Web and Universal Design

"Universal design" and "accessibility" is often used as synonyms when talking about people with different assumptions and needs to be able to use web technology. The goal, regardless of the terms used, is to make Web sites usable for as many as possible.

Web technology has a great potential in relation to usability for all. This potential must be exploited, and MediaLT will help you accomplish this. We can advice you on what should be improved on existing sites, participate as consultants in development projects, offer speaking web pages and more.

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What is accessibility?

The word "accessibie" can be defined in many ways:

  • Without particular obstacles
  • Have access to
  • Being able to recognize, acquire, without particular difficulties
  • Being easy to use

When we discuss web accessibility, the the best definition is perhaps: "Being able to recognize, acquire, without particular difficulties". This should be a goal for all information providers.

Disabled people use standard software and hardware. However, many also needs to use various additional technical aids. Blind people for example use screen readers with a braille list (point font) or synthesized voice. Some disabled cannot use the standard keyboard and mouse, and replace these input devices with switches, eye control equipment, special pointing devices, etc. People with low vision may need to zoomin on the screen until they are only able to read a few letters at a time, that fills the entire screen. This is just a few examples of the tools used. The point is that a good web site can be used by anyone - and such web sites are not difficult to create - and the visual presentation can almost always be tailored to the specific wishes of the information provider.

Good accessibility is something everyone profits from, not only those with "special needs"!

Why is accessibility important?

Most people want their message to reach as many people as possible! Easy access in itself is a reason to post the information on the Internet. Electronic information has a special potential: the recipient can choose different forms of presentation! Web pages can be read on a computer, a mobile phone, using synthesized voice, with the reading list, etc. Good Websites are suitable for different presentations, and good websites allow alternative input devices!

In addition to the fact that most want their web sites to be used by all, it is important to ensure that those who want to get information is actually able to get it! It is unnecessary that people with other needs cannot use a site, simply because no one has thought of the fact that not everyone uses the screen and mouse. MediaLT believe that many are very positive to this commitment, but that universal design and accessibility are some information providers simply have not thought of.

A little about MediaLT and our experience

MediaLT has experience with various sites, browsers, and use of appropriate computer aids. Employees of the company have worked with the Web since the early 1990s, and it has been an appropriate topic for us right from the first text browsers for Unix.

Larger Web sites: In collaboration with Nova computer AS MediaLT had responsibility for the development and operation of information for the Paralympics in Salt Lake City. This was a very comprehensive system with results, startlists, info. about athletes/teams, a large historical base, current news material, route profiles and more. A significant challenge in this system was organizing the tables. Following guidelines from the Olympic Committee a version was made for the visually impaired. It turned out that this "special version" was actually used as much as the standard version - something that was very surprising, since the version for the visually impaired was not  profiled to others, and it was only a link from the normal main page. Our contention is that the "personalized" version was best for all!

MediaLT has had a number of consulting assignments related to large sites, for example. municipalities, Finance Portal, Telenor, The University of Oslo, universell.no  and more. Although we are often involved in these projects far later than we would like, small measures do make the sites more accessible, not only for the disabled, but for a far broader audience - often all potential users.

Small websites: The experience with smaller sites mainly coincides with larger systems. The main difference is that smaller sites are often purely file based, and do not use their own publishing solutions.

Sites with a lot of interactivity: MediaLT is a partner is the EU project Euro Chance. An important goal is the development of an online distance learning system (LMS). MediaLT has primary responsibility for the user interface.

We have also had a number of assignments related to these types of systems, for example. for NKS, Ønskebok and the TWP project.