ERIC Identifier: ED435384
Publication Date: 1999-11-00
Author: Sprague, Carolyn Ann
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Accessible Web Design. ERIC Digest.
Despite the widespread availability of Web-based information resources, it is
difficult for some people who rely on assistive technology to access and process
these materials. Web designers can play an active role in facilitating access by
formatting resources so that they are compatible with these technologies. This
can be accomplished by following the accessibility guidelines outlined by the
World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative.
Web resources that have been created following these guidelines are compliant
with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Public Law 102-569, Section 508
of the Rehabilitation Act (Waddell, C. D., 1998); the Assistive Technology Act
of 1998 (S.2432); and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.
This Digest is written primarily for Web developers, information
professionals, and others who are interested in Web accessibility. It provides a
brief overview of accessibility challenges and some basic Hypertext Markup
Language version 4.0 (HTML 4.0) coding solutions for these challenges, and
provides an introduction to some of the legal requirements and considerations
for Web accessibility.
WEB DESIGNERS' TECHNNIQUES
The World Wide Web Consortium
(W3C) actively formulates World Wide Web policy and structure and oversees the
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The Web Accessibility Initiative is
responsible for making Web formats compatible with assistive technologies.
Adherence to these Web accessibility guidelines ensures that Web-based materials
are 'universally' accessible (Reagan, 1997), without sacrificing visual appeal
or higher-end features and functionality (Waddell, 1998).
Web architects can ensure accessibility by using special HTML coding
techniques and offering alternative versions of pages and sites. Consideration
should be given to users who are accessing Web-based resources using visual,
auditory, or mobility assistive technologies.
The following items summarize the most common HTML coding and Web design
techniques for accessible Web design (Peters-Walters, 1998).
---Inclusion of ALT (alternative) and/or LONGDES (long
description) HTML tags and text in graphics and imagemaps provides access to
people using visual assistive technologies or a text-based browser such as Lynx.
The ALT tag provides a brief textual label for graphics and hot spots on
imagemaps. The LONGDES tag provides a more-detailed explanation of the contents
and context of graphical information. Without these alternative tags, screen
readers and dynamic Braille generators/synthesizers would output the nondescript
label "image" or "graphic."
or video clips that include closed captioning and/or descriptive text facilitate
access for users who are viewing a Web resource via auditory assistive
navigation and keyboard commands provide access for users who are using mobility
assistive technologies or who have difficulty manipulating a mouse or keyboard.
should offer frames and no-frames, low-end graphics, and text-only versions of
text, and graphics colors should be carefully chosen to allow for people with
layout and design should be neither flashy nor cluttered and text should be
broken into smaller parts to increase readability (Peters-Walters, 1998). The
basic rule of accessible Web design is to keep it simple and offer alternative
formats and views in order to meet the needs and interests of the widest
possible audience (Reagan, 1997). By following the W3C's accessibility
guidelines and incorporating special HTML coding, Web designers can create Web
resources that are 'universally' accessible (1997), and have built-in
accessibility that allows access, even when assistive technologies are not
available (Peters-Walters, 1998).
Once coding is complete, HTML and accessibility validation software such as
Bobby (Center for Applied Special Technology) can be used to detect errors in
coding and problems with accessibility. Pages can also be viewed using Lynx,
Lynx Viewer, or other text-based browsers.
The practice of accessible Web design is strongly recommended and is becoming
mandatory through recent legislation and legislative updates. By implementing
the procedures outlined above, Web designers can ensure that their Web-based
materials are 'universally' accessible (Reagan) and that they are compliant with
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other relevant legislation
THE LEGAL MANDATE FOR ACCESSIBLE WEB DESIGN
should be aware of the following three legislative acts: "The Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), Public Law 102-569, Section 508." The ADA's
Rehabilitation Act is the principal legislation that is driving this trend
toward mandatory accessible Web design. Americans with Disabilities Act
legislation is especially important for designers of education Web sites that
are hosted or sponsored by a government, educational, or not-for-profit agency.
"The Assistive Technology Act of 1998" includes provisions for the
development, funding, and availability of assistive technologies, and the
dissemination of information regarding these technologies. This act is important
to Web developers because the potential for an increase in end users who are
accessing Web-based materials using assistive technologies means an increased
need for accessible Web design (and the increased opportunity for Web architects
to incorporate the principles of accessible Web design).
"Telecommunications Act." The final guidelines concerning the accessibility,
usability, and compatibility of telecommunications equipment covered by Section
255 of the Telecommunications Act were issued by the Federal Communications
Commission Access Board on February 3, 1998. Web developers need to be aware of
this legislation if they are designing Web-based resources for a government,
educational, or not-for-profit organization.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
Public Law 102-569, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act:
Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (S.2432):
Center for Accessible Technology's (CAST) Bobby accessibility validation
HTML 4.0 - World Wide Web Consortium HyperText Markup Language Web Page:
Lynx Viewer: http://www.delorie.com/web/lynxview.html
Peters-Walters. S. (May/June, 1998). Accessible web site design. Teaching
Exceptional Children (TEC online), 30(5). (Available online at:
http://www.nscee.edu/unlv/Colleges/Education/ERC/tec.html) 1. Click on:
Contents, 2. Scroll down the Web page and click on: Accessible Web Site Design
Stacy Peters-Walters (Note: This article is available in HTML and PDF [portable
Reagan, M.J. (1997). An accent on access: Writing HTML for the widest
possible audience. Paper presented at "The Universe at Your Fingertips:
Continuing Web Education." Conference Sponsored by the Librarians Association of
the University of California, Santa Barbara, Friends of the UCSB Library, and
the Black Gold Cooperative Library System Reference Committee (Santa Barbara,
CA, April 25, 1997). 11pp. (Electronic version:
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/universe/reagan.html) (ED 412 905)
Telecommunications Act, Section 255. Access by persons with disabilities.
Waddell, C. D. (1998). Applying the ADA to the Internet: A web accessibility
standard. (Conference paper written and presented on June 17, 1998 at the
request of the American Bar Association for their National Conference "In
Pursuit: A Blueprint for Disability Law and Policy".) (Available online at
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI): http://www.w3.org/WAI/
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): http://www.w3.org/
Burstein, C. D. (June 8, 1998). Viewable with any browser: Campaign for a
non-browser specific WWW. [Available online at
http://www.anybrowser.org/campaign/].Includes discussion of accessible Web
design that is interoperable, or platform- and browser-independent. Includes
links to many related resources.
Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). http://www.cast.org
Center for Information Technology Accommodation (CITA) Supports the
activities of the World Wide Web Consortium and Council on Accessible Technology
DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology). Helps
people with disabilities successfully pursue academics and careers and sponsors
programs that promote the use of technology that is designed to enhance the
participation, productivity, and independence of people with disabilities. The
DO-IT site includes many links to Web development and accessibility resources.
EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information). Includes links to adaptive
resources, Web design, and legislation. http: www.rit.edu:80/~easi/
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. (ERIC/EC) Includes
links to resources on assistive technology and other disability-related
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology (ERIC/IR). Includes links
to resources on information technology, educational technology, and library and
information science. http://ericir.syr.edu/ithome
WebABLE. Database of information for both people with disabilities and those
who are responsible for accessible Web design. http://www.Webable.com/
ERIC AND OTHER CITATIONS
Assistive devices for use with personal computers. Reference Circular No.
98-01. Library of Congress, Washington, DC., National Library Service for the
Blind and Physically Handicapped (1998). 39pp. (ED 420 140)
Burgstahler, S.; Comden, D.; & Fraser, B. (December, 1997). Universal
design for universal access: Making the Internet more accessible for people with
disabilities. ALKI, 13(3), p.8-9. (EJ 559 756).
Casey, C. A. (March, 1999). Accessibility in the virtual library: creating
equal opportunity Web sites. (for people with disabilities). Information
Technology and Libraries, 18(1), p.22-25.
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