Universal Usability and Accessibility
What is Universal Usability?
The goal of Universal Usability is to provide access to information for all people no matter their level of skill or physical constraints to empower every citizen. Accessibility focuses on how disabled persons access and benefit from a site, system, or application.
Universal Usability is an important part in the design of a website and should be part of the development process from the beginning. In fact, the governing body of the World Wide Web established standards of compliance that all website must follow, and all government websites must have accessibility features included.
follow, and all government websites must have accessibility features included. The first step towards universal usability is to change the way we look at designing for the “typical user.” Universal usability includes users of all ages, experience levels, and physical or sensory limitations. Technology also plays a role through variations in screen size, browser versions, and special software such as screen readers of the visually impaired. All of us inhabit multiple positions on the scale that are constantly shifting as our needs and contexts change.
Ben Shneiderman, recognized as the father of Universal Usability defines universal usability as
enabling all citizens to succeed using communication and information technology in their tasks.He would like to achieve
having more than 90% of all households as successful users of information and communications services at least once a week. In an interview, he explains that to accomplish universal usability, designers will need to
support a wide range of technologies, to accommodate diverse users, and to help users bridge the gap between what they know and what they need to know.
The difference between usability and accessibility — accessibility is concerned with making content and functionality of web sites within reach of all users. Universal usability strives to make the content and functionality accessible and usable by all.
Implementing Accessibility Features
To become web accessible, you must present information through multiple sensory channels, such as sound and sight, and allow for additional means of site navigation and interactivity beyond the typical point and click interface. Using these features allows disabled persons the ability to access the same information as nondisabled users.
Making Accessibility a Priority
By making your website W3C compliant, you make sure that all of your potential users have an enjoyable experience and can access information quickly and easily. By implementing accessibility best practices, you improve the usability of your site for all users.
By providing Universal Usability in your site, which includes mobile design, multi-modal interaction, design for all ages, and search engine optimization, you can accomplish better search results, less maintenance, and an increase in audience participation.
Best Practices for Accessible Content
To develop websites that comply with Universal Usability guidelines, there are several things that you can do. The following is a list of things that help all users have a positive experience on your site:
- Don’t rely on color as a navigational tool or as the only way to differentiate between items.
- Images should always include alternate text (alt=”x”) in the markup code. Complex images should have captions or summaries built into a neighboring paragraph.
- Functionality should be accessible through mouse and keyboard, and tagged to work with voice-control systems.
- Provide transcripts for podcasts and other live online events.
- In-sync captioning must accompany video content.
- Sites should offer “skip navigation” features.
- Always perform a 508 test to make sure your site meets accessibility compliance.