Why We Care

The 2000 Census identified nearly 6.2 million Californians as having an identified disability. By the year 2010, this number is expected to increase to 11 million, nearly 30 percent of the state's population. State government is responsible for providing service to all citizens, including those with disabilities.

Technology provides government the ability to reach its citizens electronically. Disabled citizens and the businesses that serve them can access electronic government with the help of assistive technologies. It is imperative that the state's web presence be designed in a manner that is accessible to all citizens, and compatible with commonly used assistive technologies. When properly designed, the Internet can provide an effective means for people with disabilities to interact with government.

Beyond social justice and demographics, ensuring all Californians have access to state information and online services is the law. California accepts billions of dollars from the Federal government. Part of the contract when California accepts Federal money is that it will adhere to the Federal Section 508 standard. Inaccessible websites put the state at risk for lawsuits and penalties from Federal audits. Even when only state funds are involved, California state law requires that websites be accessible.

All citizens and employees, including those with disabilities, have a right to access California information resources and online services important for their personal well-being, commerce, recreation, and independence. It is imperative, on a humanitarian, technological, and financial basis that California state government incorporates accessibility as essential in its web development and presence as soon as possible. For every day of delay, hundreds of new state documents are introduced to the web. If these documents are not accessible, California will have dissatisfied citizens and will be at risk for employment-related and civil rights discrimination complaints, lawsuits, and loss of Federal funds.

In summary, making sites accessible:

  • Puts web-based content within reach of people with disabilities.
  • Makes web content more available for all users.
  • Follows WCAG recommendations.
  • Is the law!

The Human Impact

Have you ever experienced a disability - temporary or permanent - that interfered with how you used the web? In this section we will explore some of the disabilities experienced by the general population.

Low Vision

To experience what it is like to use the web with impaired vision, visit a website and then use your browser's View or Text Size menu to decrease the text size two or three increments. Web developers and designers tend to favor small text, but this can present a considerable challenge to visitors with poor vision.

Color-Blindness

There are many types of color-blindness beyond the familiar red/green variety. Websites that use color to convey information may present significant challenges to visitors who are color-blind. To see how different types of color-blindness impact web visitors, visit colorfilter.wickline.org

Blindness

Here's a challenge that illustrates why multimedia presentations that present important information in the video track should have audio or text equivalents. View this instructional digital photo processing video (external link to Google Video), but turn off your monitor. How useful did you find the information that was presented?

Hearing Impairment

Here's a challenge that illustrates why multimedia presentations that present important information in the audio track should have text equivalents for hearing-impaired visitors. View this instructional multimedia podcast. After a few seconds, turn off the sound. How useful did you find the information that you were able to access?

Impaired Mobility

Server-side image maps present a significant challenge to visitors who cannot use a mouse due to a mobility impairment. To experience the frustration in accessing information via a server-side image map, visit this website and attempt to access the links without using a mouse.

Impaired Cognitive Abilities

Complex, overdone multimedia presentations present a challenge to those with cognitive disabilities. An example of such a presentation is this Flash-based website.

Hand with a string around the index finger Remember: Using the web can be a frustrating and incomplete experience for people with any kind of disability - even a temporary one. Assistive technologies, such as screen magnifiers, speech synthesizers, and Braille displays can help. As a web designer, you must be aware of accessibility issues and standards, and design to put content within the reach of people with disabilities.