e-Accessibility & e-Inclusion
Video source: www.w3.org/WAI/videos/standards-and-benefits/
E-accessibility refers to the ease of use of information and communication technologies (ICT), such as the Internet, mobile apps, and electronic documents by people with disabilities. Websites must be developed so that disabled users can access the information. For example:
- For blind people, websites must be interpretable by software that read aloud texts and describe visual images;
- For people with motor disabilities, all contents and functionalities must be accessible and operable sequentially by keyboard or other input devices;
- For people with impaired vision, websites require fonts with adjustable size and highly contrasting colors; and
- For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, audio content must be accompanied by text versions of the dialogue. Sign language videos can also help to make audio content more accessible.
"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
The basic idea of e-Accessibility is based on Universal Design. In our case, the aim is to design user interfaces in such a way that they can be used by as many people as possible without special measures, including people with special needs. Where this is not possible, Universal Design requires adaptability to common Assistive Technologies, such as screen readers, screen reading sosftware for blind people.
One important aspect of Universal Design is the demand for a highly adaptable solution for everyone. In contrast to various special solutions for people with different needs.
Universal design takes into account all kinds of special needs. Be it permanent disabilities or temporary limitations of important skills for interaction with modern information and communication technologies (ICT). Be these are congenital, caused by illness or age, accident or environmental factors, such as for example strong sunlight on displays. Disabilities and restrictions typically involve sensory (visual, acoustic), motor and/or cognitive aspects.
In addition to user tests by those affected, the testing of digital offerings for accessibility is largely based on guidelines and standards. Almost all national legislation refers to international norms and guidelines published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
The WCAGs form the core of a set of guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). They are recommendations on how to make web content more accessible, especially for people with disabilities - but also for various output and input devices such as PCs, tablets, mobile phones or screen readers. The WCAG guidelines are formulated to be technology-independent and can be applied to different technologies: Web, mobile apps, electronic documents and software user interfaces in general.
Websites that comply with these guidelines are also accessible to people with sensory and motor (and to a certain extent mental) disabilities, i.e. they can grasp the information offered and make necessary entries.
The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG)
The ATAG are guidelines for developers of web content authoring tools: simple HTML editors, content management systems, tools that produce multimedia, learning management systems, social media, etc.
ATAG's aim is for developers to create tools that:
- are accessible to authors regardless of any disability,
- produce standard accessible content,
- encourage and support authors in creating accessible content.
Although the WCAG is very comprehensive and detailed, the review of the individual success criteria alone is not sufficient to confirm the accessibility of digital content with certainty. This is why we always rely on practical tests with screen reader users. This is indispensable because different specifications (especially WAI-ARIA) are often not supported equally by screen readers, web browsers and operating systems.
Why screen readers are so important in accessibility testing
Screen readers are not only the most important assistive technology for blind and severely visually impaired people, but are also exemplary for non-visual user agents. Screen reader tests can therefore be regarded as real litmus tests in the development of accessible user interfaces. Screen reader-compliant websites meet many requirements that are important not only for blind people but also for many other groups of people with special needs.
e-Inclusion as we understand the term designates inclusion through digital information and communication technologies (ICT).
The use of ICT, such as the Internet, is becoming an essential part of economic, educational and social life for many people today. It is therefore important that websites can be used by all, so that people with disabilities have the same access to information as everyone else.
Man erkennt den Wert einer Gesellschaft daran, wie sie mit den Schwächsten ihrer Glieder verfährt.Gustav Heinemann
Our mission is to ensure that the potential of the Digital Transformation for the inclusion of people with special needs is to be exploited. The sooner we as a society can achieve this goal, the better for us all.
The potential released by the Digital Transformation is enormous. Today, we have the technological possibilities that enable blind and severely visually impaired people to inform themselves independently about world affairs, i.e. to read the newspaper, that people with hearing or speech impairments can communicate in real time over long distances. People with motor or mobility impairments can maintain contacts and share their experiences.
Unfortunately, the opportunities the Digital Transformation offers for inclusion remain untapped to this day. For most people with disabilities, digital services are still not or usable only with difficulty. eServices such as online shops, media libraries or even most online newspapers, to name just a few, are still not accessible to date.
Yet it is precisely the many people with special needs who could benefit most from digital services. In what other way would blind people or people with motor disabilities be able to make independent and self-determined purchases, consult timetables or carry out banking transactions?
But inclusion begins much earlier. At the latest in school. That is why it is so important that all people, regardless of their limitations, have equal conditions at school as their classmates without limitations. This basically includes accessible learning materials and teaching aids. These may be textbooks or e-learning platforms, presentation techniques, handouts or examination sheets. The same applies to the time after school. The need for education does not end with compulsory schooling.
The same requirements for accessible ICT apply to job environments. In this case too, people with disabilities only have a chance if the information and communication media used, including software systems, are accessible. Many more people than today could be involved in the work process if the above-mentioned guidelines were taken into account when developing these systems.
Inclusion always means social inclusion. Education and participation in the labour market are an important prerequisite. But people with disabilities also want to participate in society politically and culturally and make their contributions.
Our vision is of a society in which the idea of inclusion is so deeply rooted that all products of information are always prepared for people with special needs: electronically and accessible.
Every textbook, every exam sheet must always be available in accessible electronic form. All software used in job environments must be usable by every woman, regardless of her limitations. Every website must be readable by everyone.
For developers of software, websites or mobile apps, the requirements for accessibility are as self-evident as the requirements for good design and electronic security. Once we are there, there will be no additional costs for e-Inclusion.
Therefore, we would like to appeal to the social responsibility of publishers, providers of web services, educational institutions, especially educational institutions in the fields of ICT, communication and information technology, as well as to politicians.
Help us to come a step closer to our vision of e-Inclusion. We will be happy to support you to the best of our abilities on your way to a socially responsible digital transformation.