General Usability and Functionality
Websites which conform to the guidelines and standards as established by Section 508 or the W3C Accessibility Guidelines may still be inaccessible or difficult to use. Employing the below principles of universal design can improve the user experience for everyone and make a site more usable:
- Simple and Intuitive Use: The web site is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level.
- Low Physical Effort: The website can be used efficiently and comfortably with a minimum of fatigue or effort. For example, minimize the number of links needed to access important information. Information should be easily found without having to open multiple pages or go down multiple levels.
- Tolerance for Error: The website minimizes adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions, such as by requiring user confirmation before submitting online forms, or being able to navigate back to a previous page if the wrong link was selected.
Web accessibility testing sites
There are multiple organizations and technologies that can test the accessibility of a website. Utilizing these resources can provide a valuable snapshot of an organization website’s strengths and problem areas, and provide direction for improving the accessibility of the website. W3C has compiled a resource listing of dozens of accessibility testing sites and evaluation tools, which may be an excellent place to begin a website accessibility initiative.
Multiple assistive software technologies exist to aid individuals in reading and utilizing websites. Organizations can also use these technologies to assess the accessibility of their own websites. Some common software programs include:
- JAWS: screen reader for windows
- Lynx: text-only web browser for blind users with refreshable Braille displays
- Links: text-only web browser for visual users with low bandwidth
- Opera: visual browser with accessibility-related features
User accessibility testing
Finally, while website accessibility testing can reveal some larger problem areas, it is always useful to have users with a variety of disabilities and/or expertise in accessibility test a website. These users can point out problems for screen reading software, keyboard navigation, and readability/comprehension. Many government and non-profit disability organizations (e.g.: ADA National Network, Easter Seals, American Association on Health and Disability, Centers for Independent Living, etc.) may serve as resources for finding individuals to assist with accessibility testing.