Web Accessibility

Attending the four-day seminar on Web Site Design for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) served as a wake-up call for me, a web designer, to consider stuff that I treated as second priority.

Section 508 of the American Workforce Investment Act of 1998 requires that federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. The Center for Information Technology Accommodation (CITA), in the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Government-wide Policy, has been charged with the task of educating federal employees, and building the infrastructure necessary to support Section 508 implementation. Using this web site, federal employees and the public can access resources for understanding and implementing the requirements of Section 508.

This law, observed in the USA and many European countries, simply states that web sites should be accessible to PWDs as they are also contributing members of the society. Not doing so is punishable by law.

Unlike here in the Philippines, there is no such law. But there is already a Manila Declaration Pact headed by Leo Valdes – our resource person, a La Salle alumnus - that government agencies should take steps in ensuring that government web sites are PWD-friendly. He suggested that everybody should try to use a screen reader at least once, to have an idea of the surfing experience PWDs go through when visiting inaccessible web sites.

The participants had a brainstorming on how to make web sites accessible. We came up with these resolutions:
  • To enable screen reader functionality:define ALT tags of graphic images
  • use the ALT text in “fillable” forms
  • use TITLE tags in text links
  • (In effect, for us who can see, this is the text you see on images when you roll the mouse over them.)
  • Use the D-link beside a complex graphic image. The D-link is a new style in coding pages which links to a page describing the image.
  • Do NOT make links like CLICK ME, or MORE>>>. These are really annoying for PWDs who use screen readers.

PDF files are usually inaccessible, though I make an exception for Acrobat Reader 7.0 which has a built-in screen reader. However, its features cover a very limited scope.

There are still a lot of factors to consider in accessibility. Always keep in mind that what benefits the so-called “minority” also benefits the “majority”. A good example of this is the sidewalk ramps specifically-designed for PWDs in particular. Now, it is being used to move delivered items with less effort, as well as by parents with babies in their strollers to conveniently get on the sidewalk ramp.

I hope you are able to visualize the concept and contribute in your own way to make our web site more accessible to the most number of “viewers”.

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