What is it?

Accessibility can be defined as being able to use, interact with, and understand physical objects and/or virtual environments. There are a number of things in the world today that are not as accessible as they should be to a certain disabled minority. People with accessibility issues are excluded from partaking with interactive systems and other physical environments and material. There are many boundaries to consider when taking accessibility into account: physical, mental, social, environmental, economical, and political, just to name a few. Objects or software designed with accessibility in mind should address all of these major items, allowing the greatest number access without any restrictions, "designs for people with disabilities work for others too." (Jones, 2006). Also, as a component of usability, greater accessibility means that more technology, and by extension activities, become usable for everyone.

Accessibility is not only constrained to online or computers. It is an important aspect that should be applied to everything that is created for human use.

Web Accessibility

According to the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), certain actions should be taken by creators and designers to ensure accessibility for all:
1. "Content must be perceivable
  • provide text alternatives for all non-text content
  • provide synchronized media equivalents for time-dependent presentations
  • ensure that information, functionality, and structure are separable from presentation
  • in visual presentations, make it easy to distinguish foreground words and images from the background
  • in auditory presentations, make it easy to distinguish foreground speech and sounds from background sounds
2. Interface elements in the content must be operable
  • make all functionality operable via a keyboard or a keyboard interface
  • allow users to control time limits on their reading or interaction unless specific real-time events or rules of competition make such control impossible
  • allow users to avoid content that could cause photosensitive epileptic seizures
  • facilitate the ability of users to orient themselves and move within the content
  • help users avoid mistakes and make it easy to correct them
3. Content and controls must be understandable
  • ensure that the meaning of content can be determined
  • organized content consistently from "page to page" and make interactive components behave in predictable ways
4. Content must be robust enough to work with current and future technologies
  • use technologies according to specification
  • ensure that user interfaces are accessible or provide an accessible alternative(s)" (W3C, 2004)

Steps To Help Everyone Online

"Access to physical spaces for people with disabilities has long been an important legal and ethical requirement and this is now becoming increasingly so for information spaces. The united nations and the world wide web consortium have declarations and guidelines on ensuring that everyone can get access to information that is delivered through software technologies." (Benyon, Turner & Turner; 2005) The W3C, or better known as, World Wide Web Consortium, the institution established and headed by the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee and his team have set guidelines, techniques and tips on how to make the internet and web pages more accessible. The Web Accessibility Initiative or WAI homepage outlines and discusses any new issues and solutions to problems with access to the Internet and Web-Sites.

Jakob Nielsen's (1999) website outlines a total of 66 designing principles to help create from accessible websights. These rules are broken down into three different priority levels: high, medium and low. There are "17 rules for High, 33 Medium priority and 16 Low priority" ( Although Nielsen is referring to the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative, the link for website designers to see a checklist of what they've included in their website and what they should be including is available at the W3C's WAI site.

To summarize the priority levels according to Nielsen (, 1999):

High Priority

By failing to abide by these guidelines, the content on the website, or the website itself will not be functional to majority or to nobody at all. A general failure as a whole will result.

Medium Priority

By failing to abide by these guidlines, accessing the affected websites will be very difficult but the website can still be used.

Low Priority

By failing to abide by these guidelines, most people will be able to access the website but still a small sum of people will not be able to because of certain accessibility impedements.

Accessibility Issues Onine

The internet has made access to information more easy and less costly. Websites have developed services that help those with disabilities and those have different access needs. Some examples are:20096074.thc.jpg
  • Text in a web browser can easily be magnified. This option is known as the zoom option and can be found under tools/options or edit/preferences. The Zoom option assists both those who have a visual impairment and those who have different sized screens. For those who require extra assistance, there are also various screen readers available. Some instances where this may be necessary is when a person is going online on their PDA and cell phone. (See BlackBerry). Other devices such as Direct TV , PS3 and XBOX are also taking advantage of these accessibility options that are now made available to access information on the Web. Different text options can also be useful for copying information from the web or viewing the information in different browsers.

Colour-Blindness and Websites
external image hexagon_800.gifColour-blindedness is an important factor when designing a webpage. About 8% of all male men suffer from colour-blindness. (Browser News: Site-Design Issues, December 2, 2006) Browser News also finds reports mentioning "37% of users will research purchases on-line, but buy off-line... [and] .. although 89% of teens don't buy on-line, 28% do research on-line before buying off-line." (Browser News: Site-Design Issues, December 2, 2006)

  • Online shopping and browsing is becoming more popular. By having a fully accessible website, many who suffer from colour-blindness will be able to purchase products online or surf the internet like anyone else would. Some suggestions for making a site accessible for those who are colour blind are by testing colours and objects in different browsers, such as Mozilla or Internet Explore. Some fonts are also easier to read than others. More common fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial are uniform across all Operating Systems and are easy to read. More example of common fonts can be found here. The majority of online users also have a 1024 x 768 screen resolution. Less than 1% have a 640 x 480 screen resolution (Screen Resolution, December 2, 2006). By creating sites with absolute units and with less fixed-unit objects, the sites will be able resolution independent. Web Safe colours should also be used when making a website. These colours are used to ensure that those who suffer from colour-blindness can make distinctions with the different colours used on the website. Web Safe colours can be found here. Some programs such as Front Page, Dreamweaver, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator give people the option to only choose web-safe colours so that they can make sites or ads that can be viewed by many. For persons with colour-blindedness, choosing merchandise that is available in different colours is frustrating when the colours have no labels. Lately, some website designers and online businesses have taken into consideration that colour-blindedness is an issue and that people with such disablilities are an available market, and availed equal access and opportunity to these people in their online information and product choices. This is done through providing a colour style sheet or labeling all colours. To accommodate this disability, colour stylesheets for select webpages allows one to change the page settings so that people with colour-blindedness can understand the colours that are being presented. This allows people with colour-blindedness access to the information, while still allowing people without this disability to access the information all the same.


external image tech_screenreader_final02.gif
Programs have been created to convert online text to speech. Programs like the Natural Reader and Acrobat Reader allow those that are visually impaired to obtain information easily on the web. Programs that convert text to speech can also be used by anyone in every day situations. Children can use it to listen to a favorite story, people can use it whilst performing multiple tasks at a time and converting text to speech can also be used to help notify people of updates or if they have received e-mail.


The internet is a world wide web. The web connects many people from all around the world and cultural barriers and language may be an issue. If an individual is having a hard time understanding a certain language, they can use translation programs such as Babel Fish. Many programs are now available in multiple languages to cater for a wide market.

Mobility/ Motor Skills

People who suffer from Parkinson's Disease or other mobility issues (such as a mouse that doesn't work properly) should also be taken into consideration when making sites. Certain instances where motor skills would be an issue is when people click on links or web buttons. By having a large surface area to click on users are more likely to click the links or web buttons as opposed to focusing on clicking a button.


The magnifying and audio option has made the internet and its information available to more people. Wireless has allowed for people to connect to the internet within the wireless range. Examples of where wireless internet access can be found is in Internet Cafes,
Downtown Toronto and Universities. WiFi allows for cell phones and PDA's to also access the internet within a wireless range. Public terminals with Internet access are also made available. Places with these terminals can be found in public libraries or schools. By addressing each accessibility issue when making a webpage, more people will be able to access the website and use it efficiently.

Basic Web Accessibility Guidelines

1) Content must be perceivable
2) Interface elements in content must be operable
3) Content and controls must be understandable
4) Content must be robust enough to work with current and future technologies

Accessibility Issues Offline

There are a plethora of accessibility issues offline as well. Peoples with wheelchairs, blind people, deaf people, and other physical disabilities are restricted from fully participating or even maneuvering themselves around in todays streets and housing. Although, there are measures taken into consideration to provide more accessibility to the physically disabled sohandicapparking.jpg that they can gain access to areas on land and water. A good example of accessibility that is provided to those with a wheelchair and can drive an automobile are handicap parking lots reserved to those with a permit. The only problem lies in the limited quantity of parking lots available to those with disabilities and those who are not disabled are often seen violating the rights given to those with the permits because they use the reserved lots to wait for someone or park it there so they can run into a store to buy a lottery ticket, causing frustration and stress to those who legitimally require those parking spaces.

There are also city funded or privately funded disabled people's transportation services. An example is Transhelp, funded by the Region of Peel in Ontario, Canada. "A Quality Regional Service: "Working together to enhance the lives of those unable to use conventional transit." (, they are a shuttle bus service that is funded by the cities within the Region of Peel to help disabled people get mobile and help transport them to their desired destinations.
There is currently a center for student with disabilities at the University of Toronto at Mississauga in the South Building Room 1113. They provide all sorts of accommodations for disable students (blind in a wheel chair, back problems etc). They provide disability learning assesments, give you links to bursaries and scholarship for the disabled. They even have sessions to help how to take notes in class, how to schedule your time etc. They even hold events in order for students to me other students as well. Here the contact information:
Mailing Address
AccessAbility Resource Centre
Room 1113, South Building
University of Toronto at Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Road North
Mississauga, ON
L5L 1C6

General Inquiries
(905) 569-4699 or
(905) 569-4366
Centre Staff
Elizabeth Martin, Manager
Telephone: (905) 828-5406 (Voice/TTY)
Teresa Jose, Disability Advisor
Telephone: (905) 569-4289 (Voice)



External Links


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