What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is about how people with visual, hearing, learning/cognitive, and/or physical disabilities interact with websites and web content. Web accessibility offers people with different types of disabilities the opportunity to browse information in a way that is accessible to them. For example, people who are blind may use assistive technology like screen readers to read and interpret web pages, while people with physical disabilities may rely on keyboard access (rather than using a mouse) to navigate web pages. People with learning disabilities may rely on simple, straight-forward content, while those with motor challenges or low vision may find large clickable areas more user friendly.
There are techniques and best practices that, when employed, provide an accessible experience to people who are differently-abled. Since there are different types of disabilities, there are many things to consider when developing a website. Keeping this perspective in mind, the Hillside website has been designed and developed from start to finish, considering accessibility in all aspects of the project; the ultimate goal being to offer a web experience that is accessible to the widest audience possible.
The Hillside website includes tools to help differently-abled persons access information. Some are built into the website itself, and others are available through your web browser or operating system. Below are some tips for using these tools.
Accessible Features on the Hillside Website
Skip to Content
This tool allows people who are blind or have low vision and use screen readers, and those with physical difficulties who rely on keyboard access only, the option to skip to the main content of a web page, rather than having to go through a long list of navigation links, a sub list of links, a search link, a logo, etc. before getting to the "meat" of the page. A Skip to Content link is necessary since main content is not usually the first thing on a web page template. Some users with physical disabilities may use a head wand or mouth stick. Avoiding having to tap the keyboard multiple times to get to the main content, is extremely important and results in a better user experience.
This feature is useful to anyone who experiences visual challenges. Some people with low vision have trouble reading web pages with low contrast. They see text bleeding into the background. By clicking on the high contrast link, the contrast between foreground (text) and background is increased, allowing for people with low vision to interpret information on the screen in a high contrast environment.
The Browse Aloud tool reads web pages in a naturally sounding voice. It can be helpful to anyone who finds listening easier than reading. It's also useful to people who have English as a second language. Learn more about how to use Browse Aloud on the Hillside website .
Sometimes called, Keyboard Shortcuts, Access Keys are built-in shortcuts that can be useful to people who rely on a keyboard, rather than a mouse, to navigate a website. When you use a keyboard only to navigate a site, you rely on the arrow keys to make your way through the content. Access keys are short cuts offering a more efficient way to click through pages and content. Control keys differ depending upon the operating system and browser:
- Google Chrome 3+ = Ctrl on Mac & Alt on Windows & Linux
- Safari 3 = Ctrl on Mac & Alt for Windows
- Safari 4+ = Crtl + Option on Mac & Alt for Windows
- Firefox 2+ = Ctrl on Mac & Alt + Shift on Windows & Linux
- Firefox 14.0.1+ = Ctrl + Option on Mac
- Internet Explorer = Alt
All audio content available on this site is accompanied by text versions of lyrics or transcripts so that people with hearing impairments can experience this content along with other site visitors.
Accessible Features that are built into Browsers
Magnify the Screen
Many web browsers allow you to zoom in on web pages using simple keyboard controls. The magnifier allows you to focus on specific parts of the screen, enlarging the text and other page elements.
- For Windows operating systems, press Ctrl and + to zoom in on a web page (Ctrl and – to zoom out).
- For Mac operating systems, press Cmd and + to zoom in on a Web page (Cmd and – to zoom out).
Customize the Mouse Pointer
You can customize a computer mouse pointer in several ways. For example, you can slow down the speed of the mouse pointer for easier handling. You can also change its appearance so that it contrasts more with the screen content.
Learn how to change mouse settings for Windows operating systems:
Learn how to change mouse settings for Mac operating systems:
Make the Computer Speak Out Loud
Many computers have text-reading features, but they can be limited in what they offer. For example Windows Narrator reads only menus and dialogue boxes, but not blocks of text. Windows Narrator is available in Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8.
For Microsoft Windows, software is available that offers more advanced screen-reading capabilities (both free and commercial). A popular free and open source screen reader is NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access). The two most common commercial screen readers are JAWS and Window-Eyes.
For Mac users, VoiceOver is available as a standard part of the OS X operating system.
High Contrast heightens the color contrast of some text and images on your computer screen, making those items more distinct and easier to identify. You can change the contrast locally on your computer.
Open System Preferences and click on "Universal". Select the "Seeing" pane. To reverse the display and show white text on a black background, choose the “White on black” option. There is also an option to remove all color and use a grayscale display. To make more gradual contrast adjustments, use the Enhance contrast slider.
- Open the "Make the computer easier to see" page by clicking the button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Ease of Access, clicking Ease of Access Center, and then clicking "Make the computer easier to see".
- Under "High Contrast", click "Choose a High Contrast color scheme".
- Appearance Settings dialog box, under Color Scheme, choose the High Contrast color scheme you want, and then click OK.
Open Appearance Settings by clicking the Start button and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type "window color", and then click "Change window colors and metrics".
Under "Basic and High Contrast Themes", click the high-contrast color scheme that you want to use.
Go to Start, Control Panel and open choose "Accessibility Options"
Choose the Display pane and check mark "High Contrast". Press Apply to save.