Coding and Creating Content for the Visually Impaired

These key web accessibility principles are tailored to individuals with vision impairment.

I was recently visiting some family out of town and one of the guests for dinner was a gentleman with limited vision. As we chatted over appetizers, I asked him about how he uses the web and whether he found it tough to navigate a website. 

Unfortunately, he gave up on the Internet years ago because he felt that the screen-reading hardware and software available at the time was too expensive. I told him about some open-source software that he can use now, but that doesn’t mean that he will be able to consume all of the information on a website without a glitch. If the site was not designed with people like him in mind, he won’t be able to use it.

Types of Visual Impairment

WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) lists three primary categories of visual impairment: blindness, low vision, and color blindness. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 285 million people in the world fall into one of these categories. To make sure you can reach them, keep these key web accessibility principles in mind, which are tailored to individuals with vision impairment:

  • Perceiveable: Information must be converted into a format that the visually impaired can more easily perceive, such as an audio format. Assistive technologies can perform this conversion, but only if the content is designed with accessibility in mind.
  • Operable: These users depend on a keyboard instead of a mouse to operate (navigate) web content. When web developers program functionality so parts of a site only work if using a mouse, keyboard inaccessibility is the result. Certain JavaScript events that depend on either the click or the movement of the mouse (such as the "onmouseover" command) will not work for this audience.
  • Understandable: Content will be difficult to understand if it is presented in an illogical linear order or contains text not meant to be read word for word or character by character (such as long web addresses).
  • Robust: Users should be allowed to choose their own technologies to access web content. They can customize their technologies to meet their needs, including accessibility needs. When web content requires a specific technology, such as a certain browser, it may exclude some types of users. They may not want to use that technology or aren't able to use it because of their disability.

As a general rule, the more control the user has, the more likely he or she will be able to access the content effectively.

Want to check your site's accessibility score? Try the WebAIM free online accessibility evaluation tool. One note: although accessibility evaluators can flag any content that may need to be revised, testing a site with visually impaired people will always be the best way to ensure that everyone can access your web content equally. 

If you need assistance designing your site to meet accessibility standards or to test a site with individuals who are visually impaired, contact us. We have experts who can help get your site on the right track.