What Do You Mean My Website Isn't Accessible?: Why Web Accessibility Matters in the Digital World

What Do You Mean My Website Isn't Accessible?: Why Web Accessibility Matters in the Digital World

Florence Wolfe Sharp, Paige R. Sharp
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5892-1.ch009
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Today's world is increasingly based on digital access to information. People conduct essential aspects of life online through their web browsers and mobile applications: education, healthcare, banking, shopping, entertainment, and even jobs are conducted through the internet. To be cut off from the digital world is to miss these essential connections; this is exactly what happens to people with disabilities when the websites and content they try to use have accessibility barriers. People and organizations creating web content need to understand the elements of accessibility, important laws and regulations that guide accessibility efforts, and ways to improve the accessibility of web content. Eliminating these barriers is an important step towards a more inclusive society.
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Overview Of Web Accessibility

Digital accessibility is not new. In 1998, Congress passed Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires federal agencies to make their digital and electronic content (U.S. Access Board, 2022). Since then, the rules have expanded to most organizations and agencies that serve or receive funding from the United States government. In addition, commercial websites have come under scrutiny based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on an individual's disability (U. S. Department of Justice, 2016).

One of the earliest notable accessibility lawsuits, filed in 2006, alleged that Target Corporation's website was not accessible to users with blindness primarily due to the lack of alternative text for images and navigation links. Alternative text allows a screen reader program to describe non-text elements to a user. The lack of these elements excludes users with blindness or low vision from accessing the website content, putting them at an unfair disadvantage. In the Target case, the court determined that online users should have a shopping experience equal to that at the physical store location (Ozeran, 2018). This comparable access claim, or “nexus,” became a test for future claims.

Key Terms in this Chapter

HTTP: Hypertext transfer protocol, the internet protocol for retrieving documents on the web.

Section 508: An amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that applies to electronic and information technology and established accessibility for internet content and accountability for compliance.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): A set of standards developed to provide guidance on creating accessible web content; maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium.

HTML: Hypertext markup language, the markup system used to code web pages.

ADA: The Americans With Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in July 1990 and intended to mitigate the widespread and deeply rooted discrimination people with disabilities faced. The ADA addresses topics including employment, public services, public transportation, public accommodations, architectural and construction standards, and communication devices and services.

Hyperlink: A link on a web page that leads to another web document or other content.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): An international organization dedicated to developing and maintaining internet protocols and standards.

Accessibility Barrier: Any website error that renders the site unusable to individuals with disabilities.

Alternative Text: A short text description provided for a non-text element, such as an image, on a web page.

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