Accessibility Tips From Bookshare Volunteers
By Pavi Mehta
Bookshare's growing library owes a great deal to its virtual community of over 1400 volunteers. Logging in from remote locations all over the country, these dedicated individuals scan and proofread books for the collection. Since many Bookshare volunteers have print disabilities themselves, we asked them to help us come up with five key accessibility challenges that they commonly encounter on websites. The Bookshare library has incorporated many of these features and suggestions into its new design. The perspectives of our volunteers are deeply informed by their personal experience. Below are their observations and suggestions.
5 Key Website Accessibility Challenges
A lack of alt text attributes for images: Alt text are meaningful labels for the images that appear on the website. They allow individuals with visual disabilities to identify what's on the page, and where links lead to. E-book reader software tools can either read this text in a page, read the alt attribute on images, or drop back to reading file names if it can't find text. For instance, if a reader hears "navbtn01_off" instead of "navigation bar" chances are she won't have a clue where that link leads.
Form label placement: E-book readers, by default, look for form labels either to the left or above where the information is to be entered. If labels are placed elsewhere, this poses an accessibility problem for users.
Adobe Flash &/or PDF content: Flash and PDF content on a site need not be an obstacle to accessibility. But it is often found on websites where the creators have not built their content with accessibility in mind. The Adobe website has lots of information about making both Flash & PDF documents accessible.
Sight-dependent captcha puzzles: Captcha is meant to lock out spammers, but often also prevents people who can’t see the images from using the site too. Worse yet, if a site uses inaccessible captcha on its contact form, you can’t write to the site owner for help.
Using color to designate meaning: Sometimes colors are used to designate meaning, e.g., red means contains x or y, etc. The problem is that as much as 10% of the world's population has some form of color-blindness and the website may not be interpreted by these individuals as its designers intended.
The World Accessibility Initiative develops guidelines
widely regarded as the international standard for
Web accessibility. Visit their website to learn more www.w3.org/WAI/
We would like to thank Bookshare volunteers Jackie McBride, Monica Willyard, Monica Svopa, Rick Roderick and Elizabeth
Aldworth for contributing to this story.
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