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Accessibility means ensuring that everyone can access your website, regardless of browser used or whether living with certain impairments or disabilities. To cite the W3C: "Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web, ... [whether suffering from] visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, [or] neurological disabilities."
Not just the blind
Accessibility is much more than caring for people with disabilities. It is about lowering the barriers for everyone accessing the Internet, about caring for people's needs and preferences.
A key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people with 'temporary disabilities' such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging.
Many countries across the globe are passing laws necessitating a global change in how we view accessibility and usability. Companies and websites have faced legal penalties for not making their sites accessible. The legal requirements in certain countries, or for certain types of websites, obligate many of us to not only be aware of accessibility and usability guidelines, but to actively pursue and conform to them.
Internet is no longer just about having the information people are looking for, it's about providing the easiest way of finding that information.
Studies and research by usability guru Jakob Nielsen and others say that:
Usability is ensuring that everyone can navigate the site in an intuitive way, about making your quality content easy to find, about ease and flexibility of navigation, about simplicity and logic.
In the Accessibility and Usability forum we discuss how to make it easier for everyone to access your site, as well as how to simplify ease of navigation and finding what they are looking for. Topics surrounding various unconventional browsing tools such as screen readers and pointer wands, to name a few, are welcome; as are various navigation layouts and methods for providing dynamic menus.
We also discuss how to build and maintain a logical structure for your site, along with a logical and simplistic path of finding the information contained within. Topics surrounding WCAG/WAI and Section 508 are encouraged. We welcome comments and posts referencing usability studies by acclaimed sources such as Jakob Nielsen.
Topics not covered
Specific issues with your page markup are better dealt with in their respective forums, HTML & Browsers and CSS. Note: we do NOT accept requests for site reviews, links to "test pages", "examples", screen shots or personal URLs of any nature. We prefer to educate by giving authoritative resources and thereby prevent any possible conflicts of interest.
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) [w3.org]
WAI Reference List [w3.org]
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) [w3.org]
Bobby Validator [webxact.watchfire.com]
Jakob Nielsen on Usability and Web Design [useit.com]
Dive Into Accessibility - 30 days to a more accessible web site [diveintoaccessibility.org]