Assessing the Accessibility for the Blind and Visually Impaired of Texas State Agency Web Sites
MetadataShow full metadata
The information age has created much advanced technology to perform office work and store great bodies of information, allowing blind and visually impaired citizens to participate in society on their own terms. Users can access computerized knowledge inexpensively with interfaces, allowing unguided personal investigation and fiee roaming limited only by curiosity. This is possible through screen readers, speech synthesizers, and Braille output devices that help impaired users communicate with character-based computer-based systems that are limited in their communication, just like the user. In order to assess web site usability for the visually impaired, this applied research project studied the accessibility of Texas state agency web sites among the visually impaired. The research purpose is three-fold. The first purpose is to describe the ideal characteristics of an accessible governmental informational web site for the blindvisually impaired. The second purpose is to assess web sites of Texas state agencies using the ideal categories. The final purpose is to make recommendations for improving accessibility to the blindvisually impaired of the web sites of Texas state agency web sites. The research purpose was carried with a conceptual framework that demonstrated the essential categories or guidelines needed to assess the accessibility of the design of the homepages of 25 Texas state agencies. Four standards are used to assess the web sites: (1) technology in place; (2) human contacts necessary for assistance in navigation; (3) physical characteristics of the site; and (4) presentation of data tables should be clear. Content analysis was the methodology used to assess Texas state agency web sites for these standards. The results show that overall, Texas state agencies are in compliance with the first standard (assisted software technology). All of the web sites used Jaws Screen Readers and did not use JAVA (See Table 5.1). Over 90 percent used Alt Tags. The weakest element was the "Bobby Certification." Only 64percent were "Bobby Certified." Thus, 36% of the agencies were found to have priority one errors that renders the web sites inaccessible to individuals who are visually impaired. The results of the second standard (human support) indicate that for the most part web sites of Texas state agencies included ways to contact a person inside the agency if there were problems (See Table 5.2). All of the web sites had telephone numbers and 72 percent had e-mails. The results of standard 3 (presentation) indicate all state agencies scored a 100% in this area. Standard 4 (table presentation) results show all of the state agencies avoided using multi-column data tables, making this infoxmation accessible. Overall, the agencies were compliant with the guidelines established by Section 508. They showed strengths in almost all the categories assessed, with a miniscule number of problems arising when it came to the inclusion of Alt. Tags, the inclusion of short text descriptions for all images, and the avoidance of images used as hypertext. Even taking these problems into consideration, all of the web sites assessed proved to be clear and simple when navigated using assistive technology. Since the amount of information on the World Wide Web is growing exponentially and the demand for this information is growing as well, the call for equal access is increasing imperative.