Gennaro Costagliola (Università degli Studi di Salerno, Italy), Sergio Di Martino (Università degli Studi di Salerno, Italy), Filomena Ferrucci (Università degli Studi di Salerno, Italy) and Carmine Gravino (Università degli Studi di Salerno, Italy)
Copyright: © 2006
Accessibility means making resources usable by the largest number of people possible, or alternatively, allowing people with some kind of disability to effectively participate in day-to-day activities, including the use of services, goods, and information. The evolution of civil rights enhanced the physical world with several accessibility aids, such as ramps to remove architectural barriers for wheelchair users or bells near elevators for blind users. To address the size of the “disable world”, let us consider that only in the European Union there are about 37 million people with disabilities. Disabled people find in the Internet a major reference for their daily necessities to overcome their difficulties in moving and communicating. As institutional, economical, and social services provided through the Web become increasingly central to our lives, to avoid the risk for severe social exclusion, there is the need for “accessibility aids” for the Web. Informally, it means that Web-based content should be presented in a way that allows disabled users to maximally and equally benefit from the information, as well as have the faculty to fully interact with the site. People with physical, cognitive or even technological disabilities should be enabled to effectively read information, browse sites, compile forms, navigate links, download documents, and so on. This goal can be achieved by using a mix of hardware/software solutions, suited to provide specialized input and output capabilities. For example, text-to-speech systems read text on the screen, allowing blind users to navigate Web sites. However, to work effectively, such solutions require Web designers to use Internet technologies accordingly to some recommendations. Incidentally, the recommendations and principles that form the accessibility foundation are very similar to the factors affecting Web quality (Fitzpatrick, 2000; Top of the Web, 2003), and thus can provide benefits to every user of the Internet, whether disabled or not. As a result, accessibility should represent one of the most important references for Web developers. In this article, we provide an insight into the development of accessible Web sites. In particular, we will start by outlining the historical background about the accessibility issues. Then, we will focus on the design of Accessible Web sites inspired to the universal design principles (Follette, Mueller, & Mace, 1998) and World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) directives, and on the solutions to verify and validate accessibility. Finally, we will give an insight on future trends and challenges due to novel Internet technologies.