Making Your Agency Virtually Accessible to People with Disabilities

Many environmental barriers to people with disabilities can be removed by making minor modifications or adjustments. The same is true of Web sites!

If you construct a building, it's easier and cheaper to put in access for people with disabilities during the initial construction than to add it on later. The same is true of Web sites!

Making accommodations on your Web site for the greatest number of users increases the availability and usefulness of those materials. A few scenerios to consider:

  • A sight-imparied person may use a Web browser that reads aloud what's on a Web page, and this software is often "confused" by image maps, frames, javi scripts and other Web design elements
  • A deaf person will need text versions of audio that is available on your computer screen
  • Some people cannot perceive certain colors correctly, and may not be able to see light-colored type on colored backgrounds
  • Someone with limited hand movement may not be able to hold down more than one key on their keyboard at once, so certain Web menus would be impossible for him or her to use the way you intended

Design or Upgrade for Accessibility

Designing your web site to be accessible by people using assistive technologies and others with disabilities is very simple and Costs little, if anything, when done as you build your Web site.

Suggested Resources

  • Accommodations for online volunteers who have learning disabilities or emotional and anxiety disorders
    Another resource by the Virtual Volunteering Project.
  • Knowbility
    This organization has an online curriculum, presented in simple language, to help you learn the whys and hows of making a web site accessible. Knowbility also sponsors the nationally-recognized AIR contests, where Web designers are challenged to partner with area not-for-profit agencies to build web sites together that are informative, very cool, AND are accessible to people with disabilties. These fun, politely competitive events have involved the VV Project as well in communicating with and recruiting volunteers.
  • The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
    An activity sponsored by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). WAI's purpose is to make the Web more accessible to people with disabilities. The WAI has five major areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research and development. The guidelines of WAI are easy to understand and will provide you with a detailed understanding of how to make various componants of a Web site accessible. W3C is an industry consortium created to develop common protocols that enhance the interoperability and promote the evolution of the Web. W3C is jointly run by MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) in the USA, National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France and Keio University in Japan. To date, more than 215 organizations are members.

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  • World Wide Web Accessibility to People with Disabilities: A Usability Perspective
    By Dr. Jon Gunderson
  • An Example of Disability Access Design Standards
    The City of San Jose, California Web site's "Disability Access Design Standards" are excellent for any organization to follow. In recognition of its efforts to design its Web sites with easy-access in mind, the San Jose sites were selected as a model City link for the federal government Center on Information Technology Accommodation.
  • access.adobe.com
    Complete information on accessibility for PDF documents.
  • World Wide Web Browser Access Recommendations
    By Dr. Jon Gunderson
  • Alliance for Technology Access
    The Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) is a network of community-based resource centers, developers and vendors dedicated to providing information and support services to children and adults with disabilities, and increasing their use of standard, assistive, and information technologies. Centers can be found all across the country.
  • Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program (ATACP)
    Earn a Certificate in Assistive Technology Applications and 10 Continuing Education Units (CEU's) from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) in only two weeks. Designed for individuals who seek to enhance their professional development and skill level by earning a certificate in assistive technology applications. The 100-hour training experience includes lecture, demonstration, discussion, observations and presentations on applications of assistive technology. There is 80 hours of live instruction over two weeks, 12 hours of on-line instruction, and eight hours credit toward a required project to be completed within 90 days of completion of the program. Nationally recognized speakers will share information across a wide range of assistive technology (AT) topics. Sponsored by the Center on Disabilities and the College of Extended Learning at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
  • EASI: Equal Access to Software and Information
    A non-profit organization, part of the Teaching Learning and Technology Group, affiliated with the American Association for Higher Education with a mission to help make information technologies more accessible to users with disabilities. EASI sponsors an online workshop on how to design web pages to be accessible to everyone including people with a variety of disabilities.
  • alt.comp.blind-users
    A very low-traffic discussion group by people with site impairments using Internet technologies, and those studying or creating assistive technologies.
  • comp.human-factors
    For the discussion of human-computer designs and interfaces. The audience is primarily Web designers and graduate students studying human-computer interface (HCI).

This component of the Virtual Volunteering Project is made possible by a special grant from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. We are most grateful for their support.