Posted by: MandyS | December 1, 2011

Activity 26.2 – Creating special resources

Text-only web sites: accessibility saviour or a waste of time?

This article considers the pros and cons of text-only websites, which have evolved to supplement sites which are inaccessible to blind and visually impaired users. However, such sites may also benefit those who have cognitive learning disabilities and those who are unable to use a mouse.

Some of the cons highlighted are:

  • maintenance of two sites
  • Text-only promotes segregation of disabled people 

  • Text-only does not remove all access barriers

  • Automatically converting a page with access barriers into text-only format will not remove these barriers  

  • Two versions of a page increases complexity and reduces navigability. 

  • Text is inaccessible for some disabled people
It is suggested that “the most effective way of creating accessible web sites” is to:
 
  • create pages in standard HTML or XHTML, styled with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
  • Provide appropriate alternative text for all image
  • Provide meaningful link text for hyperlinks
  • Avoid using colour to distinguish information

What is being suggested is that, although text-only sites are a useful alternative, they should not be viewed as the ultimate solution. Instead, if care is taken to design accessibility into the website in the first place, the need for text-only sites would diminish.

 Researchers Develop Adaptive Technology for Visually Impaired Engineers

Here adaptive technology has been developed that ‘allows blind or visually impaired students and working professionals to perform the essential functions of chemical-engineering process design’. The aim being to minimise the differences between sighted and non-sighted designers. This harks back to the creation of the level playing field and has the edge on text-only websites as it promotes inclusivity rather than segregation.

The two are examples of adaptive technology, the former having a more general application and the latter being focused on a particular disability. The comparison suggests that a focused resource promotes inclusivity more than a general resource would, but this is probably something which would require further investigation.

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