WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY: A CASE FOR AWARENESS OR RESOURCES?
It is a well known fact that education drives growth and is an important bridge to social, economic and political mobility. Unfortunately in India, socio-economic, cultural, physical and geographical barriers make it difficult for people to access education.
Innovative use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can potentially solve this problem. Used effectively ICT has the potential to remove barriers, spread reach, improve quality and make education relevant, inclusive, accessible and affordable to all.
As ICT becomes increasingly integrated and embedded in education it is important that accessibility become an important aspect of ICT in Education.
Websites and Applications that are not designed with web accessibility in mind, not only create barriers for those with disabilities, but also compromise the usability of the site or App by all users in general.
For Education to be truly inclusive, web site accessibility should not be an ‘afterthought” but an integral part of the web presence strategy of an Educational Institution. Governance processes should not only ensure that Educational Institutions report compliance with the minimum requirements of accessibility but should also communicate their accessibility strategy so needs of all students from a broad spectrum of abilities are met.
In a survey of websites of 658 UGC recognised Universities in India and 77 Delhi University Colleges we found none complied with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Even sites that otherwise compared well on technical parameters like page speed and Dom Monster were found not to be web accessible
The non -compliance is often on the most simple and fundamental requirements of accessibility i.e All images and graphics do not have an alt tag or long description That will help a person using a screen reader to understand the image or access the link or information.
For most websites, implementing accessibility features is not difficult and will seldom change the layout or appearance of web pages. All that is required to make webpages more accessible is information about what makes a website more or less accessible and directions on what must be done.
Many sites were found to have used sophisticated technology and design, suggesting access to relevant technology resources.
The randomness in compliance of some guidelines suggests ignorance, oversight or lack of awareness of accessibility rather than technological limitations or deliberate intent to exclude.
A greater awareness of accessibility requirements and guidelines and support on what needs to be done to become accessibility compliant may encourage educational institutions to take proactive steps to become web accessible.
The web accessibility elements to be complied with
- Priority 1 - This is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents. PWDs will find it impossible to use some pages unless the elements in this list are complied with.
- Priority 2 - Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents. Accessibility users will find it difficult to use some pages if elements in this list are not complied with.
- Priority 3 - Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents. Accessibility users will find it somewhat difficult to use some pages if elements in this list are not complied with.
FOR REAL VALUE OF TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION TO BE DERIVED ACCESSIBILITY IS CRITICAL