Imagine that you are visually impaired and you are trying to learn about the church you attend. Could you do it from your church’s website? What about if you were deaf? Maybe you have restricted mobility (paralyzed), can you navigate your website without using a mouse?
Part of my (paying) job entails being a webmaster for a military site. In June a law was passed (Section 508) that says all Federal sites have to be accessible to people with handicaps. While this law does not directly affect church webmasters, we certainly should be leading the charge in making sure everyone can access our sites. After all Jesus died for everyone.
So how does one make their site accessible? You have to think about who is going to be accessing the site when you design each part. For example, if you rely solely on color to distinguish between different items, colorblind people (there are a lot of them!) might have trouble using your site. If you have lots of audio and/or video on your site, it’s going to limit how deaf people use your site. If you use flash to provide the buttons to navigate your site, people who have a hard time using a mouse will not be able to use your site. If you use lots of graphics or drawings on your site, visually impaired people who are using a speech synthesizer are going to miss a lot of your content.
Wow, that seems like a lot of stuff! It is a bit overwhelming, but it’s not as hard as it might seem. If you are following good design techniques, you probably are a better part of the way there. Here are some quick tips to help get you started.
Remember that making your site accessible is only part of the solution. A handicapped person will want different information. Are bathrooms wheelchair accessible? Do you have a deaf interpreter? So try to cover issues like that as well.
Always be sure to have a way for someone to contact you if they can’t find the answer online. It’s going to be difficult to cover every single foreseeable situation, but if you make it so they can easily request the information that is needed, you have succeeded.
We will cover more on this topic in later issues. But for now, here are some web pages that I recommend to help you get started.
Introduction to Web Accessiblity - http://www.webaim.org/info/intro
Some brief HTML examples to show how to make your pages more accessible - http://www.webaim.org/Resources/samplemarkup.htm
A Section 508 checklist (very detailed) - http://www.webaim.org/standards/508/checklist
A quick list section 508 checklist, with links to how to fix these issues - http://www.niehs.nih.gov/websmith/508/rule.htm
A bunch of section 508 links - https://sentinel.nawcwpns.navy.mil/~508/
Making your site compliant using DreamWeaver - http://www.webaim.org/howto/dreamweaver
Making your site compliant using Frontpage - http://www.webaim.org/howto/frontpage.php
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions regarding this topic.
See ya next time,
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It would be way cool if you could mention this resource somewhere on your webpage! You can link to Help for Church Webmasters at http://www.downeychurch.com/HelpForChurchWebmasters.html