Virtual Cafe Scientifique, University of Southampton

Virtual Cafe Scientifique

Accessing the Web

Archived site - this website is out of date and kept online for reference only.

An updated ECS Virtual Café Scientifique is currently under development, as part of the EPSRC POLMAT project.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility allows people to use the web for education, work or leisure whatever their abilities or disabilities. Designing websites to be accessible means most people can use them even without additional technologies and almost everybody can use them with additional ‘assistive’ technologies. Making a website accessible enables it to be used by the greatest number of people, in the greatest range of situations and by the greatest range of devices with the greatest range of processor speeds, screen sizes and resolutions, network bandwidths, input & output devices, operating systems etc. For example, providing text descriptions of pictures means that a blind user can use computer generated speech to get information from your website.

Why is web accessibility important and why should you care?

  • Self-interest: You or your family or friends might have a disability or may become disabled (e.g. by accident, disease, age, loud music/noise, use of computer keyboards )

  • Morality: It is the ‘right thing to do’ as anyone else might have a disability or another need for an accessible website 

  • Economics:  People with disabilities are customers with money to spend and also can create wealth through work. You can think of Google as a blind billionaire as it searches text rather than pictures and so if a blind person can’t access the information on a website then people will have less chance of buying anything from it. 

  • Legislation: The law says that web sites should be accessible and legal action has been taken against companies whose web sites were not accessible. It is also cheaper to design a website to be accessible from the start than to later try and turn an inaccessible website into an accessible one. 

  • Standards: Designing to standards improves the chance that a website will work on the widest range of current and future technologies

Why not just design for the average user?

There is NO “average” user so it is important to personalise/ customise technology for abilities, preferences and situations/environments.

Some situations are difficult for everyone, for example: 

restricted visibility: e.g. the sun is shining on your mobile phone screen

hands otherwise occupied: e.g. when driving

eyes otherwise occupied: e.g. when walking

noisy environments: e.g. traffic noise

silent environments: e.g. in a library you can’t play a video through the loudspeaker

no multimedia facilities: e.g. in an airport lounge where the sound is turned off

limited bandwidth: e.g. a Skype call breaks up and you can’t hear the other person

but other situations are only difficult if you have impaired mobility (e.g. using a mouse), vision (e.g. getting information from a picture), hearing (understanding talking on the video) or cognitive abilities (understanding complex language).