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August 9, 2008

disABILITY: The Internet not accessible to all

Why not take some time to consider how you can help contribute to making the World Wide Web more accessible for everyone.

Whether you host your own website, or you simply understand the value of the Internet, you may be able to help improve its universal usability.

There are many websites that are designed and edited incorrectly, thus becoming inaccessible for people with disabilities.

It's not necessarily something every Web developer wants to take time for, but that doesn't stop it from being a very critical issue.

Blindness, color blindness, motor impairments, deafness, epilepsy, dyslexia and learning disabilities are just some of the most common handicapping situations, in terms of surfing the 'Net.

Imagine pointing and clicking your mouse on a very small point on the screen while your hands were shaking. Would you be able to successfully do that?

What would you do when you got to and were deaf or hard of hearing?

Would you feel comfortable, if you were prone to seizures, visiting a site with flashing elements on the screen, especially if you couldn't turn them off?

For me, as a blind person, I have my own set of challenges and pet peeves to add to the list.

I use a screen reader, which is a software program that translates text on a Web page to synthesized speech output. Many times I run into problems on Web pages with graphical links. Unless the Web developer has used something called an alt tag, or alternative text tag, my screen reader will spit out a long string of senseless numbers, symbols and letters, rather than telling me what the link is.

Similarly, there are a number of things I miss when I'm trying to interact with people on social networking sites. There are lots of cute and funny things people send back and forth to one another, like virtual stickers, bumper stickers, or other little doodads.

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