Internet Accessibility

Web Accessibility problems may involve

Reading disorders, learning disabilities, reading disabilities, thinking, remembering, sequencing disabilities, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Useability will be enhanced with illustrations, good graphics, organized content with headings, and visual cues for navigation.
Deafness and hard of hearing. Users may need assistive technology to read audio transcripts or view fully captioned multimedia content.
Physical disabilities, lack of a digit or hand, epilepsy, or short stature. Users may have limited strength, reach or manipulation, tremor, lack of sensation, inability to use a mouse, slow response time, or lack of fine muscle control. Users may need to use assistive technology to adapt the computer interface to their disability such as mouth sticks to type keyboard commands; eye-tracking software that uses eye movement for computer commands; height control for desktops, chairs, and keyboards; keyboards with raised ridges in-between the keys; and voice input.
Voice input, speech output, inability to speak, stutter, strong foreign accent, or speech impediment. Users may require an environmental noise filter to hear correctly, high quality noise-cancellation technology of the sound card and/or microphone, a faster CPU with enough memory for processing the speech without slowing it down, the ability to enter foreign words and phrases, technical and scientific terms, or other speech that is easily recognized by the software, or the user needs to pause mid-sentence to catch his/her breath or read from a manuscript.
Blindness, low vision, color-blindness, and lack of color perception. Users may require the use of a screen-reader application to feed Braille or text-to-speech browsers. Screen-reader applications read a Web page one line at a time, horizontally across the page. Screen readers may also be used by sighted users who don’t have sound on their computer or who don’t want to turn sound on in public places such as airplanes, libraries, or office cubicles.
Combination of disabilities
Deafblindness. Users may need a variety of input and output devices.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 750 million people with disabilities world wide. According to the U.S. Census, 54 million of these live in the United States and about 25 million of these have difficulty accessing the Internet. It is estimated that this population in the U.S. controls a discretionary income over $175 billion annually. Therefore, people with disabilities can have a powerful economic impact on several segments of the economy. With the aging Baby Boomers, these numbers will increase accessibility needs and their affluence will have a strong affect on market share for accessible devices and business’ return on investment (ROI) to provide accessible products and work environments.

Reference Books and Resources

There are several excellent books about creating and maintaining accessible Web pages. See the suggested reading list for general information and detailed reference books for your library that relate to the accessibility and usability of Web pages.

Find more resources using the Areas of Focus Internet Accessibility category search.


Visual accessibility problems involve blindness, low vision, and color-blindness.

Reference Books and Resources

There are several excellent books related to vision. See the suggested reading list for general information and detailed reference books for your library.

Sight / Vision Loss Resources

Find more resources using the Areas of Focus Vision category search.

Relevant News

Macular Degeneration

"Quality of Life Improves in Patients with Macular Degeneration: Duke Ophthalmology, Duke University School of Medicine, "Researchers at the Duke Eye Center have determined that patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) experience significant improvement in their quality of life following a surgical procedure called "macular translocation with 360 degree peripheral retinectomy" (MT360). AMD is an eye disease that may lead to vision loss in the central region of a person's visual field, a defect that can seriously impact a patient’s quality of life."

"UCSB Studies Link Alzheimer’s Disease, Macular Degeneration," by Josh Braun, Staff Writer. Published Wednesday, May 28, 2003. Issue 135 / Volume 83

Accessible Technology

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Tech's product evaluations offer objective, comprehensive accessibility reviews of products for people who have lost some or all of their vision. AFB Tech has evaluated a wide variety of products, including cell phones, blood glucose meters, insulin pumps, insulin pens, blood pressure monitors, office copiers and faxes, kitchen and home appliances, voting machines, and others. Their reports are available online at AFB AccessWorld®: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. For example, see their many published reports on accessible cell phones.

Making Documents Accessible to the Blind

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) has a page about "Best Practices and Guidelines for Large Print Documents used by the Low Vision Community" that is authored by the Council of Citizens with Low Vision, International (CCLVI), an Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind in Arlington, VA. These guidelines were compiled by persons with low vision to assist in the production of the large print documents that they, themselves read.

Zoom for Low Vision

Wednesday, 15th June 2005 – By Gez Lemon. An article about creating alternative stylesheets for people with low vision. This discusses zooming text and color contrast. "Zoom for Low Vision"

Blind engineering student 'reads' color-scaled weather maps using Cornell software that converts color into sound

January 21, 2005: Victor K. Wong, a Cornell University graduate student from Hong Kong who lost his sight in a road accident at age seven, is helping to develop innovative software that translates color into sound. "Color is something that does not exist in the world of a blind person," explains Wong. "I could see before, so I know what it is. But there is no way that I can think of to give an exact idea of color to someone who has never seen before." The inspiration for using image-to-sound software came in early 2004 when Wong had problems reading color-scaled weather maps of the Earth's upper atmosphere—a task that is a necessary part of his doctoral work in "space weather," which attempts to predict weather patterns high over the equator for use by Global Positioning System and other satellite communications. Read more… "Blind engineering student 'reads' color-scaled weather maps using Cornell software that converts color into sound"

Library Services for the Blind

State libraries for the blind in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Oregon, along with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), the National Library of Congress, other regional and state libraries, and the CNIB Library in Canada provide free audiobook library services to the visually impaired; requested books are mailed out (at no cost) to library patrons. Founded in 1996, Assistive Media of Ann Arbor, Michigan was the first organization to produce and deliver spoken-word recordings of written journalistic and literary works through the Internet to serve people with visual impairments.

The Blind Can See with Their Tongues

Update: Source: University of Montreal news release, June 2, 2004: An eye on the tongue. More…

2001—A Danish study found that people who were born blind can learn to see by having electrical impulses applied to their tongue. This research may also benefit other groups of disabled patients with brain injuries or diseases such as epilepsy, dementia, blood clots in the brain or patients who have had surgery where a portion of the brain has been removed. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are developing a tongue-stimulating system that translates images detected by a camera into a pattern of electric pulses that trigger touch receptors. That people can decode nerve pulses as visual information when they come from sources other than the eyes shows how adaptable, or plastic, the brain is, says Wisconsin neuroscientist and physician Paul Bach-y-Rita, one of the device’s inventors. "You don't see with the eyes. You see with the brain," he contends. An image, once it reaches an eye's retina, "becomes nerve pulses no different from those from the big toe," he says. To see, people rely on the brain's ability to interpret those signals correctly. More… [this article is continued but only available to subscribers to ScienceNews. See] (no longer available as of 28 February 2014) See also November 28, 2004: BehindTheMedspeak: BrainPort – See with your tongue and hear and touch as well.