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A. M. Michalska, W. Fink; Accessible Webpage Design for the General Public, Domain Experts, and Visually Impaired. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2007;48(13):3564.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
To design, implement, and validate an easily accessible, navigable, usable, and maintainable web template that would serve for conveying information to the general public, domain experts, and disabled people, with particular emphasis on vision impairments. The investigation Usability Research with Computer Users who are Blind or Visually Impaired (see American Foundation for the Blind) revealed that websites lack clarity, consistency, and fidelity to standards, i.e., properly labeled forms, precise text description of images, etc. Loiacono et al. (IEEE IT Professional Vol 7(1):27-31, 2005) reported that college/university, corporate/service & retail, and federal/federal contractor websites are largely inaccessible to people with disabilities. Likewise, outdated software, hardware, or slow modem connections render numerous websites unusable.
For the design, implementation, validation, and accessibility testing of the web template we employed the following: (1) lean design; (2) safe 800 pixel wide template area; (3) flat navigation hierarchy; (4) consistent link arrangement; (5) b/w display of content for maximum contrast; (6) web-based validation services; and (7) online accessibility tools.
The devised web template has been consistently applied to the websites of the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory (http://autonomy.caltech.edu) at Caltech that conducts research in multiple fields, one being biomedicine for the benefit of visually impaired/blind people. The template is compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act's Web Accessibility Standards, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The functionality of the websites was tested in text-based browsers (e.g., Lynx), multi-media browsers (e.g., Websurfer), and on computers with various monitor sizes and screen resolutions. The contents were verbalized by screen-readers (e.g., Emacspeak), viewed with large fonts, various color schemes, and accessed using keyboard only. The validity of the websites was tested with W3C Markup Validation Service and W3C CSS Validation Service, and the accessibility with Bobby (WebXACT) and Wave 3.5 online web-accessibility testing tools.
Despite its great significance, accessible webpage design is still widely ignored. Section 508, ADA, and W3C rules may even be legally enforced in the near future.
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