Website Accessibility Motion

Dafydd Vaughan on 21 March 2007

website accessibility motionWebsite Accessibility is a big topic in Web Design at the moment, but what exactly does it mean?  Well, it’s about making sure a website can be seen and used by as many people as possible.  The main emphasis is on making sure that people with sight problems or problems using a mouse can still use the website easily, however this isn’t the only reason to make a site accessible.

How easy is it to make a website accessible?  Well, mainly it just involves using some common sense.  If you build a website that complies with the latest standards then you are part way there already.  Other simple rules include not using javascript for navigation, don’t use images as text and if you absolutely must have flash animations, make sure you make use of the in-built accessibility options.

Of course, that isn’t all.  There are other things you can do to make a site accessible – such as having different contrast themes to help people see your text and many others.  Website accessibility is such a huge topic that it is impossible to know everything you can do.  It is a continual learning process – I am always finding new things I can do to make better websites.

This all seems like a lot of effort, why should I bother with it?  Well, for starters, it is the law.  It is illegal in both the UK and the US to produce a website that is not accessible.  By not doing it, you open yourself to possible legal action from someone who wants to use a website but can’t.  But that isn’t the only reason.  An accessible website is easier to use for everyone, not just the disabled.

Now I’ve told you about accessibility and why it is important, I think its time to let you know why I’ve taken the time to explain it.

At Swansea University, there are a number of websites that are used by students every day.  For example, Blackboard “our virtual learning environment website” provides access to course information, documents and assignments; Voyager is used to search for books in the library; and the Students’ Union site provides SU news and details of SU events.

Are any of these websites accessible?  No.  How is a disabled student supposed to get access to assignments on Blackboard when it is completely inaccessible?

Tomorrow (Thursday) there is a motion in the Student General Meeting to lobby the University and Students’ Union to improve the accessibility of their websites.  Please come along to Faraday A at 6pm to support this motion and show the university that it is important to ensure their sites are useable by everyone.

Thank you

Any views stated here are my own and not those of my employer unless otherwise stated.