Web Accessibility Issues For The Visual Disabled Computer Science Essay

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The internet has been the most rated information broker from decades. Though it is accessible to every person but still it has some advanced technology designed to communicate or sharing files with other person raised issues related to the interaction between humans with computers. Due to the advanced user interface technology, certain people are not able to interact with the computers closely particularly those with disability.

"Human Computer Interaction is a system of interaction between the users and computers. The goal of HCI is that the interaction between the two should be more usable, and accessible. The web accessibility initiative (WAI) has some guidelines for the accessibility of websites, tools or applications in order to make it easy for those with disability or also for those who do have the disability". [1]

"The term 'Disability' refers to those who are disabled with respect to term those who are unable to do any activity due to any physical or mental disorder." [2] People who are unable to see the world finds it difficult to access the website since they cannot see it clearly and those who are deaf they finds it difficult to hear audio contents.

The purpose of this report is to make understand that how people cope up with daily life tasks those who are disabled even if they are accessing the website for some reason or gathering some information for personal use. This will also tell how we can improve it further.

WEB ACCESSIBILTY ISSUES

Now some of us say it is easy to access website. We can easily navigate the page, its contents using output devices like USB mouse or keyboard and so by our eyes.

Now have we ever cared of if things go wrong with us like if can't see through our eyes?

If this is the thing then it will be impossible for us to fight with the daily issues, for example accessing a website. We cannot access the website that is designed without considering accessibility in mind thus results in losing the company sales.

Since now-a-days the World Wide Web is a place where anyone can communicate, can shop online, can learn things and also for entertainment.

"Doors have been opened for disabled people with the internet providing new opportunities and more freedom so they have potentially more to gain than the able bodied. Disabled people represent approximately 12% of the adult population in the UK, so why exclude them? The internet has huge potential for people with disabilities." [3]

Now here an issue arrived is that-

What are the reasons why blind people cannot access the web?

The reasons for this one may be one or more of the following:

May be the Website designers who failed to do so, not taking in consideration of the disability like how they are going to access the websites.

And also the content creators who did not even thought of visually impaired person, how they are going to read the contents, if font size is not available.

The standard organization cause they failed to check whether the website has passed it or not.

Is it the company those who did not focus on the product usage that even a visually impaired person can also access the website and he/she is an add-on for their increase in sales.

Not in use of navigation links.

Use of alt tags is not used properly.

Well we are here not point out the problems but to sort out the problems by making a solution and also make an improvement on this so that it is easy for the visually impaired person, web accessible.

"Knowing the disability users in mind while making the website will be so easy to justify what you need to do to make your portal more user friendly and it is a must to understand the needs of a user characteristics by admin, web designers, management, developers.

While designing a website and the interface you must know one thing:

"Know the User"

Visual disabilities differ in various categories viz. blindness, colour blindness, and low vision." [4]

BLINDNESS: "Blindness is defined as the person who completely lost his sight or whose sight level is equal to or less than 20/200 is considered as blind. They usually refer to screen reader software which helps in reading the text on the monitor and by giving an output in the form of audio format to speech synthesizer and refreshable Braille display. They can also use text-based browsers such as lynx or voice browsers instead of a graphical user interface browser plus screen reader.

The barriers when the blind people come across while accessing the website is:

Images that do not have alternative text.

Video that is not described in audio.

Forms that are labelled poorly.

Browsers that do not use standard applications programmer interfaces for the operating system they are based in.

Document formats that is difficult to interpret by the screen reader." [4]

For example the use of a website now-a-days is in the top of the list like searching some information through Google search even if you are searching for an audio format or a video format amid video can be searched from YouTube or some other means. In this Google search-

Images that do not have alternative text have no meanings

Use of navigation

Use of navigation

The use of proper navigation through speech synthesizer can be accessed by a disabled and if it is not properly directed then it is difficult for the user to understand. Also the images that do not have an alternative text then they are not usable by the user that what he is up to.

Blindness statistics-"By the National federation of the blind all over the USA is described as below:

Number of legally blind persons in this country: 1.3 million 

(National Centre for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey - Disability Supplement, 1994 and 1995)

Number of blind school age children: 93,600 

(based on NPTP survey: Kirchner & Diament, 1999a)

updated: October 2002

Above number includes deaf-blind school age children: 10,800 

(based on the Deafblind Census: Baldwin & Hembree, 1998)

updated: October 2002

Number of blind seniors, 65 and over (3.5% of the population 65 and over): 787,691

(AFB Sept. /Oct. JVIB & Chiang, et al., 1992, Milbank Quarterly)" [5]

By the above details we see that the legally blind persons are 1.3 million and number of school age children is 93,600. This young school going age children are affected by blindness and they have the option to learn a lot by accessing the web. Hence it states that the increase in the number of blind person including children is high.

Now the issue over here is that it is still growing in number. However these people found in socio-economic level and it's likely that the number of disability with reference to accessing the web will be in proportion.

"In fact from above we can say that not all are affected by only one disease, may be they are affected by one or the other unrelated disease. As long as users are increasing in number in accessing the internet this community continues to grow at incredible rates.

Another statistics from the communities is as follows:

Approximately 1 in every 10 people has a disability problem.

Among the Canadians, 1 in every 7 individuals is suffering from this.

Australians are increasing in the number with 3.7 million.

And in US 57 million people live with a disability.

And according to the world wide statistics it says that 1 in every 10 people globally has disability." [6]

From the fact above it is clear that may be in future it may be increased among more individuals thus increasing in the number of disabilities, then at that time what direction by the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) will give-

Is it like that the number of able-bodied users out-numbers the population of those with disabilities?

Or

Is it like that e-commerce market will sell products to the disabled with less effort and less cost?

Hence to overcome with accessibility issues, now companies are standing with this type of problem to sort out and for their development, they are adapting strategies for end-user needs. Around 50% of the problem including accessibility is lack of awareness and those people, who are involved with internet, whether as programmers or end-users, are not informed when it comes to web accessibility.

"Another American issue which shows that most of the Americans cannot access 98% of the websites because it does not meet the standards and it is usable by the able-bodied individual which is said in the judiciary hearing on Americans with disabilities act (ADA).

Also the "Digital Divide" which shows the users who are unable to access the site has excluded those disabled person from their own life." [7]

For that the American government are taking responsibilities in making the standards useful for those who are disabled and the companies are taking up the responsibilities so that the end-user needs should be fruitful because according to the statistics there are a large number of Americans who frequently visit the sites.

Another different issue might be raised that is

Legal Issues (with respect to the copyrights)-

"These copyrights may not protect the ideas of other person in particular, in fact it can protect only with design with respect to the content it contains. In UK the copyright protection arises when the submission of original work is fixed in a tangible expression." [8]

According to the W3C web accessibility initiative (WAI), it describes the social, legal, and technical factors. The social factors which describes for an organization is that-

Whether they take the responsibilities or not?

Whether the employees understand the meaning of social responsibility with respect to the web accessibility?

Whether the company has a vision or not towards the benefit from web accessibility or not?

"All these issues might be incoming in the near future for the organization because web accessibility has a vision for the equal opportunity. It is essential for them because internet is the important medium of communication for giving as well as receiving information from the people with disabilities.

Similarly the technical and financial factor refers to the technical operation of the site and the later one refers to the cost benefit." [9]

"Also in 1998, congress amended the rehabilitation Act (section 508 law) to make agency confirm that their internet resource can be accessed by the individual with disability. In this law, it was developed to eliminate the walls between resource and the people with disability. Under section 508(29 U.S.C. '794d') federal agencies must give disabled members access to the resource compared to the resource available to other people." [10]

What will be the future then?

This is another issue if it continues the same. To sort out this problem the current advanced technology includes browsers and computers with the speech input/output subsystem feature. Now we can talk to the computer now and it will give us the direction about what to do next when accessing the web for the disabled. There are also several opportunities in improving the web accessibility so that disabled user can access it in an easier way.

IMPROVING THE WEB ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES

Well about improving the web accessibility issues, there are several technologies that have come to sort out this problem and hope it will be easier for the designers to make website more user friendly for the visually impaired person.

The W3C has taken the initiative in consideration of the accessibility that many companies have websites and such websites are designed without proper guidance. Hence it is difficult for the disabled to use that website. These websites should be designed such that it meets the requirements and standards such as it is designed with proper HTML and CSS validation. If there is no style sheet found in the website then it is more difficult for the disabled user to read and access the website.

Now improving the web accessibility issues remain a key factor. For those certain things to be improved, website designers have to follow and keep in mind some of the things to make it more accessible for the blind users like:

Initiate responsibilities by the higher management-

Search for the representatives those who can take charge of this.

Make a team and allow them to work on it with different new ideas and techniques and also with advanced technology.

Processing-

Check whether the company meets the standards or not.

A preview of the website should be there so that they can make it out in what direction they are lagging behind and they can come out with a solution.

Ask the employees (web designers, developers) about their views on this matter that what they think related to the website.

Policy-

Note the company policy that is developed in order to make sure that the company has such an existing policy which meets all the criteria because some companies has general policy.

Promote the new accessibility policy made by the means of press or other means.

Selection of the software-

Select an Authoring tool Accessibility guidelines (ATAG) software.

If software is not available then ask the vendors about the availability of the software.

Selection must be unique so that it is useful for the evaluation of the web accessibility.

Design accessible website making it priority on top of the list and also at each step continuously check for the web accessibility.

Case Study: Example

Improving the web accessibility issue has also been taken care by one of the renowned company around the globe and that is Microsoft.

"The reviews about them i.e. regarding the company and the work by those persons who are visually impaired and working in the same company have been of much greater importance that it reflects the company standards and how much this company has taken care of web accessibility guidelines. They have developed such software and services to people so that it makes it easier for the disabled people easy to hear, see and can use their personal computers." [11]

"Their accessible technology defines that it will be easier for the disabled easy to personalize the display screen, mouse, keyboard, sound, and speech options in their products.

And assistive technology products are the software and the hardware products (such as screen readers and special keyboards) that provide access to people with significant vision, hearing, dexterity, and learning needs." [12]

Their strategy includes:

Commitment towards the accessibility.

Making the computer easy to use by the disabled individual.

To make sure that the operating system should be the best platform for accessibility innovation.

Building relationships with government agencies and other organizations that speech on behalf of the disabled individual.

"The products they have made for the disabled users include-

Windows 7 and vista- It indicates the key areas like on screen keyboard, speech command, and adjusting font size.

Internet Explorer 8 and higher- it provide the user needs including navigation and support for screen reading.

Office 2007- It reduces navigation time those who use magnifier. Also the zoom tool makes it easier to make the work easy and fast." [13]

"Now it is clearly showing that companies are showing their way up for the accessibility issues and Microsoft stand up in the top of the list and realized early that accessibility is important for the disability and had taken the leadership role in making the operating system and the applications used in this should be accessible. They make sure that the products they have made are according to the standards and allow access to the technology and the task of making the software becomes easier." [14]

Also Use of proper standards and guidelines for making the site helps in the improvement of accessibility issues described in web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0). This WCAG 2.0 is for content developers, tool developers, browsers and evaluation of these tool developers. In these guidelines it shows the information given in the site page including images, text etc.

Improvement in the web issues -also includes users in designing web for its better use-

How it will affect the web accessibility when we include the users in this part?

The reason for this one is that including the users with disability helps in understanding the concept what they need and it helps in thinking in a different way like how they access the internet. This will be helpful only when we design the site and that includes:

Creating contents

Audio and video tools

Navigation part

CSS and HTML part

The development in the design phase will develop ideas, plans; solutions to problems, fixing the problems and can achieve a lot like using standards and guidelines better and in a different way. Including them also in the implementation part by asking them questions

How they use it?

What they need in the content part?

Show your products and ask what is missing in that.

The effort on all these things results in increase in sales.

Authoring tools-The second thing which will affect in improving the issues is

"The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG 1.0) by W3C gives different kind of tools and it contains techniques which help developers to use these guidelines in their products.

Selection of the authoring tool are described in many ways-

Use the current software that is in use which supports ATAG 1.0.

Reviewing software procurement practices.

Select new or replacement software." [15]

Example:

The portal www.youtube.com now-a-days are used by most of the users for their personal audio or video formats of their choice and may be having the basic standards and guidelines according to the W3C but still it is not able to use by the visually impaired individual because it is missing some standards and tools missing like:

It doesn't contain much contents and it will be difficult for the people with disability to use it since they cannot access that where they are going.

It does not contain the navigation part also.

It doesn't have the speech synthesizer. At least an individual should know what he is going to do next.

Hence this website needs to improve a lot as it is lagging behind by most of the standards and guidelines since it is mostly used by the end-user.

"Now the evaluation for the accessibility improvement is that in most of the cases even it is difficult for the designer to get the accessibility options. For this, various services are offered by specialist are as follows:

Service objectives: The following list below enhances the understanding of accessibility to improve it.

You must know the status

Employees must know the usage of accessibility.

Implement its awareness within the company.

Characteristics: The report will include the detailed version of procedures for making improvements in your website.

Content: Development of evaluation report-

Specify in the report with the screenshots.

Make a presentation on this report.

Test screen reader tool." [16]

Evaluating the things will be more useful in improving the part of that structure.

CONCLUSIONS

Hence many questions aroused with respect to accessing the web those who are disabled-

Can the standards and guidelines be necessary to make the web useful for disabled people?

Up to what extent these guidelines can be used even for those who are suffering from other disease like hearing problem, physical disorder, colour blindness etc.?

What is the use of these guidelines? Is it important?

Will the blindness count in discrimination or not?

To get the answers we must have to follow all those rules and regulations which are defined in some or the other ways in order to keep in mind that blindness cannot be discriminate and they are the part of this and they have the equal rights same as the able-bodied persons.

It is the main goal of the HCI that the relation between the human and the computer cannot be separate in conjunction with the disability. And it's their aim to make the interactive system more accessible and usable.

Furthermore, this report gives the detail of web issues aroused and its solutions and followed the standards and guidelines of WCAG 1.0 and W3C of how to make the web portal more accessible.

It also contains about the technical, legal, and social issues with respect to the accessibility.

Globally there are a number of web visitors worldwide and some of the company does not follow the guidelines stated in W3C and still it exist and those company have to make a lot of changes in their websites so that even the people with disability can access it.

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