Electronic communication is becoming mainstream in most areas of life. Developments are happening at an incredibly fast pace with new services and technologies constantly emerging. Electronic services are also becoming more available, for example mobile phones and TV’s can now access the internet.
Increasingly, organisations are expected to have their own website to deliver information and services online. This can make information and services more widely available – but only if presented in an accessible way.
All e-communication should meet current standards for accessibility. If accessibility standards are built into the design of a website or an electronic document, then it should be possible for users to tailor that technology to suit their needs.
There is, though, a danger in assuming that everyone can access information electronically. Electronic information should not completely replace other means of communication and service provision.
This basic guide will give you an overview of issues involved in producing electronic information. It offers guidance on creating accessible electronic documents and lists a range of useful resources that can help you deliver the best possible service online.
The main emphasis is on creating an accessible website, including related features like email and downloadable documents. Information about other technology is included to provide an overview of what is available.
World Wide Web Consortium
Guidelines for accessible websites are produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide an excellent resource for anyone building an accessible website and using related technology. This document does not replace those guidelines – indeed it recommends them as the ‘official’ resource for those engaged in the technical aspects of building websites.
In this guide we will not replicate what is written by W3C but we will inform and advise on how to maximise your chances of building a useful website by:
- explaining what an accessible website is,
- helping you to take control of the process of producing one,
- advising on what questions to ask when you commission a website,
- helping you to find a designer who can build an accessible website,
- helping you with issues around maintenance and sustaining accessibility.
Another document worth referring to is the PAS-78 (Publicly Available Specification) produced by The British Standards Institute. This provides a set of recommendations, with common sense advice to people in charge of commissioning websites.
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)