Although after a quick glance around the internet it may appear that there are no guidelines governing the production of websites, an organisational body known as the W3C or World Wide Web Consortium is actually responsible for publishing guidelines for website designing and development. These rules outline everything from appropriate use of scripting languages to recommended colour schemes, but one of the most important roles of the W3C is to provide a policy on accessibility in web design. These guidelines ensure that websites are produced in a way that makes them accessible to all users, regardless of whether they are physically disabled or accessing the internet in an unconventional way. There are many reasons why accessibility is a foremost concern in web design, these include:
- Visually Disabled Users: There are a range of visual disabilities that can affect users' experience of a website that must be considered in web design. These may be colour blindness, partial blindness or full blindness. Colour blindness should be considered in web design when placing coloured text on a coloured background, with black and white being the most obvious safe choices. Similarly, captioning of images is a must for catering to visually disabled users who are likely to be viewing the website with a screen reader that reads websites aloud to them. If important information is presented in a graphic form, with no text description, the website will lose all meaning when viewed through a non-visual browser.
- Users with Hearing Disabilities: Internet users with hearing impairment can experience similar challenges with websites unless deafness is taken into account in web design. If important information is presented only in an aural manner on a website, it will be inaccessible to users who are hearing impaired. This makes the pairing of image and text description an essential approach in accessible web design for both visually and aurally disabled users.
- Users with other Physical Disabilities: It is not only the visually and aurally disabled that need consideration in web design. Physically disabled users, such as those who are missing limbs or lack mobility in their arms or hands can also experience much difficulty in accessing websites on the internet. If users are disabled in their upper body, they may not be able to use a mouse for navigation, therefore situations such as these need to be considered in website design where alternative navigation and input methods can be created to improve accessibility for all.
- Users of Non-Standard Internet Devices: As well as the physically disabled, there are some other kinds of users that need to be considered in web design these days. With the advent of a variety of mobile broadband devices, such as smart phones and tablet computers, and the popularity of Web-TV and internet kiosks, a variety of other users can experience difficulty accessing some websites. For this reason, cross-browser testing is an essential process in website design in order to ensure that a website is accessible across all possible viewing platforms.