Just like the internet’s many websites are diverse, so too are its users. If you are not a person with a disability, when you control a mouse, type on a keyboard, or click to select an option when browsing online, you probably don’t give it a second thought. Imagine doing these same tasks without being able to see, or without being able to move your hands. Suddenly, the web is becomes a place that’s full of hurdles and limited access for those who are deaf, blind, handicap or suffering from hearing loss, visual impairment and motor impairment. Since the early days of the web, accessibility for those living with a disability has been a concern. In 1997 the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) was formed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth and stability of the Web, to establish standards for web accessibility. 20 years later, website accessibility in the US is only now beginning to get attention. In fact, most countries still do not have any laws in place about web accessibility and it leaves many disabled people unable to use websites related to services they need, such as healthcare websites.
There are a number of tools that that you may not know about that helps people living with a disability access the web. Here are some helpful tools that can allow all people to equally access and use the web.
- Android Accessibility Apps: The TalkBack screen reader, gives you spoken feedback and notifications. It works along with BrailleBack to provide a combined speech and braille experience. The Voice Access app lets you control your device and navigate the web with spoken commands
- If you have a Chromebook, ChromeVox is a comprehensive screen reader that comes pre-installed, so there’s nothing you have to do besides turn it on.
- Google Chrome also has some wonderful extensions.
- Read Aloud and Announcify are both add-ons that can convert a website’s text to audio.
- VoiceIn is a speech to text extension that allows you to use your voice to type into text boxes, such as filling in forms.
- The Dragon Web extension allows users to navigate the web by voice, like clicking links and buttons, and implements voice to text on websites and applications like Google docs.
- High Contrast allows you to change the color scheme of a web page to make them easier to read.
- CraftyZoom allows you to magnify a portion of your screen.
People with disabilities access and navigate the web in different ways, depending on their individual needs. These tools help ease the difficulties people with a disability face on a daily basis when using the web.