Disability and Accessibility in Cyberspace

By Jennifer Janviere

One of the greatest strengths of the Internet is that it represents a democracy of information; a gathering place where ideas and knowledge are exchanged freely and a wealth of knowledge is always only a Google search away.

If you happen to be an individual with a visual, hearing or mobility impairment or learning disability such as dyslexia, however, you may encounter difficulties and frustration gaining access to online information that many users take for granted.

While laws exist to ensure access to public space for people with disabilities, the one pubic place in which this isn’t yet enforced is the Internet. The most likely reason is because cyberspace is not a physically tangible place and of the few laws governing it, many are still ambiguous and murky.

This could soon change. Several years ago, California state law began mandating that websites be accessible for people with disabilities, and other states could follow this precedent. There are even a few examples of lawsuits filed against companies whose websites are not considered “fully functional” to the disabled. One need not look further than the 2006  lawsuit brought against Target by a sight-impaired website user to grasp the potential implications.

Technology offers a solution (albeit limited) to many of these issues: text and voice recognition software, talking browsers and Braille displays increase website access for many people with impairments. But it’s also up to website developers to incorporate user-accessible practices into online design. There are some simple steps web designers and developers can take to make sure their sites can be used by the largest majority possible. A few key basics include providing alternative text with all images and validating HTML code to prevent errors that could potentially confuse text recognition software. For deaf visitors, web content providers might consider offering alternative versions of videos with captions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act posts guidelines for web accessibility on its homepage. Additional guidelines can be found on the WWW Consortium site. The International Center for Disability also provides an interesting article on the topic titled “Is Your Site ADA-Compliant …or a Lawsuit-in-Waiting?”

For anyone constructing and maintaining a website, making it fully functional to the majority of its visitors is certainly an issue worthy of attention and consideration.

Jennifer Janviere is a multimedia specialist and instructor in the Diederich College of Communication.

2 Responses to “Disability and Accessibility in Cyberspace”


  1. 1 Baird Moreno June 11, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    While laws exist to ensure access to public space for people with disabilities, the one pubic place in which this isn’t yet enforced is the Internet. The most likely reason is because cyberspace is not a physically tangible place and of the few laws governing it, many are still ambiguous and murky.
    +1


  1. 1 Kids with disabilities show off art at VSA festival | International News - Stay up to date with the latest World News, Finance & Business, Green News, Technology and Sports Trackback on June 10, 2010 at 12:28 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

Flickr Photos

IMG_1488

IMG_1511

IMG_1520

IMG_1516

More Photos

Follow us on Twitter


%d bloggers like this: