Excerpt: Web Sites for Users with Disabilities Design Evaluation Checklist

By | February 7, 2000

From Alison J. Head’s DesignWise: A Guide for Evaluating the Interface Design of Information Resources (1999, Information Age Books; ISBN 0-910965-31-5; Amazon | B&N.com)

  1. Individual pages of a site have a consistent and simple layout so that users with visual impairments or blind users using screen readers can more quickly navigate through a page and find the information they are trying to locate.
  2. Important information is placed at the top of the page since screen readers, commonly used by blind Web users, read from left to right, top to bottom.
  3. Alternative versions of pages exist, especially a text-only page that translates graphic and text information into one text-only page.
  4. Backgrounds should be kept simple with enough contrast so that users with low vision, color blindness, or black and white monitors can read the visual clues.
  5. Buttons are large and easy targets so that users with physical and mobile disabilities can select them easily from the screen.
  6. Functional features – buttons, scroll bars, and navigational bars – are identified as working functions instead of images.
  7. A site does not use hard coding: Application colors, graphical attributes, volume, font sizes, and styles can be adjusted by the user based on individual needs. When a font adjustment is made by a user, the page layout automatically resizes to match.
  8. Blinking or constantly changing text elements are not used, so that users with visual impairments, learning disabilities, or recurring headaches are not challenged. (Blinking tags have also been known to crash screen readers.)
  9. All images have descriptive alternative text (ALT tags) and, if possible, captions so that users who are visually impaired or blind and are using a screen reader know what exists on a page.
  10. Image maps include menu alternatives so that users who are visually impaired or blind can access embedded links.
  11. Video and audio segments include closed-captions so that users with hearing impairments and those who are using a screen read (which may monopolize the system’s sound card) have alternative methods for accessing the information. The page informs users that closed-captioning is available and includes instructions for use.
  12. Links have fully descriptive headings so that users using screen readers get the full context of the link’s meaning. Sites that use “click here” are of little use because they do not impart any information for decision making.
  13. Tables, frames, and columns are used very sparingly, if at all, since the majority of screen readers that read from left to right will not distinguish separate cells of information in the translation.
  14. Plug-ins and Java applets should be used very sparingly, if at all. (Adobe Acrobat, in many cases, is not accessible with assistive technologies, even through Adobe is trying to rectify the problem.)
  15. A dividing character between links that occur consecutively is used so that a screen reader can distinguish between different links. Ideally, links are separated by more than just a new line.
  16. Sentences, headers, and list items end with punctuation so that screen readers can signal the shift to the user. (Screen readers do not recognize bullets or physical separation.)
  17. Pages include forms that can be downloaded and mailed or e-mailed later in cases the user needs unavailable hands-on assistance with filling out the form.