Making the Web Accessible to the Visually Impaired

Making the Web Accessible to the Visually Impaired

Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-386-9.ch014


Accessibility is the possibility of any person to make use of all the benefits of society, including the Internet. As the interfaces are typically graphic, sites can be an obstacle for visually impaired persons to access. For a site to be accessible to blind persons it’s necessary the information contained in the visual resources be reproduced by means of an “equivalent” textual description, capable of transmitting the same information as the visual resources. This study is aimed at identifying and defining usability guidance compliant with accessibility W3C directives that can facilitate the interaction between visually impaired and Internet and still guarantee sites with understandable navigation content. Towards this end an exploratory study was conducted, comprised of a field study and interviews with visually disabled people from Instituto Benjamin Constant, reference center in Brazil for the education of visually impaired persons, in order to get to know these users better.
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Accessibility To The Web Or E-Accessibility

Digital accessibility refers to access to any Information Technology resource, whereas the term accessibility to the Internet is used, widely speaking, to define universal access to all components of the worldwide computer Web, such as chats, e-mail, and so on. The term Web accessibility, or e-accessibility, specifically refers to the Web component, which is a set of pages written in HTML language and interconnected by links to the hypertext (Sales, 2003), (Modelo, 2005) and (Nevile, 2005).

Aimed at making the Web accessible to all, W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium), an international committee that regulates matters linked to the Internet, created, in 1999, the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative), made up of work groups intent on producing guidance to guarantee Web content accessibility to people with disabilities and to people accessing the Web under special conditions related to environment, equipment, navigator and other Web tools (Nevile, 2005), (http_5) and (Enap, 2007).

The members of W3C/WAI put together “W3C Accessibility Guidelines” (WCAG 1.0); this document is the first version for Accessibility to Web Content, released in May 1999, and has been the main reference to Web accessibility until today (http_5). In Brazil, accessibility began to be a part of public policy in the year 2000, when Federal Laws no. 10,048 dated November 8 2000, prioritizing services rendered to people with special needs, and no. 10,098 dated December 19 2000, establishing norms and criteria to guarantee accessibility were promulgated (Enap, 2007). In December 2004 these laws were regulated by decree no. 5,296 that initially established a 12-month deadline for all public administration or public interest sites to undergo an accessibility process; this deadline was subject to prorogation (Queiroz, 2007).

In order to define accessibility guidance at all levels, from physical to virtual spaces, ABNT’s CB-40 Committee was put in charge of comparing accessibility norms in various countries and analyzing the guidelines proposed by W3C. As a result, a Brazilian Accessibility Model was designed (e-MAG) so as to generate a set of recommendations that could standardize and harmonize the accessibility process for Brazilian Government sites, enabling easy installation, thereby coherent with Brazilian needs and in conformity with international standards (Model, 2005) and (http_1).

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