Making the Web Accessible

This week’s readings focused on the accessibility of the web for a wide audience. This goes beyond just thinking about your viewers in terms of their age, gender, or interest level in your topic. As these readings note, many viewers may have various disabilities that can disrupt their ability to access your website. It’s taken me most of the semester to actually think about who my audience is and how to appeal to specific types of viewers, and I now realize I hadn’t even taken into account those viewers who might have physical or mental limitations that might make my site less easily accessible. I enjoyed the readings because they were a wake-up call for me to really think about each individual who might visit my sight. I certainly don’t want anyone to miss out on the exciting news coverage that followed the case of Philemon T. Herbert way back in 1856. Therefore, moving forward I will put even more thought into my audience.

Constantly adding more thought into my site has been a common theme throughout the semester. I use the internet all the time, and am constantly interacting with different types of websites, but until I started this course I didn’t have any idea how much work went into creating my own site. I’m not just referring to the work of actually writing the code either. I’m talking about the amount of mental work required to think about aspects of the site that includes the structure, color, font, navigation, audience, accessibility…….I’ll stop there, but rest assured I could go on for quite a while. Each week I’ve addressed a new aspect, and this week it was time for accessibility. Chief among my concerns with accessibility is the effect of my site’s design, specifically the colors. I’ve been having trouble picking a suitable color scheme for a few weeks, but figured that was really only an aesthetic issue. However, I now realize that bad color design can be not only displeasing to look at, but can also affect the way someone with vision impairment could view my site.

If color is not contrasted properly, it can become difficult for some viewers to actually see distinctions between text. A good example can be seen in Mark Pilgrim’s book Dive into Accessibility when he discusses using color safely. Pilgrim makes some great points about how if you don’t provide enough of a distinction between the color of a hyperlink and that of the rest of the text, viewers may miss the link altogether. Given the amount of time that goes into creating a site, everything on it should be there for a good reason and it would be a shame for someone to be unaware of a link because of the poor color choice made by the creator. Pilgrim’s book offers some great examples of how to make sure your site is clear by using various design techniques.

Another place to check out some basic accessibility tips is on Webaim.org, specifically this page. I found the first tip about adding alternative text to your logos to be really helpful and simple to do. The other major point I took away from these tips was the need for structure on your site. A few weeks ago I watched a tutorial on Lynda.com about proper HTML5 structure. In that video the instructor stressed the importance of making sure your code was structured in a way that could be easily read by other viewers. The tips on Webaim went a step beyond that by discussing how a coherent code structure can facilitate page navigation and comprehension.

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