By D. V. Berkom
[Originally published on the Seattle Examiner writing careers blog.]
Headings: When I first created my author web page, www.dvberkom.com, I didn't have a clue about CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and laboriously changed font size by hand as I created the pages. Didn't use the H1 attribute. Didn't use any kind of text attribute other than the default. If you design your web page this way, a visually-impaired user will have to listen to everything on the page. And I mean everything.
The text-reader needs a way to differentiate the various areas on the page, or it thinks it's all important. Yes, I know. YOU think everything is important, but put yourself in your visitor's shoes. When you go to a web site, do you want to find the information you're interested in with the least amount of navigation? Sure. So does everyone else. Visually-impaired users are no different.
If you use headings, the text-reader is able to skip to each heading without having to read all of the text in between. This way, if the visitor wants to find out about your new release, s/he can do so without having to listen to everything prior to that information. What if this is the second time the visitor has come to your website? Would you want to have to listen to all the stuff you've heard before, just to get to the piece of information you need?
Didn't think so.
Here are some other issues to take into account when you assess your website:
(Note: While there are many ways to make your website more accessible, more in-depth techniques are beyond the scope of this author and article. I've included links below if you'd like to learn more.)
• Avoid page elements that flicker.
"Elements that flicker between the rate of 2Hz and 55Hz may cause seizures in individuals that have photosensitive epilepsy." (http://www.doit.wisc.edu/accessibility/online-course/standards/flicker.htm ) This means that cute little animated cartoon .GIF and marquis-style banners.
• Create accessible .PDF files with Adobe Acrobat, and revise existing PDFs for accessibility. (http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/acrobat/overview.html)
• Include captions/transcripts in multimedia: e.g., videos on YouTube, presentations, etc.
• Make your website navigable for non-mouse users (include the option of using the keyboard to navigate your site).
• Offer a "Skip Navigation" option at the top of the page for those interested in jumping directly to the main content.
There are several more unobtrusive ways that you can design your web pages so that everyone can enjoy what you have to offer. While my website is far from completely accessible, I've begun taking the baby steps to create a site that will hopefully include, rather than exclude, non-traditional web users. Creating an accessible website isn't just good business, it's an opportunity to foster inclusiveness and good relationships with potential readers.
For more information:
Online accessibility courses (FREE):
Check your web pages for Accessibility:
The following are links to accessibility toolbars to check your website:
Web Accessibility Toolbar for Internet Explorer (IE):
For Firefox (web developer extension):
Web Accessibility Initiative: http://www.w3.org/WAI/
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): http://www.w3.org/
About Section 508 Standards for Web Accessibility:
D.V. Berkom is the author of the Kate Jones Bad Spirits series. The newest installment in the series, Dead of Winter, will be available in May. For more information, you can see her real-world website at www.dvberkom.com.