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Accessibility: Online vs Offline

Having a physical disability all my life, I often come across various physical accessibility issues when performing day-to-day activities in which able-bodied individuals may take for granted with giving it much thought. These include:

  • using ATMs, they are usually to high and out of reach for someone in a wheelchair, or the way in which you insert and remove the card can also be an issue.
  • Purchasing an item at a shop when the counter is to high to hand over the money
  • The most frustrating issue of all is the lack of disabled accessible bathrooms especially when you are at a club or a music festival. (I have even come across a disabled bathroom at Sydney Airport where the door opened inward which in turn made it practically impossible to close and be inside at the same time…..)

Anyway, as much as I could ramble on forever talking about my personal experiences of access, I would like to touch on digital accessibility. In Goggin and Newell’s (2007) journal article ‘the business of digital disability’ posses the question. If we are now possessed of greater knowledge about disability and design, why is accessible and inclusive technology so difficult to bring about? Is it because inclusive technology is not profitable, and so unattractive for businesses and unsustainable as an industry? Or is the answer more education and awareness?

Personally I believe that it is mostly down to the need for more education and awareness. In my role of web content officer at UOW I am often communicating with our contributors for the UOW website and informing them of accessibility requirements for websites. I am often referring to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) when dealing with owners of information found on the various faculties and business units websites.

WCAG is made up of 12 guidelines in which they are categorized into four principles. They are;

Perceivable

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways,
    including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.

Operable

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures.
  • Help users navigate and find content.

Understandable

  • Make text readable and understandable.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Robust

The main premise for following the WCAG guidelines is to make the web accessible for all, not just those people that have the ability to move a mouse with their hand, read the text that appears on their screen or hear sound that is played with video. Unlike myself in which I turn to technology to make my life easier such as typing vs writing, technology for a lot of people that have disabilities can make their lives a lot harder.

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About samhardaker

In my final year of a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies degree specialising in Digital Communications and Advertising Marketing. Working at University of Wollongong as Content Management Officer (Digital & Web).

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