what does W3C have to do with your television? 

Accessibility influences every aspect of modern living, and modern technology can be both a help and a hindrance.  An audio described YouTube video showing a blind man testing a self-driving car demonstrates the independence many of us take for granted and how technology can give it back.  The World Wide Web is exactly that, worldwide, and web resources should be accessible by all, including people with disabilities.  Removing barriers to access and creating user centered web design to meet potential user needs is essential.

Snippets from Twitter demonstrate how current and relevant accessibility in web design is:

@kylejsummers tweeted: @ladygaga: BTW Ball page is not accessible for the visually impaired (no alt attributes on images) [URL] #accessibility

@djmc tweeted: A good thing about mobile sites is that they are great for those with disabilities.  Less stuff on the screen to confuse #accessibility

Section 508 sets the minimal standard required to make webpages accessible.  Accessibility is closely related to usability and search engine optimization (SEO), so it benefits the designer to take them into consideration for the best user-satisfaction possible (Crestodina, 2012).  The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provides web guideline to protect the right of people with disabilities to access information online. Further considerations beyond image alt tags, captions and color contrast are also important:

  • Limit the use of Nested tables, Flash and JavaScript (Mansoor, 2012), and don’t use them in the main navigation menu (The Web Standards Project).
  • Be aware that PDF, Flash and JavaScript require a plug-in or stand-alone app to access which some assistive technologies are unable to access (Morris, 2012).
  • Keep navigation menus consistent and uncomplicated, using an unordered list (Morris, 2012).
  • Avoid deep pages. (Mansoor, 2012).
  • Provide a skip navigation option so that the user does not have to go through it every time they continue to navigate the page or navigate to a new page (AccessAbility, 2012).
  • Create accessible forms by enabling keyboarding, labeling and keeping them simple for screen readers.
  • Follow standards/guidelines for mobile accessibility.
  • A text only page is a last resort; it’s better to provide a text alternative for non-text information (AccessIT, 2010).

These are just a few ideas from the guidelines and checklists that can be found online.  CSS gives the designer control over the pages, so accessibility does not have to be unattractive (Warren, 2009).  Testing with tools, like The Wave, FAE, or AChecker, can help determine compliance and areas for improvement.

Oh yes, about my question:  What does W3 have to do with your television?  For the first time, TVs with built-in text-to-speech (TTS) are available in the UK.  The TTS will assist with tasks like identify channels, program times and titles, and if audio description is available.  Access to audio described movies is often buried in the set-up menu and it is not clear if these new TVs will read a DVD or Blu-ray player menu displayed on the TV.  In the future, TTS may be combined with internet capable TVs.  As technologies merge, the standards that W3C and governing agencies create for the internet will increase pressure on TV and other electronics manufacturers to move in that direction also to improve user access and experience.

Here are a few helpful websites if you’re interested in creating accessible and well-designed webpages:

Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act

W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

WebAIM’s WCAG 2.0 Checklist for HTML

W3C Web Design and Applications

Web Standards Project


Web Usability

WebAIM Articles


AccessAbility. (2012). Skip navigation. Retrieved from http://accessibility.psu.edu/skipnav

AccessIT. (2010). Are text-only web pages an accessible alternative? Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/accessit/articles?1149

Crestodina, A. (2012). Graphic design vs. interactive design. Retrieved from http://lillianblog.getbesttips.info/graphic-design-vs-interactive-design/

Mansoor, A. (2012). Website usability and accessibility for SEO: Top 10 tips. Retrieved from http://seo-consultant-specialist.com/wblog/website-usability-and-accessibility-for-seo-top-10-tips/

Morris, T. (2012). Web design best practices checklist. Retrieved from http://terrymorris.net/bestpractices/

Warren, S. (2009). A designer’s guide to accessibility and 508 compliance. Retrieved from http://viget.com/inspire/a-designers-guide-to-accessibility-and-508-compliance

The Web Standards Project. Accessible HTML/XHTML forms: beginner level. Retrieved from http://www.webstandards.org/learn/tutorials/accessible-forms/beginner/