Accessibility analysis

Accessibility involves designing a computer system to allow all users equal access to the information contained within it and the benefits it provides. Since the introduction of the final element of the Disability Discrimination Act in late 2004, equal access to publicly-available services for disabled users has been a legal requirement for all organisations operating in the United Kingdom.

‘Direct access’ is when a system is made to be accessible to all users, whether they have a disability or not, and incorporates the concept of ‘universal design’. ‘Indirect access’ is when the system can be accessed via assistive technology, such as a screen reader.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has developed a set of guidelines on how websites should be designed in order that they can be accessible to people with disabilities. Various programs can be used to test websites against these guidelines and see how their accessibility can be improved.

Ways in which a website can be made accessible include the use of validated code; access keys (which should be shown in a list); the ability to resize text, and alternatives for any multimedia available on the site (e.g. video or audio content).

Ways in which computer software can be made accessible include displaying an onscreen keyboard to be accessed using a mouse or joystick; allowing the cursor to be controlled by the keyboard; using screen reader technology to provide an audio version of any written information, and to create a visual display to relate to sound.

In both cases, the interface should be easy to navigate for all users. Written information on screen should be broken into small sections, with keywords highlighted (e.g. in a bold or italic font), to ensure that it is easy to read. Colours should be chosen to ensure that there is sufficient contrast between text and background, and that it is visible to colour-blind users.

Related methods include: Interface design and Usability analysis.

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