The ability to change font size, contrast, and colors is a must, but is now more common on standard software, particularly word processors. Consistent layout and clear navigation buttons with both graphic and text labels make navigation easier for everyone, but are essential for many people with disabilities. Background should be simple to improve readability and reduce distraction. Directions should be broken down into steps and jargon avoided, including library jargon. White space and bulleting can clarify steps, reduce distraction, and focus attention. All graphics should have text alternatives or labels, which can be done in a variety of ways.
This rule applies to computers and to signage throughout the facility. Many people with moderate to severe reading disabilities, called dyslexia, benefit from optical character recognition and voice synthesizer software coupled with highlighting of the text being spoken. Using sight and sound together enhances speed and comprehension and may improve reading overall.
Highlighting assists the user in keeping his or her place and following along. Adding a flatbed scanner ensures access to a wide variety of material not in electronic format. People with a writing disability called dysgraphia are able to produce readable text, including notes on readings, by using a keyboard, although keyboarding may be difficult for some to learn.
Alternative keyboards may be helpful, since they allow the user to customize the layout and appearance of the keys. Spelling difficulties, a hallmark of dyslexia, can be addressed with a combination of common spell checker, word prediction software, and voice synthesizer. Word prediction can be helpful to people with keyboarding, spelling, or grammar problems or difficulty coming up with the right word. People with memory and organizational problems, as well as those who have difficulty expressing their thoughts in writing, can be assisted with outlining and brainstorming or mind mapping programs.
Information gathering and later reorganization are simplified. Other conditions that affect learning include attention deficit disorder ADD , attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD , autism, and mental retardation. Carrels, small study rooms and other settings with minimum distraction are helpful to both groups, but essential to many with ADD or ADHD. Headphones block out extraneous noise and also reduce the general sound level in the library. Figure 1. The following chapters will describe how to make Websites accessible and how to discern which ones are not accessible, plus how to adapt your computers, budgets, and staff to facilitate access for all.
Because medical research concludes that each human being has a unique genetic code, a standard prescription for "adaptive Internet access" cannot be written. Instead, tools such as screen readers, refreshable Braille displays, and text enlargers may be purchased and offered to patrons with disabilities so they themselves will choose and use what will help them. One item that can be standardized, however, and will help all people with or without disabilities, is a commitment to good Web design.
Tim Berners-Lee, director of the W3C and inventor of the WWW, said, "The W3C is committed to removing accessibility barriers for all people with disabilities, including the deaf, blind, physically challenged, and cognitive or visually impaired. We plan to work aggressively with government, industry, and community leaders to establish and attain Web accessibility goals. It is very helpful to be aware of Web design principles advocated by organizations that specialize in accessible design. These organizations advocate adherence to universal design principles to transcend the limitations of HTML documents.
The Trace Center's definition of universal design is "the process of creating products devices, environments, systems, and processes that are usable by people with the widest range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations environments, conditions, and circumstances. The Web page designer addressing universal design and accessibility is more concerned with information dissemination for all, rather than visual appeal for most.
When designing the document, an attempt is made to make all the material displayed as accessible as possible, whether it is a menu item, graphic, or video clip. Creating accessible Web pages may not take additional money, just more time and consideration. The site's designer can use this code to create hypertext references to other HTML pages and resources, both within the site or anywhere else on the Internet.
Web documents are coded or marked up with tags that will tell the program where the author wants pages to end, when he or she wants a list created, when he or she wants a statement emphasized. Using HTML correctly will enable screen readers and refreshable Braille display to interpret the information on the site as the page's author wishes it to be seen. It is not difficult, once you begin to think in a text mode rather than a visual or artistic mode. Using HTML correctly will present the site for the user using adaptive technology.
Screen readers, for example, always start reading left to right and always at the same pitch, while people using their natural vision will probably start reading in a variety of places before settling in on the first sentence. Avoid underlining text, as partially sighted individuals will have a hard time discerning the actual text with the line grazing the bottom of the letters. It is also wise to avoid capitalizing whole words, for persons with low vision or with a learning disability may have a difficult time discerning the beginning and the end of a word.
It is always advisable to test the pages on the mainstream browsers such as Netscape and Internet Explorer as well as Lynx, to make sure alternative text is viewable and complete. The background chosen for Websites and home pages is important to those using adaptive devices to access information. A solid color is always a good choice and patterns or textures should be avoided.
For instance, graceful morning glories used as a background for a directory menu may be visually appealing for users without print disabilities, but impossible for a person with low vision or a learning disability to read. A better choice would be to make the background solid blue and the print white. While it is advisable to use one of the 16 colors that a color Video Graphics Array VGA adapter can support, the color chosen is not so important as the contrast between the background and text.
Test the background on a black-and-white monitor as well as on several sizes and qualities of color monitors. Black and white will help you decide if the color contrast is sufficient. Some colors do not translate to black and white well many users of screen readers set their monitors on black and white , nor hold their color resolution on oversize monitors. Larger monitors do not always have the ability to absorb all of the pixels involved in creating shades of tertiary colors.
Consistency is very important for users of your site. Important features of your page design should be in the same place on every page of your site. Knowing where directional buttons, messages, and menus are located will allow users to find what they need quickly and efficiently. While creativity may tempt you to tinker with your page design, don't-make it right and then leave it alone. It is helpful, when producing long documents, to include a Table of Contents with links to key sections and the ability to return to the home page and Table of Contents at will.
This is necessary for users of screen readers who may wish to use the Review command of their screen reader to skim the article before actually reading it. Most users of the World Wide Web will admit that links to external sites are the most intriguing and enjoyable part of the surfing experience, for you don't know exactly where you will end up.
So care should be taken to ensure that all the links you add can be easily found. If possible, try to avoid using the term "Click here," for it may not be obvious to everyone where "here" is.
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The required action should be evident, as Internet users already know that you need to "click" to travel onward. Avoid multiple links in one sentence or paragraph. For instance, this sentence will not be clearly understood by a screen reader: "We are a Frescia County Agency serving families in transition.
Our goal is to locate low-cost housing for the homeless of Frescia County by job retraining and by teaching household budgeting and parenting skills. While the developers of the site want to convey that they are a Frescia County Agency whose mission is to find housing for homeless families, and the site offers links to further information on household budgeting, parenting skills, and job retraining programs, the screen reader may miss the hypertext links. It would be preferable to offer an introductory paragraph stating the mission of the agency and then offer links in a single column. Likewise, links should be written in a manner that is not distracting to the user.
For instance, a sun that smiles and scrolls the command to "Click here for hours and events" is not so understandable as a steady sun smile button with a text description of the smiling sun stating "hours and events.
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It is wise to avoid using images without descriptive text as links. While most users may think that "Click here for more" under the picture of a book will bring up a similar list of books, persons with learning disabilities may not interpret it as such, and people using screen readers will not know what it is. It may be better to write using brackets : "[Click here for similar titles on subject]" or even better "[More titles of the subject]. If you use icons to represent hypertext links, be sure the chosen icon is large enough for someone with mobility impairment to "find the target" for the click.
Generally speaking, avoid the use of tables to create multiple columns, if possible. Remember that screen readers read left to right, which means a three-column directory document will be misread by the reader. The director of Starling Access Services suggests using headings, paragraphs, lists, and definition elements creatively to present information in a more accessible manner.
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It is helpful to end items on the lists or sentences with appropriate punctuation marks, for the screen readers do recognize and translate them for the user. If you definitely want to use tables to create columns, you will have to experiment with modifications to table markup for the content in the columns to be rendered in the correct order by a text browser or screen reader.
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For example, placing a tag at the end of a row in a table will create a break in text that a browser or reader will recognize as a signal to move on to the next line of text. Screen reader developers are currently working on methods to have their software read within a table rather than across columns. Yes, you are proud of your new building and you are correct in wanting it displayed on your Website.
When you incorporate the graphic, however, you need to offer a succinct description for the visually impaired visitor. Duplicating the text in the element of the tag will allow users with screen readers to read the description you formulate. Using the tag allows nonsighted users to read descriptions without forcing sighted users to view them. The National Center for Accessible Media NCAM also suggests using a "D" link to take the user who needs more description to another page where the author of the page has space to fully describe the image.
It is also wise to avoid placing more than one photograph on a page for the resulting may be incorrectly interpreted by the screen unless you are sure you are using a good design reader. For instance, a Website home page welcoming visitors to visit Cleveland for its myriad of activities may show a picture of the mayor, the new Louis Stokes wing of the Cleveland Public Library, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Jacob's Field. When graphics are used as image maps, which allow different areas of the image to represent hypertext links to other documents, it is important to provide alternate means of selecting items directly above or below the image map.
Instructions for the user who is relying on a screen reader should also be included.
Using frames can create a page that is inaccessible to those using screen readers. If frames are necessary, an effective alternative to the frames page should be included. The tag should always be included when using framed pages. This tag allows entire documents to be displayed in browsers that are incapable of displaying frames.
Very often when quickly skimming Websites our eyes will be drawn to lists, for we know that lists offer a summation of the text and the bullets or numbers indicate what the author wants us to read.
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