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Brussels urges firms to improve e-accessibility

The European Commission (EC) plans to improve accessibility of websites, software, digital TV and mobile phones. If the plans failed to improve accessibility for elderly users and those with disabilities, Brussels may tighten up the rules for minimum levels of accessibility.

Recently announced:
“European i2010 initiative on e-Inclusion - to be part of the information society”
Adopted on 8 November 2007, this Communication proposes a European e-Inclusion initiative sets out a strategic framework for action to implement the Riga Ministerial Declaration by:
  • Enabling the conditions for everyone to take part in the information society by bridging the accessibility, broadband and competences gaps.
  • Accelerating effective participation of groups at risk of exclusion and improving quality of life.
  • Integrating e-Inclusion actions in Europe to maximise lasting impact.
For more information go to Europe's Information Society website

The more usable a website is enhances the customer experience --make it easier to find, understand, and buy your products and services, your sales will increase.

Here is a list of issues and areas to check for ease of accessibility and usability on your site.
  • Devise tasks to be carried out by testers, for example, search for product x, and then try to buy it. Observe the time spent.
  • Easy to read text. Break up large blocks of text with headings, bullet points and quotes, and make sure photographs, tables or diagrams are clearly labeled.
  • Don't bury your content at the bottom of the page. If long pages cannot be avoided, link the various section headings at the top, and sprinkle 'back to top' buttons regularly throughout the content.
  • Can you tell what is a hyperlink and what isn't? (Hyperlinks are usually underlined, or a different colour.)
  • Are the images small enough to load quickly (especially on a dial-up connection)?
  • Do the images have alt tags, so people can tell what is going on even if the images have been switched off?
  • How does the website appear to users with different browsers? There's a useful test to check display at AnyBrowser.
Consider how accessible your site is for users with disabilities. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, businesses have a legal responsibility to make 'reasonable adjustments' to ensure people with disabilities have comfortable access to websites. Here are some ways to improve with disabilities in mind:
  • Contrast the colour of the background and the text so visually impaired users can see it more clearly. Don't use light and bright colored text, e.g. bright yellow on white.
  • Make font size relative rather than absolute, it can then be changed to a larger size in the browser
  • Provide alternative text equivalents for video, PDF files, Flash movies or audio so people using text readers, mobile phones or PDAs can access the information.
Practical tips are available from the Royal National Institute for the Blind. The Disability Rights Commission shows an inaccessible website.
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