Web Accessibility in its most basic definition is about making sure websites work for the widest possible audience. For most people, it is easy to browse the web, they can point and click, visually skip over content they don't want to read, listen and watch a video clip, and skim for what they are looking for. For those with disabilities, all of these things can be barriers to access if we don't use the code, the methods, inherently provided by the creators of the web to ensure that it would be usable by all. We have the obligation to make sure our web presence works in the most inclusive and equal way possible. There is a slowly dying myth that accessible websites will be boring , dull and void of interesting features. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, almost all of the features of an accessible website are underneath, in the code, meaning that you can make your website accessible with no to very little changes to the look of your site.

The web is providing unprecedented access to information, interaction, goods and services. With so much of our daily lives now being spend interacting with technology and web content through things such as; watching movies, purchasing goods, registering for classes, buying event tickets, having class discussions, and communicating with others, having internet access is no longer a privilege but a right. We must be diligent, and everyone must have access in order for this right to be achieved. Without it, how will students, including our students with disabilities, persist, graduate and find their passions with their time here at Oregon State.

Who is Affected by Inaccessibility

All of us can be affected by inaccessible websites, however, individuals with disabilities are most affected.

There are almost 55 million individuals in the United States with disabilities, about 20% of the population, or 1 in 5 people (Brault, Matthew, Americans With Disabilities: 2005, Current Population Reports, P70-117, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2008).

A little over 2 million college students have a disability, about 11% of the college student population, or 1 in 10 students (National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2008).

Most of the literature on accessible web design, even most of the content on this site, refer to how to make content accessible for individuals who are blind. You will learn that these individuals are very important to think about, but are not the only ones affected by poor web design. Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities.

There are four main types of disabilities that can be used to explain how we should be thinking about accessibility.

Individuals with Visual Disabilities

symbol for someone who is blind

Many individuals who are blind interact with computers using screen reader software. Screen readers turn content into an easier to follow linear format. This is an important concept. Since individuals who are blind can not browse content the way sighted individuals do - by visually scanning and finding the relevant information - there needs to be a way to express the content from point to point. Screen readers do this, but they can not do it alone, using the policy and guidance provided, you will learn how to create content in a way that included individuals who are blind.

Individuals who have low-vision, who are colorblind or who have photosensitivity issues also can be affected by inaccessible content. The use of appropriate colors, good contrast, and consistent layout will help many of these individuals. Many of these individuals interact with computers and websites without any assistive technology, however, some use magnifiers, speech recognition software and/or increased contrast and zoom.

Individuals with Mobility Disabilities

symbol for someone who uses a wheelchair

Keyboard access is the most important concept when thinking about the accessibility of content for individuals with mobility disabilities. Some people do not have use of, or do not have arms, hands or fingers. Additionally, many other individuals have limited control of their arms, others have diminishing fine motor controls. All of these individuals might have difficulty using a mouse, many only use the keyboard to navigate. Others use items such as trackballs, adaptive keyboards, head wands, mouth sticks, and speech recognition software.

Individuals with Hearing Disabilities

symbol for sign language

An often overlooked area of web accessibility are the needs of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. With the amount of multimedia, audio, and video content on websites growing daily, these individuals are often left out of full participation because of inaccessible materials.

Providing captions and transcripts are most important for these individuals, and must be provided on all publicly available content. To not do so will leave out a valued and large group within the OSU community.

Individuals with Cognitive or Mental Disabilities

symbol for cognitive disability

For individuals with cognitive disabilities such as learning disabilities, distractibility, comprehension, and dyslexia, content is the most important barrier to accessibility and their ability to interact with websites.

These individuals benefit more from well structured, semantically organized pages that provide instructions, illustrations, diagrams or any process that helps make the content easier to understand and navigate.

Benefits for All

If we flip the conversation, we can also see that web accessibility can actually benefit everyone, including people without disabilities. At its core, web accessibility is about making web design flexible, increasing usability for all. Also, it has been shown that web accessibility can have a very positive affect financially, technically, and through public perception of an organization.

Additionally, web accessibility can help increase things such as our presence through web search applications. Think about it, Google is by definition both a blind and deaf website user, as is most technology. In order for Google, or any other search application, to be able to determine what order to rank your website in a search, it must be able to know what is on the website. Providing content in an accessible way with alternative text on images, captions on videos, and the use of headings to create proper structure, gives a search application a way to organize and rate website content. Creating accessible websites will only help OSU become more prominent when people search for words such as sustainability, innovation, and academic excellence.

Evaluating Your Website

Throughout this website resources and tools are cited to help you learn more and learn how to evaluate your website, including many of the most well known in the footer section under "Tools." It is important to acknowledge that nothing has or probably will ever be found that can replace a human checking for accessibility. While many great tools exist, including tools and guides created by WebAIM, these tools can only provide you with basics, like, do your images all have alternative text (alt attributes) for images. These tools can not fully analyze if the alt text is appropriately written for the image, as it can not fully understand what the image is for. These tools also can not check for everything, so don't be lured into the false assumption that if an automatic tool comes back with no issues found, that your website is accessible.

For this reason, it is important that you and those responsible for web content creation read and learn about these issues. Web accessibility doesn't have to be hard, on the contrary, for most of us using Content Management Systems like Drupal, it can be as easy to grasp concept.

The best tool you can use in evaluating your website for accessibility are people with disabilities. These individuals are best suited to really analyze and find where issues exist. If you don't know where to begin to find students, contact Disability Access Services, and they will figure out a way to help.

Use the tools provided on this site, but also contact [email protected] with any questions you might have, request an accessibility review, and offer feedback on what you would like to learn more about.

Classes are held on a regular basis on accessible web design, you can find out more by visiting OSU Professional and Continuing Education and sign up for a class.

Finally, use this website. There is a lot of information provided, as well as links to much more well developed and thorough websites that can give you more info that you would ever have time to read.