Principles of accessibility
1 August 2012
While some perceive accessibility as a matter concerning the blind or deaf, this is only partially true (and mainly not). Accessibility in general is an integral part of the various factors considered when setting up a User Experience or user interface and is relevant when designing any product or service.
Accessibility in websites
Accessible websites enable disabled users to use the website like regular users. These disabilities can be mild, such as common disabilities manifested by older users: hearing disabilities, joint pains, etc.
Why is accessibility in websites important?
Accessibility is important as an investment in external websites, as it-
Contributes to positioning the company's image as a socially-committed organization
Addresses all potential clients
Reaches out to other markets and target audiences
While this is true and even obvious, many websites do not meet the definition of accessible websites.
But I want to discuss the importance of accessibility in professional portals, intra-organizational websites, knowledge sharing and management systems used by all company workers.
So here are a few statistics regarding the potential of accessible technology among the working population (ages 18-64) excerpted from a study done by Microsoft in 2003 (in the US):
One in four suffer from impaired vision (27%), motor disability (26%)
One in five suffer from impaired hearing (22%), cognitive impairment (20%)
62% of work-aged people could benefit from accessible technology, 37% due to mild disabilities and 25% due to severe disabilities.
A report on disabilities in Israel in 2006 published by the Israeli Department of Justice in 2006 states that in 2006 there are more than 700,000 work-aged (20-64) disabled people, 19% of the total population these ages.
So, why is it important to invest in accessible technology in intra-organizational websites for company workers only:
Increasing workers' loyalty to their employers (that care for their workers)
The percentage of disabled workers in organizations is increasing as retirement age is rising and accessible technology and solutions will retain performance over time.
Standardization between internal and external websites
Increased market potential
Friendlier to all users
These principles apply to both internal and external websites and should be considered when setting up a User Experience:
UX and design:
Several navigation methods: search engine, menus, site map
Operating using only keyboard or only mouse
Allowing shortcut keys
Refraining from flashing tests
Noticeable contrast between text and background
Allowing users to change their content design according to personal preference: font size, font type, text/background color
Ensure that all actions are reversible (assistance and indulgence towards mistakes on behalf of the system).
Various options to comprehend all displayed data; adding textual data to pictures, videos and audio elements
Refrain from limiting reading time or enabling time extension
Clear, concise and consistent wording
Enabling users to comprehend data without relying on colors
Clear textual linking (not "click here" or "more")
All principles and requirements to make a website accessible are available to any organization exposed to this vast world, including all requirements to receive a "accessible website" standard.