Every five years the Australian Bureau of Statistics carries out its extensive Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers collecting detailed statistics on the prevalence of disabilities in Australia. The last (1998) Survey found that 19 per cent of Australians (some 3.6 million people) had some form of disability. An additional 3.1 million people had some sort of impairment although not bad enough to restrict them in their daily activities. In addition, Australia’s population of older people from non-English speaking backgrounds is expected to increase by over 40 percent between 2011 and 2026. These populations combined present a challenge for any company striving to be truly inclusive and accessible.

Ellis Jones works for some of Australia’s leading community advocates and government organisations. For our clients, access to information and services for all stakeholders is a priority. With most core communication moving online, web accessibility has become critical to achieving inclusivity goals.

Ideally a website should be available to the widest possible audience, but unfortunately many fundamental steps of web accessibility are overlooked through lack of knowledge or compromise on design.  The good news is that there are many more resources becoming readily available for designers and developers to make sure the standards are put in place and much of this expands from WAI. The WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative)  was put in place by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) to help promote web accessibility and educate people on how people with different disabilities – such as vision impairment – use the web.

Far more people are now able to access the web and its information that previously couldn’t though traditional media.  It is especially a compelling time for people with disabilities, where content is much more accessible via the manipulation of content to individual needs. There are many benefits to creating accessible websites; in fact it is becoming the law in many countries falling under the Disability Discrimination ACT. Aside from this there are always a few golden rules to follow in web design that won’t consume all your time:

  • Choice of platform
  • Choice of colours
  • Choice of clear displayed typography
  • Always providing alternative content where possible
  • Tab access from keyboard
  • Proper use of Alt text

The confidence that comes from process and testing.

At Ellis Jones we’ve developed a framework for designing, developing and testing websites for clients that ensures the required level of web accessibility is achieved – right down to colour matching and site architecture. We also train staff who produce website content on how to achieve standards of web accessibility when creating pages, blog posts, images and video.

The good news is you don’t have to compromise on design – it just takes some smart thinking and a little bit of talent!

For clients constantly under scrutiny, it’s a process that ensures world’s best practice and peace of mind.

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Further reading and interesting links.

http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/standards/www_3/www_3.html (Australian Discrimination ACT)

http://vimeo.com/1157346 (Aaron Cannon, blind web developer, surfs the web)

http://www.w3.org/ (The World Wide Web Consortium)

http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ (The World Wide Web Consortium guidelines reference)

 

image credit: Highways Agency