Websites and Access for People with Disabilities: CLA 2010 Conference note
Websites and Access for People with Disabilities, sponsored by the Connecticut Library Association’s Americans with Disabilities Act Committee.
Committee chair and longtime committee member Mary Engels introduced Kathy Gips (Director of Training) and Dennis Begany (Network Administrator) from the New England ADA Center who led a lively presentation and discussion of web and technology issues.
The ADA is the federal law that charges libraries and other public institutions to provide full and equal access to services. Similarly, Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology. Gips’ and Begany’s ADA center is one of ten in the nation, and much of what they do is help agencies comply with web standards.
During their ninety minute program, Gips and Begany encouraged 30 attendees to develop sites logically so that various assistive technology products can read them appropriately and to ask end users what products they feel are most useful as solutions.
In addition to general considerations, the two had seemingly hundreds of concrete considerations for web developers, such as: * Make sure that all electronic forms allow non-mouse navigation; * Construct data tables and frames carefully; * Provide users an option to skip repetitive links and get directly to content; * Provide contextual links (e.g., ‘click here’ and ‘link to’ are meaningless terms); * Multiple links to the same location should be named identically. One site that encourages considerate development is WebAIM from the Utah State University; Begany recommends using Dreamweaver as web development professionals can be expensive.
Certain types of standards must be kept paramount when constructing accessible websites.
Visual: Design standards are especially important for considering people with visual issues like blindness or low vision (e.g, macular degenerations, retinopathies, etc). Simple considerations, such as not using only color to indicate required fields (using asterisks is more appropriate) are just as important as end-user testing. Color, captioning, and video description are also important considerations. For example, use Vischeck to see what your site looks like for people with colorblindness and try NVDA, an open source screen reader for Windows.
Hearing: Begany reminded attendees that audio descriptions, described videos, and transcription services are important for persons who are hard of hearing or deaf. Captioning is recommended for any multimedia resource. Librarians were encouraged to try the free captioning software MAGpie.
Movement: It is very important to offer non-mouse, keyboard-only options for those with movement issues.
The session ended with demonstrations of the positive and negative features of several ‘live’ web sites, such as Human Centered Design and Washington University’s National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education. Sites from the Connecticut State Library, the Stratford Public Library and the Ferguson Library of Stamford were all favorably critiqued.
The Powerpoint presentation is available.