New site technology for visually impaired surfers

A Queensland Web design company is using technology that is said to make it easier for blind and visually impaired people to use the Internet.Alfresco Design director Al Jury said the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) technology has the potential of helping people who have previously had problems using Web sites.

A Queensland Web design company is using technology that is said to make it easier for blind and visually impaired people to use the Internet.

Alfresco Design director Al Jury said the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) technology has the potential of helping people who have previously had problems using Web sites.

"CSS changes the way we think about Web functionality. Most Web sites have traditionally been built using tables to lay them out in order to make them look appealing, but the trouble is that people with vision impairments have difficulty in 'viewing' these pages," Jury said.

Jury pointed out that the problem is the lack of compatibility between tables and screen readers such as JAWS.

He said by using CSS, blind and visually impaired users can scan Web pages more easily by listening to the content of the page with the help of screen readers.

"The technology will be vital for the Web industry in terms of meeting new Web functionality standards," Jury said.

Jury related the story of a visually impaired user who had complained to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) about the inaccessibility of the Sydney 2000 Olympics Web site.

The complaint primarily related to a lack of ALT tags and map links on the site. The Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) was found to have only partially complied with accessibility improvements set down by the Commission, and were ordered to pay a compensation of AU$20,000.

"The biggest benefits this technology provides are without doubt significantly improved site management and Web site accessibility," Jury said. "CSS allows you to assign consistent styles on elements that make the site look a lot better, it is much easier and quicker to manage, and also loads a lot faster, which again pleases most users".

Jury believes the CSS standard will become "a very strong part of the Web's future".

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