Internet use is essential in today’s business environment. However, the Internet can create barriers for individuals with disabilities, especially for people unable to operate a standard keyboard or mouse. Assistive technology such as alternative keyboards and speech output can help, but only if a website is developed to be accessible and compatible with assistive technology.
The ADA does not specifically address website accessibility because it was enacted before the ubiquitous nature of the Internet. However, there are general guidelines and standards available to web developers to enhance the usability and accessibility of websites.
The World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative has developed in-depth guidelines and is a leader in web accessibility with a wealth of resources on its website. www.w3.org/WAI Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act has legally binding web and other information technology accessibility standards that apply to federal agencies. www.section508.gov Finally, some states have implemented their own laws for website accessibility, for example Illinois state agencies are required to follow the Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act standards.
A business can also use automated evaluation and repair tools to assess an already existing web site. Keep in mind however, many website accessibility issues are subjective and cannot be assessed without manual inspection, for example a software tool can identify when ALT text is missing, but it cannot determine if the text of an ALT tag is appropriate. It is also important to include people with disabilities as “testers” for accessibility as they can provide valuable feedback on the usability of the site.
The Web Accessibility Checker is an open source program developed by the Adaptive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) at the University Of Toronto and free to use. It handles several new accessibility guidelines, including the soon to be released WCAG 2 and can output reports in the EARL standard.
The Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE) analyzes web resources for markup that is consistent with the use of web accessibility best practices and interoperability. The tool produces page level and summary reports.
HiSoftware has a suite of based accessibility tools for developers and enterprise systems that enhance and improve accessibility. These are fee based products, but free trial versions are available.
This web browser extension toolbar, created by the Illinois Center for Instructional Technology Accessibility, makes it easier for people with disabilities to view and navigate web content, with features covering navigation, text equivalents, styling, scripting, and more.
The Web Accessibility Toolbar for Opera is open-source and provided by the Web Accessibility Tools Consortium. Examples of features include adjustable font size, alt-tag display, or remove flash or background music.
A product of WebAIM, the WAVE accessibility checker evaluates web pages for several known accessibility issues. It does not use any single accessibility standard or guideline, but rather a collection of issues that would affect functional performance and accessibility of a web page.
The Web Accessibility Toolbar provided by Vision Australia is Browser extension that can aid in the manual examination of web pages for a variety of aspects of accessibility.
A comprehensive list resources on web accessibility, including standards, workshops, tools, and commercial products. It is maintained through the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
This course is called Introduction to Accessible Technology in Education, and was developed by the AccessIT center. The course consists of nine lessons with many interactive features. It is recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about accessibility issues that relate to information technology and related law and policy issues.
This course is written for web developers to teach techniques for creating accessible web sites, in particular, web sites that comply with the Section 508 Standards for accessible web content. The site is no longer being updated, but the course is still useful.
Guidelines for accessible media, audio description and web development.
A compilation of resources about Web accessibility, including guidelines, reference materials, accessibility tools, training courses and materials, general resources, and commercial initiatives that Trace Center staff have found particularly useful.
This on-line course was developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is intended for individuals who are new to web accessibility, experienced designers who wish to review the policy, standards, or a particular concept of accessible design. It is structured on the 508 Standards.
Provides an array of resources, from online and downloadable tutorials designed to help you create accessible web content, to tools to help your organization build its capacity to maintain electronic accessibility.
WebAim provides comprehensive resources, tutorials, and tools to promote web accessibility, including tutorials and tools on content management systems, PDF files, and captioning. They also host on-line communities and training events.