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October 18, 2018

Everything you need to know about making websites accessible for people with disabilities

Gal Vizel CMO at accessiBe
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If you've read the previous articles on our site, you probably understood the substantial need and the importance of making your website accessible for disabled people. Perhaps you have also understood some of the principles behind the accessibility legislation and guidelines, and perhaps you have been able to better understand the subject of making websites accessible - both technically and ethically. And maybe, just maybe, we were able to make you want to make your site accessible, and not just to comply with the legislation.

But even with goodwill, if you do not understand what the field of making websites accessible actually is and what are the principles behind it, why it is needed to begin with, and how it is implemented in practice, your goodwill will remain blessed, but will not cause real changes.

In this article we will explain in depth about the field of making websites accessible so that you can understand the world of disabilities for all its parts, and how it integrates with the basic need of every person in modern times, to surf the Internet freely and independently.

Understanding the concept behind making websites accessible:

Here's a short exercise: Visualize your life without the internet. It's not about a shortage of the router or the supplier, it means life without an Internet, or life with very limited Internet access. Also, visualize your life with very limited access to computers, smartphones, tablets and virtually any technological device that displays information. Can you imagine your work, your leisure and even your love life without them? Probably not.

In today's world, there is a large group of the population that does not imagine it - they live it — day by day, hour by hour. The disabled population in almost every society is about 20% of the residents. This population is limited to a significant percentage of its daily activities, quite decisively. Think about your daily routine for a moment. Where do you check the news? Look for a topic that interests you? a dictionary definition? order a vacation or a product? Talk to friends? Check the stock exchange? Most likely on the Internet, at least in most of these actions, and at least most of the time. If you think about how many of these actions are a significant part of your daily routine, you will come to the obvious conclusion - the lives of people with disabilities are very problematic, to say the least.

Precisely because of this understanding, a WCAG 2.0 standard (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) was created. This standard was established by the World Wide Web Organization (W3) and aims to create a standard for the accessibility of the Internet, such that people with disabilities will be able to surf the internet freely and efficiently. The standard itself is comprehensive, and relates to almost any disability group that exists, in order to give us, developers and site builders, various tools and a deep understanding of the subject of accessibility, so that we can apply it efficiently.

These instructions and center marks are actually a collection of technical actions performed on the site - after all, a site is a platform created by code. The site itself does not have a consciousness that will enable it to teach itself or by itself (unless programmed to) - so it can’t tell what accessibility is or whether the surfer who is currently in front of him manages to get along with the site or not. All of these actions create what we define as the accessibility of the site.

Defining the standard is the first step - yes, site owners now know what needs to be done to make their site and business or service truly accessible, but they can also choose not to be accessible to any audience except for 80% of the "regular" surfers on the site; (A short-term financial decision that is made because of the expenses involved in that operation, but it is unethical in any way, and also inhibits the growth and prosperity of your business in the long run as we explained in the previous article).

This field requires a thorough understanding of the world of disabilities for all its kinds, and therefore it is highly recommended to know the various groups in order to perform the relevant actions and adjustments in an optimal manner. Later, we will explain about a number of groups - who they are, where does the difficulty comes from, what are the most common difficulties and possible solutions to the problem, in accordance with the standard that we explained earlier.

Blind and visually impaired

This group is one of the most recognized in this field, and most of us are likely to know at least one of them in one way or another. This group, of course, needs a more practical solution than a pair of glasses, so it finds it difficult to cope with the current existing displays.

The visually impaired population usually needs to increase the media size, text and all parts of the site to make it readable and clear for a sufficient (or better) reading and browsing experience, in combination with the arrangement of the media in a way that will be easy and comfortable to read (even a text size of 100 will not be so clear if it is yellow with a white background, for example). The media itself should also be clear and sharp, with zoom options and minimal degradation of quality and of course text that is intelligently integrated with the media itself (such as text captions, subtitles, etc.).

As for the blind public, even the largest and most obvious font will not suffice. This population needs tools that will dictate the text on the screen, describe the pictures and what is happening on the site, and of course, ease the navigation on the site. This population relies heavily on audio, so the text dictations should be clear and indeed match or add to the original text. In addition, the blind surfer needs the option of using a custom Braille keyboard that will also allow him to insert text and perform various actions.

The solution: A site that meets the standards that are related to the accessibility of the visually impaired and blind, should offer text and media of appropriate size, with options for zoom and enlargement along with clear, clean and smooth visibility. In addition to that, it needs to be adjusted and synchronized with screen reading software, so that it can dictate the text in the site to the surfer, in a clear and orderly manner. furthermore, the site must be synchronized with the technologies for identifying elements in pictures, or the description of images by a person. These descriptions will be dictated to the blind user by screen reading software. It is important to remember that for all of this to work properly, the site must be fully optimized for keyboard navigation.

Since every part of the site is relevant, each page needs to be scanned and matched - a document that includes 1,000 pages of text, needs to go through the same process on every page, including integration and synchronization with the same software and third-party tools - a process that can be problematic to a large site who wishes to make manual accessibility.

Motor disabled

This group consists of a number of sub-groups, all of which belong to the same limitation that prevents them from moving or operating freely. Among the groups included are those suffering from the Parkinson's disease, elbow injuries, bone and organ injuries (eg arthritis, hand fracture, knee erosion, nerve palsy, Duchenne, etc.) and of course limb amputations. The main problem is, of course, the damage or lack of mobility, which makes it difficult for quite a few actions that seem trivial to us: using the mouse, in terms of actions such as movement, clicking, holding and dragging. Using your tablet and smartphone requires stable grip and motion-based actions for basic or advanced use. Typing requires certain agility and coordination, and the list goes on.

The solution: This group needs sufficiently customizable or flexible tools such as a mouse in a different configuration and design, special additives such as a lens that follows eye movements and can simulate mouse movement only with that (cursor movement through pupil movement and clicking when blinking, for example). There are accessibility modes on mobile devices that allow for various actions, including the use of one hand and/or certain shortcuts and/or the use of tools such as corneal detection for operations and security. Another relevant feature is one that allows those who are not able to use the mouse - to fully use all the functions of it by using the only keyboard, including clicking, displaying menus, navigation and more, so that the experience of using the mouse is not damaged - it only switches to another hardware and allows full use with minimum buttons.

People with cognitive disabilities and the elderly

This period of life is characterized by a large number of possible problems: misunderstanding of slang and contemporary language, along with limitations that may arise due to age or medical problems such as a stroke, memory and attention problems etc. This problem is not only relevant to seniors - even young people with dyslexia, dyscalculia or similar disabilities can have difficulty reading content, especially those that include long text, sophisticated language, numbers, acronyms, etc.

While most users with computer knowledge and free browsing options can use services such as dictionaries, slang sites, and glossaries, it is still a tedious action that requires a lot of getting in and out of the text page, which only increases the lack of concentration when reading the text, and directly damages the surfing experience.

The solution: In fact, we at accessible are currently the only ones who were able to solve this problem without having to rewrite all the text on the site. In our system, there is an accessibility possibility of "sits on" the text and gives the option to receive a translation, interpretation or explanation for any expression, acronym or word that is not clear. This option does not require a change in the original text, and does not interfere with the reading order or its process, and is an option built into our interface, just a click away.

Patients with epilepsy

Patients belonging to this group usually live a normal life, as long as they are under medical treatment and medical supervision suited to them. However, they are in constant fear that, despite the medical treatments, there are quite a few possible triggers that could cause an acute epileptic seizure. The main problem is that these triggers are often not perceived as such by the general population, and therefore this subject does not get the required attention. As a result of that, and of the internet progress regarding speed and stability, the average surfer encounters hundreds, if not thousands of media items per day, each of them contains a possible trigger (eg a video containing several seconds of flashes, or advertising banners that also contain flickers designed to attract the eye of the surfer).

The solution: Since it is impossible to really demand or influence all the media content on a particular site and on the Internet as a whole in terms of examining the content presented in them (and even then, there will be gaps or lack of attention that may lead to errors and misses. A similar example from another field is allergies and allergens in restaurants and production lines). The solution must be comprehensive and affect all types of media, at a level where it can neutralize any potential trigger and give the user control over all possible content before encountering problematic content during his visit to the site. In this way, an epileptic surfer will be able to "control" the flicker of the site to which he intends to enter, and have a piece of mind since he knows that even if there are such triggers, they will be neutralized immediately.

Different visual impairments

The world of visual disabilities is not divided only for the visually impaired and the blind. This world includes a variety of medical phenomena’s such as color blindness, cataracts, glaucoma and more. The experience of browsing in these cases is usually severely impaired - the color blind cannot perceive the picture as it really is, and some of the text will be displayed in their eyes in a color that will interfere with their reading. Not to mention a green button for approval and a red button to cancel, which a colorblind person just can't see. People who suffer from visual disabilities will sometimes have to cope with insufficient color contrast, with the arrangement and alignment of text that can be perceived for them as blurred writing and smudging etc’.

The solution: A system that allows the surfer to choose the colors on the site, including fonts, media (as much as possible) and other elements related to writing such as spacing, alignment etc. to prevent situations in which the text meshes and/or blurs. In general: giving the surfer control over the content arrangement. From color to size, to alignment, and spacing between lines, letters, or words.

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As you can understand, the world of accessibility is a complex one, and very much so. There are quite a few groups, and the ones we mentioned are only the main groups (and in them, we raised only the main problems). In practice, what appears below the surface is a huge percentage (20% of the population did we say that already?) of people with disabilities who have not yet received the accessibility level they need to join the modern age - the Internet.

We have identified this problem, have worked hard to change the situation. And guess what? we succeeded! The situation has changed, and thanks to AccessiBe, which is an automated system built specifically to create a smart and comprehensive solution for making websites accessible. This solution not only fully meets the standard but exacerbates and adds to it.

AccessiBe is a system built from a number of AI programs (artificial intelligence) that together, in full synchronization, are able to learn the site and identify all the relevant elements, map the required tasks so that the accessibility compatibility will be successful, and completely automated. Furthermore, the system allows each surfer on the site the option to apply the accessibility options and the relevant tools for him, and for his limitations, specifically. All this is done on an ongoing basis and is updated frequently, so that new content that will be added later will go through the process, and will also be made accessible, without the need for manual work which requires time, a great deal of money, resources, and manpower.

accessiBe is very extensive and includes solutions for all types of disabilities related to the standard:

The visually impaired and blind people: The system will automatically scan and learn the site in order to understand the different aspects of it and create a match for various screen reading programs while creating an automatic alternative description of the pictures on the site (using artificial intelligence that can decode images). Thus, the blind surfer will receive a fully optimized site he can use with screen reading software.

Motor Disabled: AccessiBe offers this group the ability to navigate the site fully and conveniently using only the keyboard itself, while performing all mouse related activities such as clicking, opening various menus, hovering, marking and more. In addition, AccessiBe makes it possible to jump between elements of the site using various keyboard shortcuts that simulate the operation of JAWS (the leading screen reader in the market at this time).

Cognitive Disabilities and Seniors: AccessiBe enables the assimilation of interpretations into words, phrases, slang or acronyms, without any change to the text appearing on the site and without reference to an external source - Only those who wish to accept the interpretation will use this feature.

Epilepsy patients: AccessiBe allows complete control over all type’s online media - images, graphics, banners, videos, clips, etc. - to prevent any media from playing automatically and using effects that can be a trigger. The surfer can quickly and efficiently stop any type of media that might be dangerous.

Visually impaired: AccessiBe Allows any surfer to fully customize the way the content is presented, and influence all aspects - from the color of the script to the spacing and other possibilities.

When you choose AccessiBe, you'll enjoy a professional and smart system that will allow your site to meet the strictest standards, saving thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars and high maintenance costs - all with an affordable yearly payment that will give you a piece of mind from the legislation, from now and on. Thanks to our smart artificial intelligence that is constantly learning your site, the changes, and updates and makes the relevant accessibility adjustments quickly and efficiently.