The purpose of this article is to point out where we have been in web design and where we need to go. With the aging population and the constant technological changes in today's society, now more than ever is the time to focus our priorities in developing accessible web sites. Lately there has been a big emphasis on the Aging Baby Boomers and how they will affect trends in Finance, Healthcare, etc. However, just as important is how they will have a huge impact on technological developments. We all would like to think that the constant changes in technology are for the good of mankind, but reality is that a lot of the changes are coming out of need. As the population ages, things cannot and will not stay the same.
Example, just 10 years ago, I could actually SEE. I had 20/20 vision. Heck today I can't even go into the grocery store without my glasses on. Sure wearing them I am able to hide some wrinkles, but more importantly I like to see the exact price of what I am buying, instead of what I think I might be seeing…well maybe not.
Along with seeing, I would also like to be able to HEAR the gazillion options we all have when we call our doctors, and or dentist offices. Actually I find just dialing "0" for operator without listening to all the options, a less frustrating solution however; even so, I am not alone in these situations, that more and more of us are finding ourselves in. It is more seemingly so that Convenience - Technology go hand in hand. Not necessarily in that order.
Realistically, all of us as we age will more than likely be faced with a disability of some sort, whether it is changes in eyesight, audio or other physical impairments. That with the fact that information via the internet and other technological devices use will increase in time, and not go away as some may wish. Hey, you are talking to someone who is thrilled with her Apple iPod, even though she thought she was all that back in the 60's with her pink portable battery-operated transistor radio. I admit it, I too am one to resist change, however once I make it, like the younger generation, I too wonder how I survived before these inventions.
Keeping the above in mind, I would like to point out to all the newbie's to web design and also to commiserate with the older folks, how the changes to web development has changed over the years, and will continue to change, as it should. With all the tools, software programs, and my personal favorite "Google It" it is much easier to create Web Accessible websites, and should always be kept in mind. Rest assure as the population ages, accessibility will continue to come to the forefront in web design, it will not go away.
Where we Have Been
Just to go back a few years, actually it was 1997 when I first started working on the web. I actually used notepad to create .htm pages. Funny, I can also remember once trying to create a large table in html to represent a data dictionary, and after running into "Not enough Memory" while trying to save to my computer using notepad, having to save it in WordPad, as that software had more memory capacity. I admit, that is really going back a few years, but it is a true story. Also at that time everything was hand coded. There was no such thing as style sheets or handy editing tools. Today anyone has the ability to just select free templates from web sites, download to their pc and change to their liking with their information.
Hence the only empathy I have when talking to younger developers, is that they have " too" many choices as far as the editing software programs available to them. Trust me, all these choices are overwhelming and can be a burden... it's kind of like going into a store and trying to buy a tube of toothpaste… way too many choices. But with that in mind, you just need to stick to the basics, and try to create a site that really focuses on answering what your viewers are trying to find out or the message you wish to convey. The "constant popup advertisements", the "refreshing and redirecting to other pages", "images jumping and scrolling all over the place", plus "loud noises" really are not what most viewers are looking for. They want information, and they want it fast.
I admit when I first started creating web pages, which I did for a State Agency, I wanted to be able to use all the fancy fonts, obnoxious colors, and blinking images, instead of all the boring but useful content that went into creating information regarding services for the public. However, the older I get, and the more I rely on the internet for various services and information, I have no interest in "Click Here" along with "Bright Yellow" and "Red Fonts" with "arrows pointing every which way" web pages. I find myself preferring the softer accessible web colors that allow the information and presentation to speak for itself. I hate to say it, but, "Less is More", the "KISS principle", and my favorite "Back to Basics" speaks volumes as to what to keep in mind when creating web sites for today's audiences.
Fortunately for me, it wasn't too long after doing a few sites for work that we were advised that we were to follow the Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as NYS Office of Technology web accessibility policy and standards that were released to NY State Agencies. Although it was another learning curve, and another layer of compliance, I feel in the long run it has been worth it.
I guess what I am trying to say, is that even with all these new web tools, and software programs, that allow new developers to create web pages with ease, they should still take some responsibility and put in some time and effort to learn best web practices and standards that benefit all mankind.
Where We Need to Go
In closing, I strongly advise young developers to take the time now before you pick up bad habits to take a close look at some of the links and tools I am recommending below for the various areas of web site development to get you in line with the trend that is pretty much here now as far as the necessity of creating Web Accessible web sites. Remember, "Sometimes it is much easier to learn new things, then to unlearn old things" .
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) - http://www.w3.org/ Web AIM Reference - http://webaim.org/resources/evalquickref/ Section 508 - http://webaim.org/standards/508/checklist/ WCAG 1.0 - http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html WCAG 2.0 - - http://webaim.org/standards/wcag/checklist/
Web Accessible Testing Tools
W3C HTML/XHTML Markup Validation Service - http://validator.w3.org W3C CSS Validation Service - http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator Truwex Online, Web Accessibility Testing Tool - Section 508 & WCAG Accessibility - http://checkwebsite.erigami.com/accessibility.html
Web Accessible Templates
W3C standards Compliant XHTML Strict Templates - http://www.freecsstemplates.org/
Thoughts to Keep in Mind
Web accessibility is all about following design standards and then adding in a few simple accessibility features. It's not just about disabled users being able to access your website - it's about everyone being able to access your website, including people using handheld devices, WebTV and in-car browsers. Any web developer with basic HTML and CSS design knowledge, and a bit of time on their hands, can easily learn and implement web accessibility.
"The reality is that not only does the Baby Boomer generation have the ability and desire to continue their innovations, but they will also have the added years to be able to do so. - let's do our part to ensure they can benefit from their endeavors"