How to Ensure IT Accessibility in Applications and Websites

 
 
By Michelle Bagur  |  Posted 2010-09-22 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Today, the practice of granting diverse groups equal access to information has gained solid traction in software and Website development. Providing software and Website accessibility for people of varied abilities is becoming a best practice and one that may protect enterprises from costly litigation. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Michelle Bagur explains what IT accessibility is, how to ensure IT accessibility, and the business benefits of ensuring that your company's software and Website are accessible to people of varied abilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the most broad-reaching pieces of legislation of this generation and it has a significant impact on the technology industry. Section 508 of the ADA protects the disabled against discrimination-specifically within the IT industry. It states that inaccessible technology interferes with a person's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily and, as such, it is a form of discrimination.

According to the summary of Section 508 standards, it also aims to expand opportunities for the disabled and encourage development of equally accessible technologies for all users. In this article, I will put accessibility in context for the enterprise, provide best practices for making sure your Website is accessible, showcase tools to help make this happen, and provide real-world examples of how this can work for your company.

Accessibility in IT

Accessibility in the IT sector means that people with disabilities or impairments have equal access to the features and functions of a software application or Website. This idea is all-encompassing and includes those with impaired mobility, vision, hearing and dexterity. The goal of accessibility in IT is to serve as many people as possible, including populations with varying levels of impairment. This is particularly important as baby boomers (a group that relies heavily on finding information and performing tasks online) continue to age and lose mobility and basic capabilities such as using a mouse to access multitiered menus.

It's important to know the technical standards and regulations set forth in Section 508. For example, software applications cannot disable accessible features, visual focus must be obvious, developers must make sufficient information about their software applications available to assistive technologies (such as screen readers and hearing aids), and developers should provide methods that allow users to skip repetitive navigation links.



 
 
 
 
Michelle Bagur is a Senior Developer at EffectiveUI where she specializes in accessibility in Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). Michelle began her programming career in the gaming industry in Dallas and later moved to Denver to develop medical simulators utilizing haptic devices and advanced three-dimensional technology. Michelle earned her Master's degree in Integrated Science (a combination of computer science, physics and biology) from the University of Colorado at Denver before moving into the world of RIA development. She particularly enjoys the synthesis of technologies and platforms that RIA development encourages. She can be reached at michelle.bagur@effectiveui.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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