I have become increasingly aware of how un-accessible websites and other technology can be for folks with disabilities.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative has a really great description of what “accessibility” means:

The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.

Thus the impact of disability is radically changed on the Web because the Web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world. However, when websites, web technologies, or web tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the Web.

My boss first turned me on to website accessibility in my first few weeks by sending me website after website of web accessibility standards and training. It’s really important to her and it has become really important to me too.

I just came across this video of how blind people use an ATM that illustrates the challenges they face. I’ve often wondered about how well it was designed and it’s pretty clear that there were some serious flaws in both the software and hardware design.

In fact, he has all kinds of videos about how blind people go about their everyday lives.

As design professionals, we really need to start making this a greater priority in our design. According to some studies, as much as 20% of the population has some kind of disability (obviously not all are unable to use the Internet), but it’s still a compelling number to think about.

For more information on accessibility, you should check out the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM).

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