May 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

Opening e-retailers` eyes

(Page 3 of 3)

A practical strategy for site operators looking to make an already-built site accessible but not ready or able to sink resources into adjusting what may be thousands of web pages is to start by committing to building in accessibility from the ground up in the next major site overhaul, and in the meantime, fixing selectively the highest-traffic pages on the site, Thatcher says.

In the end, he notes, some experiences available on a web site for those who can see simply can`t be recreated for blind or sight-impaired users, even with accessible web pages and assistive technologies, because they are totally visual experiences.

"That`s OK," he says. "There are accommodations you can do. Where the experience can be communicated to a person with disabilities it should be done, but when it can`t be, the existence of that feature should be noted with alternative text, or something like that, and that`s good enough."

Getting started on web site accessibility

The basics of what makes a web site accessible are listed in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 issued by the international web developer standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium. That organization also offers for developers 10 quick tips on key concepts:

Images and animation: Use the alt attribute to describe the function of each visual.

Image maps: Use the map and text in the site visitor`s web browser, rather than in the site`s web server, to indicate areas on the page users click on or hover over for extra information.

Multi-media: Provide captioning and transcripts of audio and descriptions of video.

Hypertext links: Use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid "click here."

Page organization: Use headings, lists and consistent structure.

Graphs and charts: Summarize or use the longdesc (long descriptions) attribute.

Scripts, applets and plug-ins: Provide alternative content in case active features are inaccessible or unsupported.

Frames: Use the noframes element and meaningful titles.

Tables: Make line-by-line reading sensible-summarize.

Check your work: Validate. Use the tools, checklist and guidelines of the W3C`s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

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