Web Accessibility

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, more users have equal access to information and functionality. 

The needs that web accessibility aims to address include:

  • Visual: Visual impairments including blindness, various common types of low vision and poor eyesight, various types of color blindness;
  • Motor/mobility: e.g. difficulty or inability to use the hands, including tremors, muscle slowness, loss of fine muscle control, etc., due to conditions such as Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, stroke;
  • Auditory: Deafness or hearing impairments, including individuals who are hard of hearing;
  • Seizures: Photo epileptic seizures caused by visual strobe or flashing effects.
  • Cognitive and intellectual: Developmental disabilities, learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.), and cognitive disabilities (PTSD, Alzheimer's) of various origins, affecting memory, attention, developmental "maturity", problem-solving and logic skills, etc.

Accessibility is not confined to the list above, rather it extends to anyone who is experiencing any permanent, temporary or situational disability. Situational disability refers to someone who may be experiencing a boundary based on the current experience. For example, a person may be situationally one-handed if they are carrying a baby.

Excerpt taken from Wikipedia's article on Web Accessibility and modified slightly for this page. Data pulled on June 2, 2022.

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is equipment, such as software or hardware, designed to help people with disabilities or impairments access websites.

Examples include:

  • Screen readers
    • Software and/or hardware designed for people with visual impairments.  
  • Software, such as JAWS, NVDA, and ZoomText
    • JAWS (hardware / software) is a  screenreader designed for people who are blind or have low-vision. JAWS can read websites or output Braille when paired with a Braille reader.
    • NVDA (software) is a free screenreader available for Microsoft Windows.
    • ZoomText (software) is designed for people with low-vision and can magnify content or make active page sections more visible.
  • Keyboard navigation and/or modified mouse or tablet
    • Hardware used by people with mobility limitations
  • Eye tracking and/or voice-activated software
    • Designed for people with mobility limitations; allows navigation through spoken input or eye tracking
  • Browser settings, such as high contrast, motion reduction, text size, etc.
    • Used to control how content is delivered on a standard browser
    • May be useful for people with color blindness, epilepsy, vertigo, or issues with concentration
  • Auto-captioning 
    • Designed for people with auditory impairments; available in certain software products, such as Zoom

Why it matters

It's important to provide an inclusive experience for all website visitors, regardless of what technology they may be using to access your content.

Read SMU's policy on web accessibility