Building an Accessible Website for Children with Disabilities

shaun-cheesmanHi, I’m Shaun, a partially sighted web developer/designer and founder of specialist accessibility technology marketing and web design business milkandjam.com.

Following my recent article about the importance of websites being accessible, my friends at Monkeywellbeing.com asked me to write about building accessible websites for children with disabilities.

This topic is very close to my heart having been born with my eye sight condition (a very rare form of cataracts) from birth.

Here are my top development tips:

    1. Start with the design of the website – it needs to be engaging and very friendly with big images.
    2. Next, look at the text. Children love to read so make it engaging and make things obvious to them. Children love things that move, flash, spin round etc. on websites, apps etc.
    3. Vary the background colours and the size of text and the movement of things – this is vital for a child with an eyesight disability or any kind of disability. You will soon see their face light up as they engage with the website, app or technology.
    4. Equip the website or app etc. with state of the art technology so everyone can use it and test it with every tool on the market so screen readers can read every heading, piece of text and image.
    5. One of my very big tips is to use image- and text-to-speech technology so this will read everything to the child and help the website come to life, a bit like a talking book. If you wanted to get very clever you could even create a character that talks to the child as they move along or through the book, story or website.
    6. Build a version of the website or app as text only. There are so many disabilities and people often say to me ‘we can’t possibly do it all’ and I always answer ‘yes you can do it all’ but just some small and some big changes would make the world of difference to any website or piece of technology.
    7. Some people will ask why you start with the design and the answer is simple: children don’t need to know about the planning process, they just need to be able to use the website or app regardless of their ability.
    8. The very last tip is to equip the website with encryption to keep it safe and secure.

 

Here are things to bear in mind when building an accessible website:

  • Independence is vital for someone with a disability so they can do everything themself. Are you looking at new innovations to improve usability of your website?
  • People with all disabilities will look to increase text and image sizes to help improve their experience of using your website. Do you have this technology?
  • People with disabilities like to use access keys because this lets them navigate the website with the touch of 2 keys on the keyboard and get to parts of the website they want to use quickly.
  • Someone who is visually impaired will look to see if the website has a text version so they can navigate and read and even buy from your website with ease.
  • Someone with a visual impairment will start from the top of any web page and work their way across, and then down the page.
  • People with visual impairment sometimes use software to read/describe the site to them. Is everything labeled clearly in your code?
  • Someone who is visually impaired will find drop down menus hard to navigate and use. Could you replace them?
  • People who are visual impaired have no peripheral vision this means they can’t see to the side of them so navigating a website is a challenge. Do you have things at the side of your site they can’t see?
  • People with visual impairments will not understand complicated button symbols and features and small icons which do not tell you what they do.
  • Someone with visual impairments and motor disabilities will look for images with clear descriptions about what they are looking to buy. Does your website have clear, easy to read images?
  • Someone who is blind will use a braille keyboard. Has your website got braille capability?
  • People with motor disabilities will use touch technology. They will also use pinch and enlarge technology. Does your website have this built in?
  • Someone with motor disabilities will use specialist touch pad technology. Is your website ready for this technology?
  • Someone with dyslexia will find it difficult reading text and understanding it.
  • People with brain disabilities will want to be able to change the colour of the background of your website to suit their prosaic disability. Are you thinking about colour change technology?
  • People with epilepsy will find moving elements distracting and they could cause an epileptic fit. Do you need moving and refreshing website parts?

This list would be endless so I have tried to include some of the most important things to consider when building technology for accessibility.

Monkey Wellbeing would like to thank Shaun Cheesman for taking part in our interview. To find out more about Milk and Jam, visit MilkandJam.com