Accessibility 101

Accessibility Challenges for Users with Disabilities

It's been said that in the 21st century, every industry is an IT industry. Indeed, nearly any activity you can name has some degree of technology associated with it.  Whether they use email and social media, conduct online banking, are working toward a degree, or are engaged in any number of other pursuits, technology is an essential part of everyday life for people around the world.

But despite the many benefits of technology, many people find themselves unable to perform these and other tasks.  These people are blocked by impediments and barriers presented when technology is designed and implemented without accessibility in mind.

Accessibility doesn’t only apply to the World Wide Web.  Barriers to access can be found in any technology.  Operating systems and software, kiosks and digital signage, websites and applications, even ATMs, elevators, and automatic doors: any of these, intended to boost productivity, facilitate activity, and generally make life easier, can be inaccessible and frustrating to users when accessibility is not included in the design, development, and implementation.

Thought Exercise

Following are some scenarios that describe accessibilty challenges for users with disabilities. Can you think of challenges that might be presented by the technology you provide or support?

  • A blind user wants to complete an online registration form, but the form fields do not include readable names or labels
  • A user who is hearing-impaired is required to view an online training video, but the video is not captioned
  • A keyboard-only encounters an online assessment that requires users to drag-and-drop responses into different areas of the screen, but requires the use of a mouse
  • A user with traumatic brain injury begins a timed online activity, but the controls are differently positioned and labeled in each screen
  • A screen reader user needs to skim a long document, but the document does not use headings or landmarks for internal navigation