February 04, 2007

Web Designing for Disability Accessibility

Introduction to Designing Web Sites for Accessibility with Dreamweaver

When approaching the design for a website one of the most common errors is considering the issue of accessibility right at the end of the process. Making revisions can be very time consuming and if you are in a commercial setting it can be a very costly process.

In reality designing for disability access should only be an extension of good design parameters in any case. Filling a site with stunning graphics tends to ignore the fundamental issues of usability and ease of navigation. Remember you are creating a communication tool not an artwork in itself. Matt hogwood of Sapient UK a web design company summarises the situation very effectively:

Designers need to think back to basics. If you strip out the colour, styling,layout the visual representation of images and Javascript, is your site still usable. If it's not your site is not usable to all groups. (Cited Dreamweaver the Essential Manual p 38).

What is 'good' web design?

The best designers are those who test their work and who are receptive to changing the design based on what they see users doing. Some designers focus on pizzazz only. they will get away with this until customers complain  or stop visiting the site.  (Kara Coyne, Research Director Nielsen Norman Group, cited Dreamweaver the Essential Manual p 40)).

Using the Dreamweaver Accessibility Features

Dreamweaver already has built in a range of features to ensure accessibility. To find out how to switch these on go to the Macromedia site at http://tinyurl.com/67378. alternatively when you open Dreamweaver open the Edit drop down menu. Then select Preferences and then select Accessibility. Tick all the boxes and then tick OK. This will activate the accessibility help system.  

Once you have switched these on you will be given prompts as you design to add elements such as Alt tags to ensure that reading devices for visually impaired people work effectively.

A good example of a site which has taken accessibility very seriously is Tesco's. Julie

Howell the policy officer at the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) has commented:

Work by Tesco.com to make its home grocery service more accessible to blind customers resulted in revenue in excess of £13 million per annum... (Cited Dreamweaver the Essential Manual p 38).

Useful  Websites and Articles

Guardian 2003 commentary

The RNIB free rescource centre for Web design 

Out-law.com This site is from an international law firm who specialise in ensuring that a site is compliant with UK laws.

A useful site with design tips is  Accessibility 101

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. But Sapient UK have a very inaccessible website, and Tesco.com’s grocery delivery service doesn’t let you browse the products without signing up. That’s a pretty major accessibility failing and it’s one that applies to everyone, not just disabled users.

    Their wine store (which I can browse without signing up) has “skip to top of page” links, but they’re only visible to screen readers, what about other users who could benefit from those links like ones using mobile browsers? All the page headings are also invisible to the standard user.

    Their markup is actually pretty good, which is rare even for people going for accessibility, but they’ve clearly focused on the favourite example of who needs accessibility (blind people) rather than making the site properly accessible.

    04 Feb 2007, 14:18

  2. Thanks Andrew these look like good relevant points. As I’m not a Tesco shopper I was only quoting a Dreamweaver Design Book example. I will ask students to check these sites out.

    04 Feb 2007, 17:24

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