#3 – The Need For Online Accessibility

Since its invention, the Internet has quickly grown from being a cutting edge tool for research and education to one of shared knowledge amongst the masses. In today’s fast paced interconnected world, it has become a vital part of everyday life, becoming even more so as technology advances. As the Internet has evolved from a luxury to a convenience to a necessity, so has the need for it to become accessible to everyone.

Individuals with disabilities also rely on the Internet throughout their daily lives. As the world continues to become increasingly digital, information is rapidly transitioned to electronic formats that computers and other communication devices can access.  Take printed newspapers for example; they posed a challenge to people who were blind, as well as individuals who had trouble physically holding or turning pages. Now, they are available online and digitally using accessible devices, as long as the organization’s website has been designed in a format that meets the current Accessibility Standards. This removes the barrier that previously existed, allowing people to independently keep up with local news in a format they can use.

If websites are not accessible, individuals with disabilities lose a convenient way of independently obtaining information. Many sites use images and flashy graphics, some have online games, and others have contests that require precise mouse clicks and timed actions. It is difficult for assistive technology devices to interpret this functionality, barring the users from equal participation. A site with tutorial videos which do not feature somebody describing the on-screen action, or a video with spoken content that is not conveyed visually or in text, prevents people with hearing or vision loss from being able to fully understand the message leaving many disabled persons at a distinct disadvantage.

There are other, more severe barriers resulting from poor accessibility. Some colleges and universities use online course management software designed without accessibility in mind. The relevant material in inaccessible images, audio only formats, non-standard buttons which do not respond to keyboard presses, unreasonable time constraints during tests, and animated content cause assistive devices to struggle with page focus.  These issues can prevent students with disabilities from independently completing their courses and obtaining good grades.

Online stores with poorly designed, inaccessible websites cause grief to disabled people as they are unable to complete their purchases. Inaccessible company websites make it difficult for some employees to be as productive as possible, which can result in them unjustly viewed as liabilities. Government forms and documents that are not accessible make it difficult for some to complete, requiring them to relinquish their privacy while somebody assists them with sensitive information.

All types of information lives on the Internet. To a person with disabilities, an inaccessible Internet is a barrier. Ensuring websites are accessible is the best way to ensuring that everybody can participate in today’s information-driven world.

#3 – The Need For Online Accessibility

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