Initiative seeks more accessible Web tools, software for disabled

December 03, 2001

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Companies that develop and distribute browsers, multimedia players and other Web-based software have become more savvy in recent years when it comes to understanding the needs of people with disabilities.

But they still have a way to go before they can claim to actually meet those needs, according to Jon Gunderson, coordinator of assistive communication and information technologies in the University of Illinois' Division of Rehabilitation-Education Services. Gunderson also is chair of the User Agent Accessibility working group of the World Wide Web Consortium, which recently announced it was inviting developers to implement its Web Accessibility Initiative guidelines for designing more accessible browsers, multimedia players and other Web software.

The W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative is an ongoing, multi-pronged effort, Gunderson said. Goals of the initiative include ensuring that Web technology supports accessibility; developing accessibilty guidelines; guiding the development of tools for evaluating and repairing inaccessible Web sites; conducting education and outreach, and supporting research and development of technologies that improve access to the Web by people with disabilities. To date, W3C has published two other sets of guidelines: one on how authors can create accessible Web content, and another, on how to design tools that are accessible to authors with disabilities, and that produce accessible Web content.

Gunderson said that while the technology exists to make software more accessible, there is a variety of reasons why companies have been slow to make adaptations - ranging from monetary reasons and lack of knowledge to a failure by disability organizations to apply pressure. However, he said, "most companies say the biggest reason they don't do it is, 'Customers don't ask us.' "

"The biggest thing individuals can do (to effect change) is to ask about accessibility features," he said. "The number one response from companies, when asked, is 'Oh, we're accessible.' " In reality, the software doesn't really deliver many of the features that could best assist users.

Such features include keyboard support for users who are blind or have a physical disability that makes it hard to use a mouse; configuration options, which allow people to control fonts, color and text size; and compatibility with specialized software, such as speech synthesizers or screen magnifiers.

So, Gunderson said, after a sales pitch that suggests accessibility, the user should fire back with the following questions: "What guidelines do you follow?" And, "Have you tested the product?"

"There are ways to get companies to respond through backdoor arm-twisting" - notably, through campaigns by organizations such as the W3C - "but that only goes so far," Gunderson said. "The more people ask, the more companies will respond. And, people should ask if they follow prescribed guidelines, and if they can prove it."
More information on W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative is available at

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Disabilities Articles from Brightsurf:

College students with disabilities at greater risk for substance abuse
College students with physical and cognitive disabilities use illicit drugs more, and have a higher prevalence of drug use disorder, than their non-disabled peers, according to a Rutgers study.

Asthma among children with developmental disabilities
How common asthma was among children with various developmental disabilities (including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder and vision, hearing or speech delay) was compared to children without disabilities in this survey study.

Children with developmental disabilities more likely to develop asthma
Children with developmental disabilities or delay are more at risk of developing asthma, according to a new study published in JAMA Network Open led by public health researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) as part of the Center for Pediatric Population Health.

Self-help groups empower caregivers of children with disabilities
Caregivers in low-income settings will be able to respond to the challenges of bringing up children with disabilities, thanks to a new model created by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).

Unintended pregnancy rates higher among women with disabilities, study says
Pregnancies among women with disabilities are 42% more likely to be unintended than pregnancies among women without disabilities, says a new report published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

More medical students are telling their schools about disabilities, and getting a response
The percentage of medical students who told their schools that they have a disability rose sharply in recent years, a new study shows.

The unpopular truth about biases toward people with disabilities
Needing to ride in a wheelchair can put the brakes on myriad opportunities -- some less obvious than one might think.

How to improve care for patients with disabilities? We need more providers like them
When it comes to patients with disabilities, the chance of getting a clinician 'like them' is extremely low, which may lead to patients' reluctance to seek care or follow prescribed interventions and treatments.

Progress to restore movement in people with neuromotor disabilities
A study published in the advanced edition of April 12, 2019 in the journal Neural Computation shows that approaches based on Long Short-Term Memory decoders could provide better algorithms for neuroprostheses that employ Brain-Machine Interfaces to restore movement in patients with severe neuromotor disabilities.

Certain physical disabilities may affect outcomes in kidney transplant recipients
Compared with kidney transplant recipients who did not report a disability, recipients with a visual disability were at higher risk of organ failure and recipients with a walking disability were at higher risk of early death.

Read More: Disabilities News and Disabilities Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to