ADA Compliance - The Short Course
So your company has a web site served up to the World Wide Web, everyone can access it, right? Not really. In keeping with the very strengths of the WWW, an amazing array of users and systems will be looking to get information from your site, and some might not get much out of it.
Think of the variables at play: operating systems, browsers, servers, and differing user capability. The reality is that the WWW doesn't really have true standards. And so enters the term "compliance". In the world of web development, the W3C standards are de facto, and within that, ADA compliance rules further detail out the type of user demands your web site will encounter. Developing for ADA compliance means most other compliance rules will fall into place too.
ADA compliance is met when all features and information on a site can be accessed by persons with disabilities.
The ability to navigate via a keyboard and use text-to-speech or screen reader programs greatly contribute to an ADA compliant site. General considerations for web site development:
- Provide image ALT tags for as many photos and graphics as necessary.
- High-contrast color scheme in areas of importance.
- Site navigable by keyboard directional arrows.
- Text-only or text size user controls (increases size of body copy via links on page).
- Do not rely on tables or restrictive page construction - page layouts must transform for user agents (screen readers for instance).
- Best practices
- Design for device independence.
- Basic W3C compliance testing.
- Build site to gracefully degrade with old browsers or Java Script disabled.
- Clear and simple document layout.
The secret benefit to maintaining W3C and ADA compliance is a site that will cost less to maintain and alter in the future. Changing the design will be easier, publishing your site to new user clients (think iBook) should be easier, and your site won't "break" when new browser technologies come onto the scene.
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