option to choose a colour scheme, font size, font style, that best suites your eye sight. If the person viewing your web site is dyslexic or has Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, then they will find it easier to read the page if the background colour is a pastel colour rather then white.