The internet and the rapid development of new and better technologies provide unprecedented opportunities for people with disabilities.
Who would design a newspaper?
A huge, floppy, unwieldy sheaf of paper covered in tiny inky black and white print that is expensive to produce, slow to deliver information and difficult to read, search and store.
It’s bad enough if you have 20-20 vision, plenty of time, long, strong arms to hold the paper in front of you while you pore over the content, and live in a city with easy access to quality daily papers. Imagine if you are blind or hard of hearing, or if you have limited mobility, or if your arms are not strong and your hands not nimble enough to manipulate the thin pieces of paper. Imagine if you live in a country where newspapers are government propaganda.
Newspapers are now on the net
Newspapers are now on the net, thankfully. Blind people can search and read them with screen-readers which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. People with visual impairments can increase the text size many times and get rid of distracting images. People with impaired mobility can use assistive devices like joysticks, switches or eye-gaze devices to navigate around the online newspaper.
Even deaf people can benefit: captioned video and audio clips help them experience what others have always enjoyed.
Internet means interaction
The internet does not just allow disabled and disadvantaged people to consume – it allows them to interact with the world and to participate in society and business more fully. Think of the simple email, which can be sent by blind people using braille keyboards, or by mobility-impaired people using joysticks and on-screen keyboards. Everyone with access to a decent internet connection can now email, blog, work, hold conference calls, telecommute, and more.
No longer do people with disabilities have to rely on friends, family and care-givers to read to them, write for them, and act on their behalf. No longer are people in far-flung regions condemned to stay there.
That’s why web accessibility is so vitally important – not just for disabled people but for everyone in this newly wired world. It will only succeed if it is free and open to all members of all societies. And what’s more, there are no drawbacks: everyone benefits from universal design.Google+