When working on the web it is crucial to ensure that your website is accessible to as many users as possible, including those with disabilities.

To do that you need to understand about each different type of disability and their impact on users interacting with the web. Different disability groups include those with visual impairments, hearing impairments, mobility impairments and reading difficulties. This article will introduce you to each of these groups.

Before that lets just remind ourselves of the facts. There are around 11 million disabled adults living in the UK*. This is equivalent to a stagering 20% of the population. The problem for many of those with disabilities, is their needs often get overlooked. Hear is a breakdown of the user groups and their specific needs.

Visual Impairments

  • Blind users – access the web using screen readers (or use Braille output devices)
  • Low vision users – require the ability to resize the text, sometimes using screen magnifiers to do so
  • Colour blind users – are unable to see colours, with red and green being the most common deficiency

Hearing Impairments

  • Always deaf (since birth) – these users are unable to hear the audio output and have difficulties comprehending written English
  • Became deaf – these users are unable to hear audio output but are usually proficient with reading English

Mobility Impaired

  • Mildly mobility impaired users – are able to use a mouse but with limited dexterity
  • Severely mobility impaired users – are unable to use a mouse at all

Reading difficulties

  • Learning difficulties – these users are likely to have a reading age below an average adult
  • Dyslexia – these users can have difficulty reading certain types of content
  • Non-native speakers – may be unfamiliar with colloquialisms (phrases that are common in everyday conversation)

Other groups

  • Epileptic users – may have to avoid screen screen flicker between 2 and 55 Hz
  • Elderly users – can fall under many of the above groups
  • Mobile phone / PDA users – are limited by the fact that they are accessing websites on the go
  • Technical constraints – users limited for example, by slow Internet connection, old browsers, no support for plug-ins

I will cover each of these user groups in more detail in future posts and explain what you can do to make sure the websites you create are accessible to those with disabilities. In the mean time checkout the Web Accessibility Initiative from the W3C.

* Source: Papworth Trust

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