Transcript BBC Digital Planet on Accessibility on the Web


This is Digital Planet broadcasting on air, online and podcasting from the BBC in London.

I’m Gareth Mitchell and still to come the gossip from Vegas as the CES event draws to a close.


This week there’s another get-together. It's an international body co-founded by web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, developing standards for the web 10 years since. How do you design websites so that people with visual impairments can still use them as they can't use a mouse or keyboard, especially since it's recently enshrined in a United Nations convention?

Well, the W3C has a web accessibility initiative looking into all of this is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is director Judy Bruce discussing, some of the problems experienced while uses with visual impairments.

A lot of the social networking sites might use what's called captchas Witcher images, which are actually very hard to read and they're used by sites to make sure that spam robots don't flood a site and that people coming in to use it are actually people not computers, but those happened to logout users with visual disabilities who can't necessarily read that or somebody who has dyslexia.

And so it's important to have perhaps a logic test that somebody with a disability can get through and be able to use that site. So they're not locked out at the front door. Essentially, cut yourself online, you know, this is for people with disabilities. I mean that that really is a huge difficulty with a huge opportunity to interact with people in different ways. What happens when the web is first coming in to use in an area? It may seem almost like a luxury, but it quickly becomes essential and not just for social networking site for any kind of use access to general information to news to Educational Opportunity, looking for employment and also workplace communication once one is at work and had to not be able to access those because of accessibility barriers then that becomes a disadvantage for interacting with others. And in society, just depends on the pictures to the difficulties or otherwise that people with disabilities face when they try to engage with technology changes that I've seen over the past ten years or so. Is an awareness.

When we first started some of this work people would say, what do you mean we have to make the web accessible? I understand if we build a building, you need a ramp at the front to get around the stairs and so forth, or maybe it just makes Sent to build a building with a nose step, front entrance. But what are you talking about on the web? And so we would explain well for somebody with a problem seeing this site, you need to make sure that an image has an alternative text description.

Somebody has trouble hearing what's on the site? You need to make sure the audio has captions. If somebody is probably using their hands, maybe they're using voice recognition then the website needs to work with that. Or if somebody has maybe a memory impairment then if the site is set up so it can be easily navigated and then you can actually learn it better, remember that and all. Those considerations are things that we look at in web accessibility.

And when we first started working on web accessibility that was new information. Now, there's a good understanding of that that really runs across the public and private sectors and in many countries and what we're looking for is for people to pay attention to the guidelines better and the web accessibility guidelines and use them in their sites to make sure they're evaluating their websites and there's quite a lot of work to do on that.

We see inconsistency with regard to accessibility of sites, and we really need that to change because it's still shutting out people with disabilities in many cases. We have the ability to make every single website universally accessible to make a website accessible. We have developed accessibility guidelines that really can be used on any kind of website, any kind of web technology and they're designed exactly to be used on mainstream websites. And when you do use them on your website, it turns out the website works better for everybody. It works better on mobile devices, for instance. If the site has been designed to be accessible it works better for people with different literacy levels and so forth. It works better for people who are maybe temporarily distracted or in a noisy environment. There's many carryover benefits. There's even carry over benefits in terms of efficiency on the server side and so forth from this interview with Access to buildings at the most. It wasn't something I did tell one of the other places to ensure that new buildings are made to be accessible to people physical disabilities. That websites too because resisted that reading. They've they've tried to argue that. It doesn't imply that I understand people who could investment I've ever made that online presence accessible to people. We would be 20 with cognitive oil or intellectual disabilities have chosen not to do it. And I think the more pressure that is pushing people to it to make them whether this is just isn't acceptable. I don't think people realize that it doesn't have to call so I can still give you a nicely designed to be usable website, the more that happened to the better. We we got so many things, we have to worry about it. Is making sure things run together with saying to developers, "This stuff isn't difficult. Just make you a new website inclusive." The benefit of not having people whinging at you. You having. Now? It says, what website could be of great benefit to think about what you are trying to do online? Because too many websites are just thrown together. We can make it a better place, right?

Thank you very much for that Bill.