This week we are learning about “Usability and Accessibility” in creating and developing web sites and content. The main goal of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is to create a Web that enables all people, including those with disabilities to have equal full participation when using the Web. Providing equal access and opportunity to all persons using the Web is a basic human right. Accessibility includes people with disabilities, older people as well as people that reside in developing countries and remote areas. There are guidelines such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 that provides various recommendations for creating and devaluing Web content that is accessible for all. This includes those with disabilities, learning disabilities, blindness, deafness, speech disabilities and any other disability or limitation.

Clearly it makes sense to design a site with these guidelines in place as re-working the web-site later to accommodate these features can be time consuming and costly. Many of the techniques are obvious, while others are subtle; however, they can make a huge difference for one with a disability.  The alternate use of text for images (alt text) are useful for the blind who use screen readers to read the words or those who have lower bandwidth an turn off images to increase speeds.  Allowing for text alternatives of non-text content will enable transformation to large print, braille or speech.  The reverse is also needed for those that are deaf or have hearing difficulties; providing a text version of the audio information is required and is an inexpensive way to provide transcripts for audio files. Individuals with disabilities or impacts to fine motor skills can benefit from a web site that does not require a mouse; keyboard functionality can accomplish this in addition to speech input availability.

In searching various web sites for accessibility, I found that Unilever has a very useable and accessible web site. Unilever follows W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Images include relevant text content. They support tab-based keyboard navigation and supports voice recognition software. Text re-sizing and page-zooming allows increasing the size of the page. Color schemes can be overridden by the user. Unilever actually has a page on accessibility and highlights the key features that support accessibility.

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Waitrose is an online service for groceries and other online shopping services. Waitrose has an Accessibility statement as follows: “Waitrose is committed to providing a web site that is inclusive and available for all user groups including the disabled, the visually impaired and those with motor deficiencies and cognitive disabilities”.  Waitrose complies with key accessibility guidelines of the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Users can also use their own screen reading software that works well on waitrose.com. They also provide a helpful section on the website that helps the user adjust settings for usability and accessibility.

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