The Senior Web Accessibility: The Laws, the Standards and the Practices

The Senior Web Accessibility: The Laws, the Standards and the Practices

Isabelle Motte (Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, Belgium) and Monique Noirhomme-Fraiture (Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-975-0.ch025
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Web accessibility is a major question in present ICT legislation. An ageing population is a known phenomenon that makes older people become a specific interest group. In chapter 25 the authors present the evolution encountered in laws and standards due to specific concern about older people. This publication is related to the works of the W3C WAI-AGE group. The authors focus mainly in the adaptations encountered in W3C accessibility guidelines (WCAG) while considering the difficulties related to ageing.  The chapter also proposes some practical recommendations for web designers that want to develop websites targeting seniors, and finally gives some perspectives about accessibility legislation and standards.
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Some Population Statistics

The population ageing is a major challenge for the future. If we consider, for example, the population of Europe, previsions let us think that the age pyramid is turning upside down. We retrieved statistical previsions from U.S. Census Bureau IDB (2009). Figure 1 presents the predicted evolution of European population along years.

Figure 1.

Population previsions for European population

Presently, young people (younger than 20) are as numerous as older persons (older than 65). In the year 2050, the number of seniors will be almost twice that of young people. This analysis could be constructed according to different prevision sources but would lead to the same conclusion for all developed countries. This phenomenon is generalized but follows a different rhythm depending on the countries.

We also want to emphasize the generalization of the internet usage throughout the world. According to Internet World Stats (2009), about one in two people uses the internet in Europe uses. Internet-user growth is impressive, especially in countries that currently present a lower penetration level. For example, in Albania, about 16% of the population uses the internet today. Looking back in time, we notice that the penetration rate was multiplied by more than 200 between 2000 and 2008! While for a country like Belgium, where more that 67% of population uses the internet, the penetration rate was multiplied by 2.5 over the same period.

Statistics presenting the internet use according to age also show that the elderly group specifically presents a progression. In America, the Pew internet (2009) study highlighted that from 2005 to 2009, the proportion of online 70-75 year olds had moved on from 26% to 45%. In Europe, the survey Eurostats (2006) showed that 20% of 55-74 year old accessed the internet while 54% of 25-54 and 73% of 16-24 age groups did so. The progression is also corroborated by locale surveys in some European countries.

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