What is web accessibility?
Web accessibility applies to much more than just static web pages. It covers access and use of all dynamic content and documents delivered via the Internet. It is access to the full immersive experience! This experience should be available to everyone. If it cannot be perceived in the same form, then the experience should have the same outcome for everyone. The guidelines that help people make sure that the experience is the best possible one for everyone is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Version 2), known as WCAG 2.0, from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Why do we need to make websites accessible?
It's the Law
Compliance with WCAG 2.0 has been mandated by the Australian Government. In its Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy, the Australian Government has defined a government website as one that:
- is either fully or partly owned and/or operated by a government agency;
- is registered on a domain name, sub-domain or sub-directory; and
- has a distinct look and feel (design), audience and purpose.
Universities web presences, because universities fall under the federal Department of Education for funding and reporting, may therefore be government websites, and may be required to comply with WCAG 2.0 Single A by December 2012 and Double A by December 2014.
Before this requirement existed and whether or not it applies to universities, all universities need to make their websites accessible because they fall under the definition of services provided for education under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992). The Australian Human Rights Commission, which enforces this Act, endorses WCAG 2.0.
Anyone can become disabled
- The United Nations have estimated that globally, approximately 1 in 10 people has a disability, and this proportion is also likely to be present in the University community.
- Disabilities can be temporary (as the result of an injury or illness), or can arise as a result of aging
It's good business
- Accessible design increases the usability of web sites, because the web site will be less ambiguous, particularly if it has clear language, good navigation and obvious links
- The 10% of people with disabilities will be able to use your web site
- Accessible design is a badge of social responsibility
- Design, cost and flexibility do not have to suffer at all
People can still have slow internet connections
Not many people are on dial-up modems now, particularly university students and staff, but many internet packages throttle back to extremely slow speeds once the set quota has been exceeded. Other packages get very expensive at this point. Therefore keep your file sizes small. Download speed is the single accessibility factor that affects everyone. In particular, people with disabilities need to wait for the file before they can find out whether their assistive technology can work with it.