You probably have your genealogy online in some form or another. But is it accessible to your grandmother? To your niece in the Girl Scouts? To someone with a slow dial-up connection? People with disabilities can surf the web, but only those sites that meet “Web accessibility” standards. My site, www.epcrowe.com, is created using my ISP’s software and is sadly lacking in accessibility at the moment. I hope to correct that by using my own software to re-create it using the ten tips below.
“Web accessibility” is a term for ensuring that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact your Web page, and that they can contribute to the Web. It benefits many who would use the Web if they could, including older people with changing abilities due to aging. Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web: visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.
But making your Web site accessible also benefits users without disabilities. For example, a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations such as a slow Internet connection, or “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm.
The point of any Web, including your genealogy site, is to communicate. The point of the Web is to communicate interactively. An accessible Web can also help people with disabilities more actively participate in society through the Internet. An organization called the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops guidelines and techniques to describe accessibility solutions for Web software and Web developers. These WAI guidelines are considered the international standard for Web accessibility. Making a Web site accessible can be simple or complex, but it is generally doable. The WAI Web site provides guidelines and resources to help make the Web accessible. These range from very short summaries, such as “Quick Tips to Make Accessible Web Sites,” (see below) to resources on managing accessibility, to detailed technical references.
The document “Implementation Plan for Web Accessibility” lists basic steps for addressing accessibility in Web projects. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and techniques documents provide detailed information for developers. Here are some tips from the WAI Web site.
10 Quick Tips
The links in the Quick Tips below mostly go to the techniques documents that provide implementation guidance – including explanations, strategies, and detailed markup examples.
- Images & animations: Use the alt attribute to describe the function of each visual. This is the easiest tip: simply edit each image to include “This is my Grandmother Elsie, born 14 May 1911” with the ALT attribute. On most Web editing programs, that’s a simple right click on the image you have included on the page.
- Image maps. Use the client-side map and text for hotspots. This is more complex, but rarely do genealogy Web programs include an image map.
- Multimedia. Provide captioning and transcripts of audio, and descriptions of video. Again, usually right-click the object and your HTML editor should give you the option to include alternate text.
- Hypertext links. Use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid “click here.”Again, very easy.
- Page organization. Use headings, lists, and consistent structure. Use CSS for layout and style where possible. Never post a page with the title “Home Page” or “New Page”.
- Graphs & charts. Summarize or use the longdesc attribute.
- Scripts, applets, & plug-ins. Provide alternative content in case active features are inaccessible or unsupported.
- Frames. Use the noframes element and meaningful titles.
- Tables. Make line-by-line reading sensible. Summarize.
- Check your work. Validate. Use tools, checklist, and guidelines at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG
Related resources for making the Web accessible are also available from other organizations, and many can be found on the Web.