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Test your Site for Accessibility with Cynthia Says



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Online Accessibility for the Visually Impaired


As pressure intensifies from the American Disabilities Act as well as an untouched online market base, companies are leaning toward investing in assisted technology and website improvements. This movement for online equal accessibility for all could provide a new gateway to the online community and shopping venues through network cables and PC interfaces for the visually impaired.

In early 2006, a blind student of the University of California Berkeley decided to sue Target because it was problematic, and almost impossible to navigate the company's website. The lawsuit claimed that the Target Company had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other California state laws. It also argued that equal accessibility, even outside a physical forum, is a basic responsibility of corporate websites.

By October of 2007, the judge deemed the lawsuit to be class-action with a nationwide status. In response, Target attempted to appeal the claim but it was then dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This lawsuit, being supported by the American Federation for the Blind, is key in achieving their ultimate goal of making internet accessibility a reality for disabled online shoppers.

These court proceedings should serve as a wakeup call to all companies who plan on selling merchandise or services through a public internet forum. Cases like these could lead to nationwide standards of disabled accommodations through website updates.

Many companies have already started to develop new technology and update their web forums to serve a wider customer base and build appeal within the disabled community. Software programs that are capable of reading the screen through tags and text that are naturally placed on a variety of icons and texts, as well as link and edit box identification are the main functionalities of the Jaws program by Freedom Scientific.

Amazon.com has also made accessibility improvements to their site platform through an integrative collaboration with the National Federation for the Blind. A combined expertise of accessible technology experience in combination with sales and marketing representatives of Amazon will provide excellent improvements for both sighted and non-sighted customers in their online shopping experience.

In March, AT&T, the nation's largest wireless carrier, adopted a "Universal Design" policy which aims to provide wireless headsets to the largest number of customers possible, including the elderly and the disabled. With supplementary applications such as Mobile Speak and Mobile Magnifier, this will make it much easier for the visually impaired to access all of the available phone features. The Mobile Speak allows voice navigation of the phone menus and sub categories as well as the web. The Mobile Magnifier feature allows for the option of text size adjustment.