Friday, March 23, 2007

Web Design to Increase Accessibility for Visually Impaired Users

Librarians have been leaders in adopting adaptive software and devices to assist disabled users. I was struck today, though, by how far behind developments I've fallen. We had an academic conference with speakers from across the university. My colleague from Suffolk's Sawyer School of Management, Johnathan Frank, spoke about his study comparing web accessibility of more than 100 U.S. and Australian universities, both in 2000 and again in 2005. Evidently, there has been very little progress in the U.S. towards better web access for visually disabled users of academic websites. In Australia, on the other hand, great strides have been made in that time period, possibly pushed by a high-profile law suit and publicity comparing institutions' websites.

Here are some updated resources for you to use if you want to check your website's adaptive quality:

Two tools for Evaluating Web Design Accessibility for the Visually Impaired
(You can see a much longer list with detailed descriptions at the WAI site, listed below)

Adesigner link

Bobby link
(Prof. Frank considers Bobby to be a rather crude tool that measures bare compliance with standards rather than aspiring to better-than-minimum access)

Selected websites with helpful info on Accessibility for the Visually Impaired

DMOZ Open Directory Project (Web Index headings)
Top: Society: Disabled: Assistive Technology : link

Top: Computers: Internet: Web Design and Development: Accessibility

Top: Society: Disabled: Universal Design: Computers

Top: Computers: Human-Computer Interaction: Companies and Consultants: Usability Testing link

Google for Visually Disabled link

TRACE at Univ.Wisconsin – Designing More Usable Websites link

UseIt - Jakob Nielsen’s Website link
And special report on usability for those with disabilities: link

W3C Web
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) link
Content Accessibility Recommendations link

Web Standards Group - Web Checking for Blind and Vision Impaired link
(United Kingdom, 2004)

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