Modern technology has revolutionized access to information by individuals with print disabilities, such as blindness or dyslexia. Computer software is available that reads materials from a computer screen including, among others, JAWS and Window-Eyes. Before the advent of these technologies, live readers or recorded audio books were used.
When creating a website, it is important to remember that the structure of the presented information determines how readable the site will be by screen reading software. Accessible web design ensures that the site is readable by this software, and that audio portions of the site are accessible for deaf or hearing impaired users (e.g. captions, transcript). Everyone designing and/or modifying websites should investigate the principles of accessible web design.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed, as a part of its Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), web accessibility guidelines and techniques. These resources and other important information are available to aid in the design of websites that are accessible by all users.
For more information on accessible web design:
- Accessible Webpage Design by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
- National Center for Accessible Media offered by WGBH
The federal government and the state of Texas both require official sites to be accessible by all viewers. Rice University’s Office of Information Technology department can assist with web design features to ensure website accessibility.