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Designing For Accessibility

Accessible Web Design Experience

We have extensive experience of designing websites to International standards of Accessibility having created accessible websites for clients including The University of Central England, Learner Support and Birmingham Universities Personal Assistance Scheme - a project run by the three Birmingham Universities.

Below are 3 websites we have developed that meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and many other standards such as 'Bobby Approved', HTML, 'LYNX inspected' (text only browser), etc

What are accessible websites?

For a website to be accessible, its content must be available to everyone, including people with disabilities. It should be presented in a clear and simple manner and should provide understandable mechanisms to navigate within and between pages. Information should be in plain English, unambiguous, clearly laid out, using bullet points and spacing. The facility to change font colour, size and background should also be available for people who are dyslexic or partially sighted.

Designing accessible websites is about removing obstacles to tools that a disabled person is using, to access web based information. For example, people with very little or no vision, read web pages with the help of access technology installed on their computer. Designing with accessibility in mind will mean synthesised speech software can read the content of web pages correctly and offer additional features to the user.

Why bother to make websites accessible?

  • Half of all people with disabilities report that the Internet has significantly improved their quality of life, according to a recent Harris poll - we all have a moral obligation
  • There are 8.7 million registered disabled people in the UK
  • of these over 2 million have a visual impairment;
  • eight million people suffer from some form of hearing loss;
  • one million people have a form of learning difficulty;
  • over seven million people have literacy problems;
  • Legal Obligations - under section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act 'to make reasonable adjustments to ensure blind and partially sighted people can access your service', also SENDA;
  • Good business sense - there are 2 million blind and partially sighted people in the UK and according to Government figures the UK's disabled population has an estimated spending power of £45 billion per year;
  • Positive image and publicity of organisation;
  • To protect organisations from litigation and unfavourable publicity - the Sydney Olympics website was successfully sued for being inaccessible, as was AOL and the RNID revealed that most major retailers and Bank's websites have accessibility problems.

Removing barriers to accessibility in websites

  • Screen readers enable users to hear, rather than visually read, the contents of a web page<; however, a screen reader can read only text, not images or animations. Therefore, images and animations should be assigned purposeful text descriptions that screen readers can read so that the web page makes sense;
  • Ensuring sufficient colour contrast between the text and background and that colour alone is not used to convey information. If you are colour blind what good is 'click the red button'?;
  • Links should accurately describe their destination and make sense on their own. Sighted people can scan a page for links. People using assistive technology can scan by listing all the links - but what good is click here?;
  • Some people can't use a mouse but can use a keyboard. Many menu systems won't work with a keyboard alone (usually drop down type menu systems) require a mouse;
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing require visual representations of auditory information. Solutions for these disabilities include closed captioning, and transcripts of spoken audio;
  • PDF documents are unreadable by assistive technologies, unless information is given about how to translate PDF into an accessible format (http://access.adobe.com/);
  • Sighted internet users can scan a page, gloss over repeated information like navigation menu or logo etc. and just concentrate on the main content of the page. People with little or no vision cannot scan over a page in the same way, unless there is provision to scan over repeating elements such as navigation systems. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to have to listen to every menu item on every page you visited before you could get to the main text?;
  • The text size should be able to be increased in size by the user - if the text is too small to be read, and it can't be increased - what use is the website?;
  • The omission of a text based website map will prevent users from getting an overall impression of your website quickly;
  • People with cognitive or learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and short-term memory loss, need more general solutions, which include providing a consistent design and simplified language - some websites are designed with inconsistent layouts throughout;
  • Visually the layout of a webpage may make sense to non-disabled people. However to assistive technology it is read in the order the programming code appears, which can be vastly different to the visual order. It may take a while to get to the main content as well and items may appear in an order that doesn't make sense.

Access Technology

Having a disability or impairment does not necessarily mean that special adaptations are required for people's computers to enable them to access websites. However, some people will benefit from adaptations such as access technology or special techniques to facilitate the reading and navigating of website content, for example, people with:

  • Blindness or partial sight;
  • Deafness or partial hearing
  • Limited use of limbs
  • cognitive difficulties

The key factor is to produce well designed, accessible websites.

Examples of adaptive software and hardware which can provide improved access to websites for disabled people include:

  • Screen reading software used by blind people. This software reads the content in a synthesised 'voice' and enables the user to navigate and 'hear' a website via touch-typing;
  • Screen magnification software may be useful to someone with partial sight to enlarge or decrease the font size as required;
  • Computer mouse designs that are easier to hold and manipulate for people with a hand tremor or arthritis; a foot-controlled mouse; a pointing device operated by head movements.

Microsoft Windows possess in-built adaptations to enable those with less severe disability to control their medium according to their need, eg: Text sizes, fonts and screen colours can all be manipulated via the control panel. Additional features such as "sticky keys", which ensure only one key press is registered if the same key is hit several times in succession, help people with conditions that cause hand tremor to use the computer more easily.

Accessible W3CAAA Web Design - More information

About SynergiDesign

SynergiDesign is a qualified and experienced professional Birmingham based website and creative design agency which has created many stunning websites for a variety of businesses and organisations all over the UK.

SynergiDesign are experts in the web site and corporate design field. We offer a complete range of internet marketing and associated services: creating a brand and logo; design and print; website development; eCommerce; search engine optimisation (SEO); flash animation; video; website hosting and domain name management.

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Latest Projects

The Law Society

The Law SocietySynergiDesign won the contract and created the software (secure, interactive, web-standards compliant, meeting the highest of web accessibility W3CAAA standards, web software) to undertake this marketing activity and analyse its success.

"The level of activity generated by these campaigns met or exceeded our expectations."
John Rieger - The Law Society

Presentation for Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

Rigby Luxury Property Brochures The President of Nigeria required a sophisticated PowerPoint presentation to showcase his country’s resources to international investors such as Shell and Chevron at a conference attended by press officers from all over the globe. SynergiDesign’s created a powerful, strongly branded PowerPoint presentation.

Luxury Property Brochures

Rigby Luxury Property BrochuresSynergiDesign carried out the successful design of their property website and also provided a range of high end glossy brochures:

"I am writing to congratulate you and your team for the first class sales brochure that you have produced for our latest development in Belgravia"
Rigby & Rigby

Corporate Presentations

UKTIPresentation for an Automotive international trade show in Japan on behalf of the government agencies we designed an impactful presentation pulling together content from a variety of automotive manufacturers.

"Many thanks for your help on this project and turning it around within such a short timescale. I was most impressed with your level of expertise and service and will happily recommend you to other colleagues."
Ginny Truslove

Web Applications / Software Development

Content Management System – Web Application

CMS InterfaceSynergiDesign have created an innovative, versatile and highly functional website and CMS for SO LONDON Publishing. The website and bespoke content management software are designed to the highest .Net 2 and CSS programming standards which allow for online management of the magazine including:

  • magazine issue management
  • articles and article ranking
  • image management
  • image auto optimisation and resizing
  • complex banner advert management

Ecommerce Web Design

Diamond Dealer Direct is a long-established diamond merchant and manufacturer with a recently acquired retail outlet which now enables them to deal direct with the public giving access to one of the UK’s largest stock of internationally recognised certified diamonds from the top gemmology laboratories. A high end ecommerce shopping website and content management system with a sophisticated and customised pricing software system and also an extensive search engine campaign was developed for Diamond Dealer Direct.

Diamond Dealer Direct

Web design summary:

  • Web Design
  • Ecommerce shopping cart
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • PPC campaign
  • Bespoke Content Management System
  • Reporting System
  • Order Management System
  • Registration System