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Web Publishing

Web Publishing & Accessibility

The invention of the World Wide Web has allowed an extraordinary amount of information to be within the reach of anyone with a PC and a modem. Persons with visual and other disabilities are able to use the Web; however important information may be lost to them when web developers fail to incorporate some simple web publishing techniques. Designers may overlook these issues because they are unaware of changes that can be made to improve the accessibility of their site. For additional information about creating accessible web pages and the related issues, please checkout the Web Development Tools section on Web Accessibility.

It is the responsibility of web publishers to familiarize themselves with web accessibility issues and learn the techniques that will make their pages accessible to users with disabilities. This document will explain the ways users with disabilities get information from the Web. It will also explain how you can make your website accessible for those users. 

return to topScreen Readers and Speech Synthesizers

In order for visually impaired users to get information from a website, they must rely on a screen reader and speech synthesizer. Instead of the users reading the screen, the screen is read to them. The screen reader scans the page picking up text while the speech synthesizer creates a voice that is heard through the computer's speakers. 

Although the screen reader has given disabled users access to the Web, it is not totally foolproof. The screen reader reads from the top left-hand side to the bottom right-hand side of the screen. Web designers must be aware, however, that certain formatting will confuse the screen reader. For example, a screen reader cannot distinguish the difference between two separate columns of text, making the words sound jumbled together. 

Since the screen reader only recognizes text, design decisions can influence the "readability" of the page.  Fortunately, there are ways to design your web page so that is accessible to every user. The following is a list of topics related to web design that can hinder users with a disability. This list will also give links that provide specific instruction on how to increase the usability of your site.  

return to topWeb Publishing Information

Use of Color
Color is an important design decision no matter who the user is. Users with disabilities such as colorblindness can have a difficult time distinguishing between two colors of the same brightness. For instruction on using colors for the visually impaired, refer to Web Publishing and Color Vision.

Users with a vision impairment may not see any of the colors used on your web page. Therefore, never use color alone to convey meaning. For example, listing current class offerings in green, prior class offerings in purple.

Audio and Video Files
Audio and video files can add a lot to your web page. However, they may be inaccessible to some users depending on their disability. Provide text supplements for these files.

Headings help to group information and make reading text easier for all users of your web page. For users with disabilities, headings are especially useful in making sense of what would otherwise be lengthy sections of text.

Links help users navigate through a website. For a disabled user using a screen reader, a consistent navigational scheme will allow the user to focus on your content. Links must be implemented correctly to insure usability. For instruction on how to create links that are accessible for users with disabilities, refer to Links: An Overview

With the technology available today, users with disabilities are able to know what the content of a web page image is if, and only if, the image has specified alternative text. Using alternate text with your images can make a great difference to those with visual disabilities. For instructions on how to incorporate images for the visually impaired, refer to Working with Images

Image Maps
An image map is a single image that allows the user to go multiple places through the use of clickable areas. To accommodate various screen readers, text browsers, and older browsers, it is recommended that text links are also provided. For more information, refer to Image Maps: Creating Hotspots.

For people with vision impairments, trying to get information from a table on a website can be difficult. The use of a screen reader is essential for obtaining any information given from the website. Tables not developed correctly can be confusing or hard to understand when read by the screen reader. For more information on how to correctly create tables for the visually impaired, refer to Introduction to Tables.

For people with vision impairments, getting clear information from a list can be difficult. Lists not created correctly can be confusing and hard to understand when read by the screen reader. There are some things you can do as a web developer to help ensure that your site can be used by all users. For instruction on how to create lists for the visually impaired, refer to List Basics and Formatting Text and Paragraphs.

Forms tend to be a common problem area for those using a screen reader. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3) includes several guidelines for working with forms. You can review the recommendations published by the W3 at ( 

Well designed frames can be very appealing to users of your website. However, for someone using a screen reader, frames are problematic for a few reasons (source: W3 (

To aid those using a screen reader, a non-frames version is recommended. If a person is going to use the pages with a screen reader, descriptive titles of each frame are required. Additional information about working with frames is available on the web ( 

Special Techniques
PDF (Portable Document Format) files are a popular way to share information via the web. With a PDF file the original document formatting is maintained and it is easier to access from the Web. "Tagged Adobe PDF is a version of PDF that provides structure and order information to allow PDF documents to be read by screen readers" (Source and more information available at the Adobe Accessibility website ( accessibility/index.html)

Many techniques that make the web dynamic and exciting can close the door to those with disabilities. For example, a Java Script that provides rollover buttons (when the mouse goes over the button, a new set of options is displayed) limits the options that are available to someone that does not use a mouse. A text alternative to the information and/or links is required for a page that will be accessible to all users.

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