Web site accessibility involves the compatibility of web sites with the assistive technologies used by people with disabilities. For example people who are blind, severely dyslexic, or have motor control disabilities often use assistive technologies to interface with computers. These technologies include Text-To-Speech (TTS) readers and voice-recognition software. Because of their syntax and design, many web pages are inaccessible to these devices.
Web site accessibility violations are caused by not adhering to accessibility standards. For example, improper use of frames can cause TTS readers to jump around pages in a confusing manner. Alternatively, some functionality such as pop-up windows and animated GIFs are difficult to navigate.
Web site accessibility violations have been catalogued by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), sponsored by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C created a listing divided into Priority 1, 2 and 3 violations, with Priority 1 being the most severe. These standards will be used by the Access Board to determine Section 508 compliance.
SSB's software tools are designed to address accessibility violations as determined by the WAI. In order to make a site accessible to assistive technologies, our tools correct improper formatting. We also provide textual alternatives to new technologies such as Flash and animation. In addition, our tools accomplish this with virtually no impact on the appearance of your site.
There are many compelling reasons to make your web site and intranet accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility reduces your risk of lawsuits, allows you to perform transactions with the government, attracts new users, prepares for new technologies, enables foreign language translation, and maintains a positive public image.
Beyond all the practical benefits of having an accessible web site (see "Why Make Your Web Site Accessible"), the simple fact remains that inaccessible web sites and intranets are against the law. The two primary pieces of relevant legislation are Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Titles II and III of the ADA mandates that organizations must provide the necessary aids and services to allow effective communication to people with disabilities (See 28 C.F.R. §36.303; 28 C.F.R. §35.160). In the past decade, this has meant that stores, restaurants and other businesses have had to install Braille signs, ramps for wheelchairs, and other infrastructure accommodations. Today, it means that similar accommodations must be made on the Internet, so similar "signs" and "ramps" must be installed. More specifically, web sites must be able to be understood and interpreted by the assistive technologies, such as text-to-speech readers, used by people with disabilities. If these accommodations are not made, a company is subject to legal action.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act focuses on the Federal Government and its vendors. It first states that all government web sites must be accessible. Section 508 also requires that the government may only transact with businesses who offer their information and products on accessible Information Technology. Therefore, if information is processed through a web site, that web site must be accessible.
SSB Technologies' solutions will make your site accessible to people with disabilities, and reach compliance with Section 508. They will also greatly reduce your risk of an ADA lawsuit, avoiding costly legal fees.
People use assistive technologies because they:
Examples of assistive technologies include:
For example, let us consider a blind woman who uses a TTS reader with her computer. The TTS reader works well with her word processor, email program, and spreadsheet program that she uses for work. However, when she tries to navigate web sites, many times she cannot access the information because the web site is designed in an inaccessible manner. She finds that her screen reader jumps from page to page on sites that have pop-up windows, cannot coherently navigate a web page that uses frames improperly, is not able to understand the meaning of images lacking textual descriptions, and cannot fill out the on-line forms necessary to purchase products. When she browses an accessible web site, she is able to successfully navigate it with her reader, coherently following the site structure and obtaining the information she needs.
Another example is a man with a motor control disability that makes it extremely difficult to use his hands. To use his computer, he employs voice-recognition software that allows him to manipulate his regular programs through voice-activated commands. This technology allows him to compose and edit documents and emails, and take advantage of the full functionality of most programs. Once again, when he reaches many web sites he is unable to navigate them. A number of web sites will not allow support commands that bypass the need for a number of clicks. Other sites offer forms required for feedback or purchasing that cannot be tabbed through in a logical order and have time-limited response options. When he visits accessible web sites, he can navigate easily, taking advantage of all the features of the page.
The Web Accessibility Initiative, part of the World Wide Web Consortium, has a helpful reference at: www.w3.org/WAI/References/Browsing.
Here are a number of web site accessibility violations and how SSB Technologies fixes them.
Lack of textual alternatives: Images may not have a meaningful alt attributes associated with them. Embedded programs such as streaming video or animation may not contain textual descriptions of their content. As a result of both conditions, a screen reader will not be able to render the image in an auditory fashion. SSB Technologies' tools can fix these violations by prompting the developer for an appropriate description, which is automatically entered into the code.
Data tables: If data tables are improperly formatted, they will fail to transform gracefully. This means that assistive technologies will not be able to make coherent sense of the information in the table. For example, in a baseball box score, if the table is improperly formatted, a screen reader will read "Barry Bonds, 4, 2, 1, 3" which will not indicate that the '4' relates to 'At-bats', the '2' to 'Hits', the '1' to 'Runs', and the '3' to "RBI's'. Our tools will convert them to HTML 4.0 data tables which allow for proper transformation.
Device dependent event handlers: Consider a navigation bar whose link options change when the mouse hovers over them. A user who browses without a mouse would not trigger the changes and corresponding navigation options. Our tools add redundant non-device dependent handlers which enable the same functionality to assistive technologies while preserving the feature for standard browsers.