Web Design for Disabled Users

Web design can bring together creativity and technology in a multi-media experience for the end-user, but only if the end-user’s ability to enjoy websites is not hindered by different physical or other factors that may require specialized designs and development. Designing websites to accommodate different disabilities is smart business, especially since the standard website can leave a person with a visual or hearing impairment with little ability to receive the information that the website is trying to convey. Many browsers do have add-ons and features to help those with disabilities enjoy their favorite websites, but a good design that incorporates features to assist the disabled can help make a difference in the meaning of the website itself, not just the information it provides.

For end-users with visual disabilities, it is suggested to make the most of “header” tags that emphasize text headings. These tags can be interpreted by special software and emphasized verbally, giving a “headline” a stronger vocal statement than paragraph text. Defining the “alt tag” attached to images and image maps also helps special browsers convey image information to the visually impaired. The added benefit to both of these practices is that search engine crawlers will pick up the emphasized text and alternative meaning to an image, increasing your SEO benefit and ranking on search engines. Font sizes should always be relative, in order to accommodate a browser’s ability to scale fonts into “large print” options.

The hearing-impaired community has a better chance of understanding website copy and content than the visually-impaired, but that does not mean web designers and web developers cannot introduce enhancements to the website. Any sort of multi-media presentations can have transcripts attached to the videos or webinars, and closed-captioning is available in many different video production software programs and applications.

Senior citizens or those born with motor difficulties may have a difficult time maneuvering a mouse to small images or text in order to click on links. There are different design strategies, programs and applications to help maximize the ability of those with motor issues, but if the website’s audience contains a majority of members with these issues, the web design and development should reflect the acknowledgement of these issues accordingly.

Other cognitive factors should also come into play when designing a website, either due to age, experience or any disabilities such as dyslexia or reading comprehension. These issues affect the diagnosed as well as those “unable” to comprehend large amounts of text because of their busy lifestyles. Keep text to a minimum, well-written and informative, and structure the website simply, giving a natural flow to where the pages lead, and always have a standard navigation bar or “home” link to help alleviate end-users’ confusion or frustration.

Designing a website that reflects the abilities and needs of a vast population of people helps to not only get the website’s message across easily, but also shows that the company or organization appreciates the differences in its customers or clients. Creating an easy-to-use online environment for people of all abilities gives back to the community as a whole, showcases web design and web development skills and creates a lasting impression of the business or organization.

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