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Web Design and Vision Impairment

written by: Summer Banks•edited by: Robin L.•updated: 11/18/2008

Vision impairment can leave an Internet user without a manageable option to read the page they are viewing. The web designer can tweak the page to make for easier browsing and increased functionality for those with visual disabilities.

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    At least 75 percent of the US population can easily access Internet services at home. In the US however, 2 million people suffer from vision impairment, 688,000 people suffer from profound to severe deafness, while a further 3.4 million citizens are physically challenged. Of the entire population, 1.5 million people have learning disabilities and a further 6 million suffer from dyslexia. The United Kingdom is no different. While 65 percent, of people here have internet access from home, 25 million people suffer from Dyslexia, 6.8 million from learning disabilities while 8 million are physically challenged. A further 28 million citizens suffer from hearing problems. Of United Kingdom’s population, 10 million people are visually impaired.

    These statistics are a clear indication that website designers must incorporate simple techniques that make website usage easier for people with cognitive, physical, visual, hearing or learning disabilities.

    Impaired Vision - Short Vision

    People suffering from low vision use a magnification program that eases website reading. The severity of the user’s vision impairment determines whether the person will combine the screen-reading program with the magnifiers. If the vision is not too bad, he can use software products like Zoom text or Supernova. People with mild vision problems can increase the text size from the default browser or even change the color to increase legibility.

    To increase accessibility and usability when designing websites for people with low vision, the designer should consider:

    Avoid Imaging the Text

    The designer should steer clear of imaged text usage; in their place, he should use appropriately styled HTML. The imaged text is not well seen by people suffering from low vision especially when they use the magnifying software. This is because once the imaged text is magnified, it proves difficult to read. The imaged text does not reflect colors customized for use in the browser.

    Make Sure That the Text Is Resizable

    By using re-sizable text, the designers ensure that users suffering from low vision can resize text in the website hence ensuring comfort when reading.

    Key Information Placement in Precise Locations

    The use of magnification software enables the user to access only small sections of the webpage at any time. The user therefore looks for functionality and useful web content in specific page locations. Because people are used to the search function being placed at the top-right corner of the page, locating it anywhere else may lead to it being overlooked.

    Using Colors That Contrast Well

    Readability for user suffering from vision impairment can be improved if the designer user uses colors that contrast well within the webpage. To test which colors can work well, the designer can use the contrast analyzer from Juicy Studio. The analyzer reviews the foreground or background combination of colors and determines whether they meet the requirements as stated in the guidelines by WCAG. For further readability assistance, the designer can use the different options of color schemes provided.

Disabilities and Web Design

Not every Internet user has the same browsing abilities. Some users need special consideration when viewing websites based on physical disabilities.
  1. Disabilities and Web Design - Overview of a Web Development Series
  2. Web Design for the Hearing Impaired
  3. Web Design and Learning and Cognitive Disabilities
  4. Web Design for Physical Disabilities
  5. Web Design and Vision Impairment