Web site accessibility primer - useful links

On this page: This page supports Lois's article on web accessibility that appeared in the Autumn 2003 issue of Communicator. It includes both the links mentioned in the article, and also further reading for people who want to find out more about the subject.

Links to accessibility resources

The W3C is the standards body for the web, and its Web Accessibility Initiative, or WAI, is regarded as the most authoritative source of information on standards, guidelines and recommendations for the accessible web. I have selected two particular documents for the beginner, below, since some of the information here will be off-putting in its complexity.
WAI - Getting started
- a page of selected links to introductory documents at WAI, including the following one.
How disabled people use the web
Some short scenarios that illustrate practical ways in which people adapt to the web. Could be an eye-opener for those, unlike me, with 20-20 vision and a fast broadband connection.
RNIB Web Access Centre
The home page for resources on accessible web design for the blind and partially sighted. Includes a page of hints and tips for accessible design.
AgeLight white paper PDF
A PDF document explaining how to design web sites for older people.
The AWARE home page for the HTML Writers' Guild. Although this hasn't been updated for ages, it provides some good general guidelines, and discusses why accessibility is important. At the bottom, try out the script to change the stylesheet used, if you need convincing that CSS is a good thing!
Microsoft Accessibility
MS takes a lot of stick for all sorts of reasons (not least from Word users in the ISTC!) but actually they have done more than many other vendors to make their products accessible. The home page lists some useful guides for various disabilities.
Adobe Accessibility Resource Center
Accessibility features in Adobe products. Of particular interest to web site designers will be the links to making PDF files accessible 10Mb PDF (which is not possible with versions of Acrobat before v5).
Alternative Interfaces for Accessibility
An Alertbox from Jacob Nielsen, a usability guru, discussing some contentious ideas about designing information for different (linear and 2D) methods of access. The Alertbox home page lists several other useful articles too.
Web Accessibility for Section 508
A web course by Jim Thatcher detailing the technical aspects of constructing an accessible web site.

Links to legal information

Side by Side WCAG vs. 508
This page introdcues section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and then tabulates how these requirements fit in with the WAI guidelines (see above).
Olympic Failure
Tom Worthington, an Australian consultant and academic, discusses disabled access to the web, using the case of the inaccessible 2000 Olympic web site, of which the sponsor was successfully taken to court.
Digital Media Access Group legal resources
Two useful papers by Martin Sloan, explaining how the UK's DDA applies to web sites.

Online tools and services for accessibility checking

Some of these tools allow you to upload a file from your PC for checking, but it's generally quicker to post your page on a web site first.

Web Page Color Filter
See what your web page looks like to people with different kinds of colour-blindness: many options to choose from.
See what your web page looks like to people with the most common kinds of colour-blindness. Site also includes some sample images and a downloadable program.
Screen reader simulation
Experience the frustration of a screen reader user - requires a Shockwave plugin, ironically. The WebAIM site also has a useful introductory article.
See what your page looks like in Lynx, the text-only browser, which simulates, to some degree, the structure of your page as heard via a screen reader. Better to download and install your own copy though: get Lynx here.
Cynthia Says
Online accessibility checker, also available as a paid-for program for batch checking on your computer.
Online accessibility checker giving simple graphical representation of titles, alt texts, scripts etc.
W3C HTML validator
Check the validity of your page code - you may get some nasty surprises!
CSS validator
Check the validity of your style sheet code.