January 23, 2010

How to make social media ‘wheelchair accessible’

Parking for handicapped

This is part of the series the 31 Day Challenge To Optimize Your Blog With Social Media.

John HaydonSocial media gives voices to individuals marginalized and ignored by traditional media, enabling the world to hear these voices for the first time in history.

However, as in the physical world, the online world poses many barriers to people with disabilities:

  • Images without text equivalents (ALTs in html lingo) are inaccessible to individuals with vision impairments using text-to-speech screen readers.
  • Video and audio without captions or transcripts are inaccessible to people who deaf and hard of hearing or to those who don’t understand the speaker’s accent.
  • Hyperlink text that blends in with surrounding text (or that isn’t underlined) are difficult for people with low vision to spot.
  • Short, one-word hyperlinks are difficult for people with limited hand function to click on.
  • Flickering and flashing images and animations can cause seizures in some individuals.
  • CAPTCHAs, images of obscured letters and numbers designed to separate the humans from the robots, are “Do Not Enter” signs for those who are blind and are confusing for those with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.
  • Continue reading

August 26, 2009

How to make your website more accessible

Enhancing website accessibility from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaA few weeks back, at SOBCon busniess school for bloggers in Chicago, I met Glenda Watson Hyatt, a remarkable trainer and conference speaker who gave a presentation on how to make websites and blogs more accessible to the disabled. Glenda, who has cerebral palsy, deals with computer accessibility issues on a daily basis. I wrote about her advice on Socialbrite: 7 tips for communicating with people with disabilities.

After Glenda’s talk and one by Lorelle VanFossen, author of “Blogging Tips” — Lorelle has occasional memory lapses because of traumatic brain injury — I captured some of their advice regarding how to make sure your website or blog accessible to disabled people.

Lorelle says that fully 60 percent of all sites on the Web are not accessible to the disabled — so pay attention, yours may be one. They discuss specific steps website operators and bloggers can take to make their sites and blogs accessible, including adding simple things like alt tags, captions and underlined links.

Tips to make your site more accessible to disabled users

• Include “alt” tags (alternative descriptions) and title tags in all images and videos.

• Make your links look like links. Use colors that distinguish them from regular text and use an underline to set them apart.

• Make your body text legible. The 0.8em default on some blog platforms is just too small for millions of readers out there. Usability should be your paramount concern — not all your readers are under 30!

• Also, make sure your stylesheet permits variable font sizes. If you’re using a fixed font, older browsers don’t let users adjust text size. (In Firefox and IE, you can hit command + or – to increase or decrease the size of the text on screen.)

• Give your photos captions, so the vision-impaired can know what they’re looking at. Continue reading