The Disability Discrimination Act says that websites must be made accessible to disabled people. So how can you check that your website is up to par? There are a number of basic tests you can make to address some of the main issues. The following list includes guidelines that provide a good start in increasing accessibility to disabled people:1. Check informational images for alternative text
Place the cursor over an informational image, for example, the organisation logo. Does a yellow box appear with a brief, accurate description of the image? For users whose browsers don't support images, this alternative text is what they'll see (or hear) in place of the image.2. Check decorational images for alternative text
Place the cursor over a decorative image that doesn't have any function other than to look nice. Does a yellow box appear with a description of the image? It shouldn't. This image serves no purpose so there's no reason for users whose browsers don't support images to know that it's here.
Be careful though as this isn't a foolproof test. If a yellow box doesn't appear, this could mean one of two things:
If you turn your speakers off, you're clearly unable to listen to, or follow, any audio content. This situation is faced by a deaf person on a daily basis. Ensure your website supplies written transcripts, so that deaf people can understand the message that your website's conveying.4. Check that forms are accessible
Usually there's prompt text next to each item in a form. For example, a contact form might have the prompt text ‘name’, ‘e-mail’, and ‘comments’, each one next to a box where site users will enter their details. When you click on the prompt text, does a flashing cursor appear in the box next to that text? If not, your forms are inaccessible.5. Check that text can be resized
Does the text on your website increase in size? If not, then your website is inaccessible to web users with poor visibility. To check:
The Lynx browser is a text-only browser and doesn't support many of the features that other browsers such as Internet Explorer have. You can check how your site looks in this browser with the Lynx Viewer. If your website makes sense and can be navigated through the Lynx browser, then it'll be fulfilling many of the web accessibility guidelines.7. Check that you can access all areas of your website without the use of a mouse
Can you navigate through your website using just tab, shift-tab and return? If not, then neither can keyboard- and voice-only users.8. Check that there's a site map
Can you find a site map? If not, then neither can people who are lost on your website.9. Check your web pages with an automated program
Two programs available for free on the Internet are Bobby and Wave. They're unable to provide you with all the information that you need, as some checks must be done by humans, but they can tell you some of the areas where your site might be going wrong.10. Teach yourself
This isn't really a quick test, but it's definitely possible to do if you have the time. The best place to start learning is to read Web accessibility: The basics. After this, browse through the web accessibility resources area and then follow some of these web accessibility links - some of these websites really do have an enormous amount of information on web accessibility.
This article was written by Trenton Moss. He's crazy about web usability and accessibility - so crazy that he went and started his own web usability and accessibility consultancy to help make the Internet a better place for everyone.09 dec 2003 - 149