Divya Manian

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Notes on Beyond ALT Text

The Nielsen Norman Group has made one of their reports Beyond ALT Text: Making the Web Easy to Use for Users With Disabilities free for download. It is a great reasoned report on how and what the obstacles the handicapped encounter while using the web. I recommend you to download and read the report fully.

I took some notes and here are a few extracts I found really useful as a web designer.

The blind use the web for:

  1. Emailing
  2. Researching stock trading
  3. Find recipes
  4. HAM radio signals
  5. Phone book
  6. Directions to own house
  7. Listen to radio
  8. Search for jobs
  9. Download music
  10. Participate in fan site discussions
  11. Download books on tape

Also interesting to note is, more sighted users use “help” than non-sighted users

There are 75 best practices for designing for the handicapped users. But I found the following tips most useful for designing accessible websites:

  1. Follow basic rules of good design.
  2. Minimize the use of graphics.
  3. Use ALT text to briefly describe images, and the LONGDESC attribute to thoroughly describe them.
  4. Never blur pictures to indicate unavailability. Remove the picture from view (e.g. button graphics).
  5. Make it easy for users to skip any multimedia and Flash demos.
  6. Do not automatically create a text-only version of your site.
  7. Avoid using pop-up windows. If you do use pop-up dialog boxes, make sure the default action is the most forgiving.
  8. Avoid opening new browser windows. If you do open new browser windows, always provide a simple way to get back to the site’s main homepage.
  9. Avoid using cascading menus.
  10. Limit the number of links on a page (not more than 20).
  11. Avoid very small buttons and tiny text for links.
  12. Minimize the need for scrolling.
  13. Limit the amount of information that forms require; collect only the minimum needed.
  14. Make sure tab order is logical. Match the tab order to the visual layout when possible.
  15. In forms, put any instructions pertaining to a particular field before the field, not after it.
  16. Test your sites text fonts and colors with screen magnifiers.
  17. Avoid using tables for aesthetic page design.
  18. Especially in tables, do not use graphics to indicate a state, such as yes/no or on/off.
  19. Summarize all tables (using SUMMARY attribute).