Accessibility and the Web

This week I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Joe Clark’s article, “How do Disabled People Use Computers”. He makes several thought-provoking points. I felt somewhat torn on his thoughts about the difference between “disabled people” and “people with disabilities”. I have not taken very many classes on semiotics or etymology but I think there is something to the idea of “putting the people first” in language; they are people first, disabled second. At the same time, I do think that is easy to go too far to try to appease everyone for the sake of being politically correct.

The heart of the article is more about the tittle, how computers are used by people with disabilities. I’ve been thinking about how these concepts affect us as web designers. It seems that most common ways to assist those with disabilities is with adaptive technology. In his description of this technology, Clark was very informative.

He provides a few ways that web designers can try to help as well. The most that we can do, according to Clark, is to try to aid the visually impaired with large (or easily magnifiable) text, not using stark black and white for colors, and making the lay out easy for screen readers. Indeed, after trying the screen reader simulation, it is clear that it takes some time to get used to understanding a website in such a format. Anything that we can do to assist in making it easier is important.

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