In 1995 a new era of accessibility for disabled people began. The Disability Discrimination Act was passed, stating that:
“It is unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of public.”
A website is regarded as a service and RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind) and DRC (Disability Rights Commission) have been quick to apply pressure on to organisations to push this law into practice. Indeed, DRC will be publishing a report on its formal investigation into 1000 websites sometime during 2004 (http://www.drc-gb.org/annualreview/foreword/index.asp?print=true).
So, how do disabled people access Internet? There are a number of different ways depending on their particular disability:
Blind users Internet users who have no sight at all utilize a screen reader, which reads content of web page, or rather HTML (HyperText Markup Language) code of page, back to them. These machines sift through HTML code and technology deciphers what needs to be read aloud and what should be ignored. IBM’s screen reader can be downloaded for a free 30-day trial at http://www-3.ibm.com/able/solution_offerings/hpr.html. Once you have downloaded it, go to your website, turn your monitor off, and try to navigate your website.
Partial/poor sight To take full advantage of Internet, users with partial or poor sight need to be able to enlarge text on web pages. To verify that your website allows them to achieve this on Internet Explorer, go to View > Font size > Largest. If your site is accessible to this group of users then size of text throughout page will increase. Users with poor vision can also use a screen magnifier. You can download a free screen magnifier at http://www.magnifiers.org/links/Download_Software/Screen_Magnifiers/ and see for yourself.