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Web Accessibility for the Disabled
Most people today can hardly conceive of life without the Internet. It provides access to information, news, email, shopping, and entertainment.
The Internet, with its ability to serve out information at any hour of the day or night about practically any topic conceivable, has become a way of
life for an impatient, information-hungry generation. Now, at the click of a mouse, the world can be "at your fingertips"- if you can use a mouse... and
if you can see the screen... and if you can hear the audio-in other words, if you don't have a disability of any kind.

Falling short of Web's Potential
Despite the Web's great potential for people with disabilities, this potential is still largely unrealized.

As soon as you start asking these types of questions, you begin to see that there are a few potential glitches in the accessibility of the Internet to people with disabilities. The Internet has the potential to revolutionize disability access to information, but if we're not careful, we can place obstacles along the way that destroy that potential, and which leave people with disabilities just as discouraged and dependent upon others as before.

The major Categories of Disabilities

Visual :: Blindness, low vision, color blindness
Visual impairments may range from total blindness, various degrees of impaired vision, to color blindness, which affects 8-10% of the male population.

Hearing :: Deafness
Hearing impairments may range from people who are completely deaf, to people who cannot perceive certain frequencies or volumes, to people who have problems with distinguishing and separating auditory information from background noise.

Motor
Inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control. Mobility impairments may range from people who are completely or partially paralyzed to people with arthritis or RSI (repetitive strain injury). Mobility impairments that effect computer usage are things that restrict the use of hands, arms, or other body parts when interacting with a computer. Users with physical disabilities typically have problems with pointing accurately to objects on the screen or using a keyboard.

Cognitive
Cognitive impairments may range from people who have dyslexia and other learning disabilities, to psychiatric conditions, like bi-polar disorder, to neurological problems, like autism.

Key Challenges experienced by Disabled people


Incompatibility between screen reading software and web pages, eg the assistive technology not detecting some links, or it proving impossible to highlight text using text-to-speech software

Incorrect or non-existent labelling of links, form elements and frames

Cluttered and complex page structures

ALT tags on images non-existent or unhelpful

Confusing and disorienting navigation mechanisms

Key problems experienced by partially sighted users

Inappropriate use of colours and poor contrast between content and background

Incompatibility between accessibility software (eg for magnification) and web pages

Unclear and confusing layout of pages

Confusing and disorienting navigation mechanisms

Graphics and text size too small

Key problems experienced by physically impaired users

Confusing and disorienting navigation mechanisms

Unclear and confusing layout of pages
What is Web Accessibility ?
Web accessibility is the practice of creating web pages so that the widest number of users can interact with them, including persons with disabilities. The scope of web accessibility is primarily focused on helping people with disabilities, in particular around design considerations that help web sites both accessible and more usable.

"Accessibility" refers to the process of enabling everyone, especially people with disabilities, to access and use technology and information products. A Web site or an item of software is fully "accessible" if it can be accessed by people with any of the mentioned disabilities.

Importance of Web Accessibility

Web Accessibility is Essential for Equal Opportunity

Use of the Web is spreading rapidly into most areas of society and daily life. In many countries the Web is increasingly used for government information and services, education and training, commerce, news, workplace interaction, civic participation, health care, recreation, entertainment, and more. In some cases, the Web is replacing traditional resources.

The Web is an important medium for receiving information as well as providing information and interacting with society. Therefore it is essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. An accessible Web can also help people with disabilities more actively participate in society.

The Web is an opportunity for unprecedented access to information for people with disabilities. In short, the accessibility barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through Web technologies. For example, when the primary way to get certain information was go to a library and read it on paper, there were significant barriers for many people with
disabilities, including getting to the library, physically getting the resource, and reading the resource. Even when all these elements are accessible it is difficult for these people to access library. When that same information is also available on the Web in an accessible format, it is significantly easier for many people to get. Therefore, people with disabilities can have more effective and efficient access to information through accessible Web sites - in some cases, where there was essentially no
access to them before.

The Web is an opportunity for unprecedented interaction for people with disabilities. For example, some disabilities limit the type of work a person can do. An accessible Web expands opportunities for communication, interaction, and employment for people with disabilities.
Global Perspective on Web Accessibility

With the Internet becoming a more important part of society throughout the world, many countries are recognizing and acting upon the need to ensure access to the web for people with disabilities.

Japan has undertaken a coordinated effort in the area of standardization for all people, including the elderly and people with disabilities. The Information Technology Research and Standardization Center (INSTAC) has been formed to facilitate rapid standards development.

Activity in EU member states is occurring at varying paces and levels (legislation, policy or standards). For example, the United Kingdom already has non-discrimination legislation on the books. Italy plans to have an accessibility standard drafted by the Ministry of Technology.

It seems as if each nation is taking a slightly different approach to the problem of Internet access for people with disabilities. Some have established laws that provide human or civil rights. Others, like the United States, have addressed the access issue through the technology procurement process. One fairly common approach throughout the world is for nations to support and adopt the Web accessibility guidelines (WCAG 1.0) created by the WAI.

Web Accessibility Standards

Web content accessibility guidelines explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines are intended for all Web content developers (page authors and site designers) and for developers of authoring tools. The primary goal of these guidelines is to promote accessibility.

There are two major Web standards used today to define accessible Web content for people with disabilities:

W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 1.0 (WCAG 1.0), developed by a working group in an open consensus process, was the first to be published in May 1999 and

US Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 finalized in December 2000, was developed by the US Access Board based on recommendations from a committee composed of academics, disability advocates and industry representatives. US federal government agencies are required by law to make their websites comply with the requirements in Section 508.

Many US state governments also have laws or policies that require their websites to meet the Section 508 requirements. Outside the US, however, most governments with accessibility policies refer to WCAG 1.0 as their accessibility standard.

 
Universal accessibility for a website's audience:

Computer platform

Computer processor speed

Type and size of display device

Internet browser and version

Modem speed

User ability

Assistive/Adaptive Technologies
Assistive and adaptive technologies for accessing the Internet:

Screen reader

Text magnification

Refreshable Braille display

Braille printer

Voice recognition

Adaptive keyboard

Adaptive mouse

Touch screen

Assistive listening devices

Closed captioning

Emerging Technologies
The Accessibility puzzle
Making the Web more accessible requires that several pieces of a large puzzle come together. These pieces include:

The knowledge and skills of the web designer (i.e., alt tags, captioning, WAI guidelines)


The creators of markup language editors (i.e., FrontPage, Dreamweaver)


Creators of course software (i.e. WebCT, BlackBoard)


The knowledge and skills of the user (i.e., can use all the features that are available)


Creators of assistive technology (i.e. JAWS, Zoom Text, WYNN)


Creators of browsers (i.e. Netscape, Internet Explorer, Opera)

The Scenario

Disability scenario in India

The NSSO 58th round has estimated 18.49 million disabled persons in 2002, out of these 10.89 million were males and 7.59 million were females. About 57.50% disabled were having locomotors disability, while 10.88% were blind, 4.39% were having low vision, 16.55% were having hearing impairment, 11.65% had speech disability, 5.37% were mentally retarded and 5.95% were mentally ill.

The NSSO survey 58th round in 2002 depicts that 62% and 89% males and females respectively in rural areas and 63.5% and 90.5% males and females respectively in urban areas were out of labor force. A distressing scenario for disabled persons depicts decline in proportion of self-employed in non-agricultural sectors in urban areas and in agricultural sector in rural
areas during 1991-2002. Even the proportion of casual employees has declined during 1991-2002 for both rural and urban areas.

The loss of job or change of job is one of the major psychological and mental problems associated with the onset of disability. Significantly 55.8% and 53.1% of these working people lost their job after the disability in rural and urban areas respectively. Another 13.2% in both rural and urban areas had to change their job due to the onset of the disability. Only 30.9% and 33.6% disabled persons continued with their jobs even after the onset of disability in rural and urban areas respectively.

Disability scenario in the World

According to the World Health Organization, there are between 500 and 750 million people with disabilities worldwide. In the US, about 54 million, or one in five Americans have disabilities. One in ten, or about 26 million people, has a severe disability.

Estimation of Web users who have disabilities

US - 8%
Europe - 11%

With such a huge number of disabled people in India and world wide, there are a set of identified needs for such disabled users specific to their disability

"Accessibility" refers to the process of enabling everyone, especially people with disabilities, to access and use technology and information products. A Web site or an item of software is fully "accessible" only if it can be accessed by people with any of the mentioned disabilities.

Cause an Effect in partnership with Nasscom Foundation, AICFB (All India Chess federation for the blind, The national disability film and communication resource center (ww.thendfc.org), iCongo, iTeam and EMMA Awards as their preferred Online Empowerment Partner and making their portals accessibility compliant.

Cause an Effect as part of its plans towards sensitization and creating awareness has been actively involved in the following events.

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