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Accessible Websites – Barrier-Free Surfing

Accessible Websites – Barrier-Free Surfing


According to a German survey, 80 percent of people with a disability use the internet, nearly as twice as many as the German average. Thus, disabled users should be an interesting target group for web designers and companies.

There are two main reasons for inaccessible websites: First of all, thoughtlessness, as the issue of barrier-free web design is just slowly gaining interest – and many designers are still in love with wild animations and complicated layouts. Secondly, many companies fear the costs of creating and maintaining an accessible site. But as many success stories of accessible re-launches show, websites who are barrier-free and clearly separate content from design are much cheaper for the companies running them: These pages load much faster, need less web space on the company's servers and are much easier to up-date and maintain. In addition to that, internet sites are accessible not only by screen readers and text browsers, but also by new mobile devices like palm tops, mobile phones and on-board-computers. And the world's favourite search engine, Google, is also known as ‘every internet user's disabled friend'. For Google ignores frames and pop-ups, but honours correctly programmed HTML which can do without the latest technological gadgets.

But the lobby for accessible web design is gaining momentum: The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the W3C internet consortium is currently updating it's guidelines. The new version will published sometime this summer, replacing the six year old current standards. And governments across the world are slowly developing laws dealing with accessibility and equal rights to information online. In 1998 the US published the abstract 508, a part of the ADA specifying standards for accessible web design. European governments are following suit, e.g. in Germany, where all websites of federal official agencies have to be fully accessible by the end of 2005, while all federal sites dealing with disability issues have to comply with accessible standards since the first of January 2004.

- ADA - Accessibilty Guidelines
- Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)


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