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Creating a Website for People with Disabilities: New Technologies and Requirements

Alexander Shut / 11.26.2018160

Creating a website that is not only suitable for people with disabilities but which provides user experience with few or zero compromises has recently become a major web development trend in Europe and North America.

This comes as no surprise when you look back and remember the time when websites were still a new thing on the market - back then, you just had to make them work and that was enough.

Soon, people started to pay more attention to the visuals and the overall aesthetics of websites - naturally, developers started to come up with slicker design ideas and improve the user experience by adding nifty features.

Another thing that happened around that time is the page load speed problem, which arose due to the widespread availability of wi-fi and mobile devices. As always, the faster the better.

Now that these problems have been more or less taken care of for most websites out there, next up is the matter of universal accessibility for different categories of users, one of which is visually impaired users.

Site Version for Visually Impaired: Background

Website accessibility is a major concern for those developers who want to provide equally enjoyable experience for all categories of site visitors, including visually impaired.

Accessibility isn’t just another buzzword marketers like to drop here and there. Get this: according to the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations, there are over 39 million blind people and more than 124 visually impaired people in the world. Compare that to the population of Canada, which is just under 37 million people, and you’ll get the full picture. That’s why creating equal browsing opportunities for these categories of site visitors is so important.

The first major public discussion of the problem was initiated by major corporations like Adobe, IBM, and Microsoft back in 1996 during a World Wide Web convention. Nowadays, most browsers have tools for visually impaired and there is even a common standard WCAG 2.0 developed to meet the requirements of people with disabilities.

That’s why creating a website easily accessible by visually impaired is more than just a passing trend - it is a must for all web developers who want their website to provide equal browsing opportunities for everyone.

Websites For Visually Impaired: Who Needs Them Most?

Since its inception, the Internet has always been about universal accessibility - no matter who you are and where you are. That means everyone - whether you are young or elderly, rich or poor, disabled or not, you should be able to browse the Internet with ease and comfort.

Putting yourself in other people’s shoes is actually a good exercise for developers, which helps to understand the needs and problems various categories of users might have with your website. However, certain groups of users require additional care due to their condition, such as people with:

  • myopia
  • short-sightedness
  • cataract
  • glaucoma
  • astigmatism
  • color blindness

Plus, if it is a website of some governmental institution, public organization, or a clinic, it is most likely meant to be used by virtually anyone, in which case you would also require a site version for people with disabilities.

Requirements For a Website For Visually Impaired

The W3 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines we mentioned earlier suggest implementing a wide range of standards for visually impaired.

First of all, no matter how cool your website is, you must have a “Site Version For Visually Impaired” button on your website.

Second, you must ensure proper navigation and readability for all categories of users.

Finally, you need to take the following recommendations into consideration if you really want your website to be universally accessible:

  1. Your visitors should be able to adjust the background color and font color for pages with text
  2. The width of texts on your website should be no more than 80 characters, no center alignment
  3. Visitors should be able to increase the font size 100% or even more - without having to scroll the text horizontally
  4. Recommended contrast ratio should be at least 4.5:1
  5. Line spacing should be at least 1.5 or more. Paragraph spacing should be at least 50% bigger than line spacing

Another important thing is usability and ease of use, which includes:

  • Ease of navigation and the ability to detect a visitor’s position on a given page of the website
  • For users who navigate the website via keyboard, it is important to make the current focus visible and the site functions available at all times
  • The ability to skip repeating sections of the web page and go directly to its main content

Lastly, there is clarity. Your website has to be clean and clear, which means:

  • No unexpected page behavior: everything should load and open predictably smooth
  • Intuitive input - whenever a user needs to type in some information, the navigation and page behavior should be predictable
  • Easily readable and scrollable pages

Needless to mention, all these recommendations must be applied to both desktop and mobile versions of the website meaning that the accessibility remains the same no matter what device your visitors use to browse the website.

How to Create a Website for People With Disabilities

Most developers are familiar with the term “accessibility”, which is often shortened to A11Y. Apart from many other things, it means adapting your website for browsing by visually impaired.

The adapting process will go much smoother if your website has been properly designed in the first place. A website with responsive and adaptive design needs very few tweaks before it could be used by visually impaired. However, if the front end developer did not do a very good job, your website might need to be redesigned from scratch.

In fact, many web developers now would agree that all you need is to create a website with adaptive design and ensure keyboard-only navigation. Making your website this way will ensure its compatibility with the needs of the majority of users. After implementing the suggestions we mentioned in the previous section, you can boast a universally accessible website.

Finally, there is a misconception that you can only make a simple website universally accessible. Any sophisticated animation and oversized texts/images/videos will render it inaccessible for some categories of users. As a professional web studio that has developed hundreds of websites, we can say it’s not true. If you got all the tech specs right BEFORE the development process began, you can achieve the required level of accessibility for pretty much any layout and design.

Here’s a recent example of our work with Lawson Creamer, a law firm for whom we created a website with access for visually impaired.

If you are looking for web developers who can develop a solid website to meet requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0, consider Zwebra Web Studio Inc. We’re capable of handling projects of any level, even with sophisticated design and architecture. Plus, we also offer online marketing and promotion services to our clients to help them reach out to their target audiences in the most efficient way.

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