Making accessible technology
To advance your organization’s position in technology inclusiveness, consider these actions:
Understanding the implications
- Study and understand what economic, social, and legal impact, designing accessible technology products and services can have on your business.
- Seek out to customers with disabilities and understand their goals. Work with them to shape your own business’s goals for the future.
Design accessibility in your business
- Start now by creating awareness among the people in your organization from top to bottom, with general awareness training for all, and detailed training for specific groups (such as human resources, procurement, and engineering).
- Recognize the fact that the process of inclusiveness into your business is a long term project and would involve stakeholders from all departments of your organization. The involvement of crucial leadership will go a long way and increase visibility.
Inculcate accessibility in your design and development process
- Tap every opportunity for making your technology more accessible to all kinds of problems. Small changes, for instance, making your website more accessible, can make a massive difference in the beginning.
- Include people with disabilities on your design teams to stimulate diverse perspectives and idea generation. Think about bringing in customers with disabilities to test your concepts early.
- Embed accessibility into your development process. It should be treated equally to security or other performance or quality standards check.
- Find ways to incorporate customer support channels into your technology offerings so that it is easy for people with disabilities to provide your business with feedback on experiences that could be improved.
Interdependent Components of Web Accessibility
Much of the focus of web accessibility has been on the responsibilities of web content developers. This view misses the crucial interdependence of other components of web development and interaction, including browsers, assistive technologies, and authoring tools.
If you understand the interdependencies between the components, you can better:
Evaluate the source of accessibility barriers in your site. For example, if during testing you identify problems with a data table, it is most likely because the developer did not mark up/code the data table properly. The tester does not know how to use the assistive technology's table-reading feature. Fix accessibility barriers in your site and develop effective solutions.
Encourage accessibility improvements in the other components that would make the whole system work better and easier. It is essential that all of the components of web development and interaction work together in order for the Web to be accessible to people with disabilities. When the components don't fulfill their responsibilities, the result is more work for others and less accessible web.
Description of Components
One way to look at the components is grouped by technical and human. The technical components are:
- Web content: Generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including text, images, forms, sounds, and such, as well as the markup and code that defines the structure, presentation, and interaction.
- Technical specifications: Refers to Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and such. They are also called web technologies and markup languages.
- Authoring tools: Refers to any software or service that developers use to produce, create, or modify web content, including:
- Web page editors (such as Dreamweaver, FrontPage, and so on)
- Word processors and desktop publishing software that save files in web formats
Tools that transform documents into web formats, such as filters to transform desktop publishing formats to HTML.
- Content management systems (CMSs), tools that automatically generate websites dynamically from a database, on-the-fly conversion tools, and website publishing tools
Websites that let users add content, such as blogs, wikis, and sites like Flickr and MySpace
- Evaluation tools: Software programs or online services that help determine if a web page meets accessibility guidelines or standards. See the “Myth: Evaluation Tools Can Determine Accessibility and Conformance” section later in this chapter for more about evaluation tools.
- User agents: Web browsers, media players, assistive technologies, and other software that people use to access and interact with web content.
- Assistive technologies: Software and hardware that people with disabilities use to improve interaction with the Web. Examples include screen readers that read aloud web pages for people who cannot see or read the text and voice-input software and switches for people who cannot use a keyboard or mouse.
The human components of web accessibility are:
- Tool developers: The people and organizations who develop user agents, assistive technologies, authoring tools, and evaluation tools.
- Users: People using the Web, sometimes called website visitors.
- Content developers: The people and organizations who design, code, write, edit, update and otherwise create web content. This includes web programmers, graphic designers, technical writers, project managers, blog commenters, wiki contributors, secretaries who edit their organization's website, and others.
Bringing Together the Components
The W3C WAI (www.w3.org/WAI/) helps coordinate international web accessibility efforts to bring together the technical and human component considerations. Figure 1-12 illustrates how WAI's work fits into the components of web accessibility. WAI works:
W3C Working Groups to produce technical specifications that support accessibility
- User-agent, authoring tool, and evaluation tool developers to create the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) documents (www.w3.org/WAI/intro/atag) and User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) documents (www.w3.org/WAI/intro/uaag)
- Content developers and tool developers to create the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) documents (www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wcag)
- Users to understand issues and advocate for aspects of accessibility in each of the other components
|Figure 1-12. W3C WAI accessibility guidelines covering web accessibility components|
This coordinated effort developing accessibility guidelines provides the framework for how the components can work well together. It defines what each component needs to do for accessibility.
How businesses decide to design and develop new technology can dictate the inclusiveness of our digital society. Momentum is building among enterprises as leading organizations blaze a trail in designing for every one of us. The benefits that inclusiveness offers to individuals, businesses, and society are motivating many others to follow suit. Our ability to close the digital divide is within reach.