WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

Constructing a POUR Website

Input Methods

Not everyone uses a standard keyboard and mouse to access the web. Some people use adaptive devices or alternative devices that accommodate their disabilities. Some people simply prefer to use the alternative technologies. While this may not seem like an important point at first, consider the fact that some web content can be operated only with a mouse. Mouse-dependent web content will be inaccessible to a person cannot use a standard mouse—due to tremors, insufficient fine motor control, or even a lack of hands altogether. A person in this situation is likely to use an adaptive technology of some sort, such as a mouth stick, to manipulate the keyboard. In some cases, the person may be able to use a trackball mouse (e.g. with a mouth stick), but others need to rely on the functionality of the keyboard. (See also the motor disabilities article.) People who do not have use of their vision usually rely on the functionality of the keyboard as well. They may be able to manipulate a mouse just fine, but it doesn't do them much good because they can't see where to click on the screen. The keyboard is much easier for a person who is blind to manipulate. (See also the visual disabilities article.)

Keyboard accessibility is one of the most important principles of Web accessibility because it cuts across disability types and technologies. Most of the alternative and adaptive devices used by people with disabilities emulate the keyboard in terms of functionality. Content that is accessible to the keyboard is operable by the devices that emulate keyboard functionality, no matter how radically different those devices are in appearance from standard keyboards.

(See also the keyboard accessibility section.)

Interaction Methods

Users should be able to find, navigate through, and interact with web content. Search features, site indexes, and site maps allow users to locate content within a Web site. (See also the site searches, site indexes, and site maps article.) With web pages or sections of Web content, users should be able to bypass extraneous or irrelevant pieces of content in order to focus on the content of interest to them. (See also the "skip navigation" links article.) They should be able discern the structure of the content by its headings, subsections, bulleted lists, and other elements of semantic markup. (See also the creating semantic structure article.) In other words, the content itself should be navigable or operable by multiple methods.

User Control Over Timing and Time Limits

Whenever possible, users should have an unlimited amount of time to complete tasks on the web. Motor disabilities can slow a person's muscle movements. Cognitive disabilities can slow a person's mental processes. Even visual or auditory disabilities can slow a person's response time if the information is not ideally accessible.

In some cases, security concerns become an issue, and time limits must be set on Web content. A common example is online banking. Allowing the user an unlimited amount of time to complete tasks would put that user's bank account information at risk, especially if the computer is in a shared or public environment. Another example is online tests administered by schools, colleges, or testing organizations that require time limits in order to maintain a controlled testing environment. These situations may legitimately require time limits on access or functionality, but accommodations can still be made for people with disabilities. One way would be to allow users to specify the amount of time that should pass before the time-out deadline. In other cases, as with online tests, it may be more appropriate to allow test administrators to specify custom time limits for different students. In all cases, users should be allowed sufficient time to complete the tasks they are supposed to complete, whether by allowing everyone an unlimited amount of time, allowing special accommodations for those who need them, or some other solution between those two extremes.

Users should also be able to manipulate and control media players, animations, and any other kind of time-dependent content. Media players should include ways of pausing, rewinding, and fast-forwarding content. Users should be able to stop animations, especially if they flicker or strobe, because this puts some users at risk for experiencing seizures. (See also the seizures disorders article.)

Error Recovery

No one likes to accidentally and permanently delete a file, pay for the wrong product, send an email to the wrong person, or make any mistake that can't be corrected. Users with disabilities are no exception. The difference is that some people have disabilities that make them a little more likely than people without disabilities to make a mistake. People with tremors may hit the wrong key or click on the wrong link. People with cognitive disabilities (or anyone else, for that matter) may misunderstand the purpose of a link and click the wrong one. People make spelling mistakes when typing search terms, their address, or any other kind of content.

Everyone appreciates the ability to recover from mistakes—to have a second chance. Web developers should program second chances into their Web functionality. Confirmation screens, error alerts, and warnings should all be an integral part of the design of interactive web content. Even beyond this, it is often helpful to provide users with instructions, especially if the interaction is complicated or if the site is rich with information that may be difficult to find. Oftentimes a few words of instruction can eliminate or at least decrease the number of errors committed by users.