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How Do People with Disabilities Use the Web?

Person typing on a computer keyboard to illustrate the blog article "“How Do People with Disabilities Use the Web?”

The internet, and Universal Design in particular, have the potential to level the playing field for all. By understanding some of the challenges people with disabilities face accessing the web, we can start to think differently about how to address their needs.

Our summary below is a very brief overview of some of the most common technologies that people with disabilities use to access the web.

The Blind Community

To access visual content such as photographs and other graphics, a blind person might use text-to-speech technology, such as a screen reader. Alternatively, they may use a Braille output device or a screen magnifier. To work well with these technologies, graphics must have accompanying alternate text. ALT text describes the content of an image for those who can’t see it. In addition, users should have options to control what to read. For example, SKIP buttons allow the user to skip over repeated content such as headers and footers.

Those Who Are Visually Impaired

People with visual disabilities may use customized fonts, colors, and spacing to make content readable. Accessible design supports different ways of presenting and interacting with content.

Those Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

A person who is deaf or hard of hearing will likely be unable to hear audio content. Therefore, the content must also be provided as text. Videos should have optional closed captioning, synchronized with the video.

Physical Disabilities That Make Using a Mouse Impossible

Finally, all controls should be operable with a keyboard. For that reason, avoid buttons, controls, menus, and form fields that require a user to click on them or hover over them with a mouse. People with some disabilities will be unable to access these controls.

More about how people with disabilities use the web

We recommend visiting the Web Accessibility Section of the W3C website. Their resources includes stories of web users, diverse abilities and barriers, and tools and techniques for interaction with the web.

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