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©Liddy Nevile




Making Web Content Accessible to Everyone

[by Jonathan O'Donnell. Original version is available online at:]

Everybody uses the Web differently. Some people turn images off. Others can't use sound. Some don’t read so well. Others get confused. People access the Web using very different equipment. More and more people are using different devices.

People have more and more choice about how to use the Web. Palm pilots, mobile phones, computers in cars, who knows what. Screens are getting much, much bigger and much, much smaller. In some situations, they are disappearing altogether.

We can’t predict what will happen. So if you are trying to design for a ‘typical’ user, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

How can Web accessibility help?

While there is a growing body of information about how to build accessible Web sites, it is still difficult to convince organisations that it is a good idea. The battle is to get organisations to understand why accessibility matters to their customers; and to their bottom line. I want to outline some arguments that you can use to help win the case for accessibility.

The key ideas behind Web accessibility are:

You want as many people as possible to access your Web site. You don't want to turn every tenth person away at the door. Generally, you are aiming for:

Incorporating principles of Web accessibility can:

These benefits are real possibilities for web sites. They are compelling arguments for adopting principals of Web accessibility.

Why is it a good idea?

In addition, think about what metadata you are providing for your site. Strictly speaking, this is not an accessibility issue. However, if people can’t find your content, then they can’t access it. Search engines love good metadata, so think about how you are going to catalogue your information.

Improve site portability.

If you develop your Web site according to international standards, then it will work with the new tools that are being developed. Tools that we can’t even imagine yet. Ten years ago, none of us could imagine the Web. We can’t imagine what it will be like in another ten.

While these last two are very important, they won't sell the message by themselves. You can't win hearts and minds by concentrating on a negative ('you might get sued') or appealing to their altruistic nature. However, these two reasons do provide the icing on the cake, which may clinch the deal.

Last updated: 8 March 2002