Do you remember what the internet used to be like? Ugly pages, ugly colors, and disorganized content. We’ve come a long way since then.
There were 3.9 billion internet users in 2018. Many of them can navigate without a problem, but what about people who have disabilities?
If you are wondering how internet users with disabilities are navigating the web, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we will cover the technology that is making the internet easier to use.
Keep reading to learn how people are adapting the web to make things easier for people with disabilities.
HTML is the markup language of the internet. It is what tells your web browser what to display. With old versions of HTML, you only had a few elements you could use to make the website look how you wanted to.
With the introduction of HTML5, we now have access to a lot of new toys to make our markup make more sense. HTML tags like article, header, footer, section, and aside allow developers to describe how their elements fit on a page. They don’t have to use a div tag for everything anymore.
These tags are essential when someone with assistive technology uses a page. These tags make it easier for these devices to read website content and help the user navigate the webpage.
Developers also have the use of alt tags for images to help describe visual content for the blind.
If a website has more complex features, there are also new programming frameworks that provide functionality for assistive software to make complex applications more natural to use.
You can read more here to see how accessibility standards are changing the game.
Devices That Help
There have been many devices created that help disabled individuals browse the web. They will provide access for people who have blindness, deafness, physical disabilities, and cognitive disabilities. Here are some of the tools that are helping people.
A regular keyboard doesn’t work for everyone. If you have a physical disability that prevents the use of your arms or hands, then you have to find another way.
Alternative keyboard options include eye-gaze keyboards, on-screen keyboards, and sip-and-puff switches. Each of these provides a unique way to send input to a computer.
An eye-gaze keyboard will look for your eye movements. Once it recognizes a movement pattern, it will send a command over to the computer. They can also interface with mobile phones to provide phone calls, app interaction, and texting capabilities.
On-screen keyboards provide relief for people who can’t type on a regular keyboard for as long. If you suffer arthritis or something similar, an on-screen keyboard is a low-stress way to type.
Sip-and-puff switches make uses of air pressure to send input to a computer. The user blows and inhales at specific strengths that are calibrated for them.
A blind person can make use of a braille screen to get input from the web. The display will use several dots that are raised and lowered to represent the words on the screen.
Numbers and letters have historically been the only thing able to be displayed on braille screens. But new braille printers are now allowing simple graphics to be represented by raised dots on the braille display.
Poor eyesight is something most people deal with when they age. Even if a website is perfect with their design, it still might be hard for someone with poor eyesight to read.
A screen magnifier works by adding magnification to a specific portion of the screen. If the designer has created the website correctly, you will get a larger view of the page that you can read.
Another tool for the blind is screen readers. These devices will parse the page and output audio or textile feedback for people who can’t see.
When you are deaf, you may be able to view a website without a problem. But what happens when there is audio on the page? You could be missing out on something important.
Sound notification software will help these people by providing feedback on webpage audio.
Subtitles and Transcription
Much of the content on the web has moved to audio and video. This change poses a big problem when you are deaf. Content creators now have access to a large variety of subtitling services that provide transcription for their video and audio content.
Large content websites like YouTube also have automatic subtitles added to their videos. Their voice recognition technology has grown a lot and provides very accurate subtitles.
Voice technology has dramatically improved in the past few years. AI has made it possible to parse speech data to learn what people say.
This improvement means voice recognition is available for computers now and can be used to send input. When you have a physical disability can now speak to handle everything you need to do online.
Scanning software is used to scan the elements of the webpage. It will announce the navigation and content of the page. The user can then hit a switch to activate the section of the website that they want to use.
How People are Navigating the Web With Disabilities: Final Thoughts
We’ve come a long way. We’ve gone from the wild west to using a set of standards that all web developers can follow. These standards and new assistive technology are making the internet a viable place for everyone to go.
19% of people in the United States have a disability. We can’t ignore these people.
Now that you know how people are navigating the web with disabilities, do you want to learn more about the design trends that are taking over web design? Read our post to learn what designers are up to today.