1.8 Accessibility

Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can also perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. It encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.

Thus the impact of persons with disabilities is radically changed on the Web because the Web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world. When websites, web technologies, or web tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the web.

The Website and apps should be designed and developed in such way that they are accessible by all people, whatever may be their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability.

Legal Provisions

The United Nations General Assembly adopted its Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the 13th day of December, 2006. India is a signatory to the Convention and has ratified the Convention on the 1st day of October, 2007. To implement the Convention India has enacted the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016 on 27th December, 2016.

With regard to ICT one of the important provisions in the act is that all contents available in audio, print and electronic media must be in accessible format.

International Guidelines and Standards (WCAG)

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to persons with disabilities. Further Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities as a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Websites that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. This flexibility benefits people without disabilities in various situations such as slow Internet connection, presence of “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm and people with changing abilities due to aging.

The WCAG are organized around the four principles, which lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use Web content. These require the web content to be;

  • Perceivable: users must be able to perceive the information being presented i.e. it can't be invisible to all of their senses.
  • Operable: users must be able to operate the interface and the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform.
  • Understandable: users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface.
  • Robust: users must be able to access the content as technologies advance.

Under each principle there is a list of guidelines. There are 12 guideline that address these principles. The guidelines provide the basic goals that authors should work toward in order to make content accessible to persons with disabilities. These guidelines are not objectively testable however, under each guideline, there are Success Criteria that describe specifically what must be achieved in order to conform to this standard. Each Success Criterion is written as a statement that will be either true or false when specific Web content is tested against it. The Success Criteria are written to be technology neutral.

GIGAW and Accessibility

One of the major focus areas of the Guidelines is web accessibility. With respect to accessibility focus is on the following:

  • Addressing the needs of the persons with disabilities.
  • Ensuring that the sites are accessible with equal ease to all users on all the major browsers and across all platforms and bandwidths i.e. universally accessible.

GIGAW aims to ensure that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, interact and contribute through Web. GIGAW has been developed in accordance with W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 which are internationally accepted standards on accessibility. GIGAW ensures compliance with level AA of WCAG 2.0. The guidelines relating to web accessibility can be found under the following sections:

  • Chapter 2 (Indian Government Identity) - guidelines 2.1.6.
  • Chapter 5 (Quality of content) - guidelines 5.3.7, 5.4.2, 5.6.1, 5.6.3, 5.6.4.
  • Chapter 6 (Design) - guidelines 6.2.1, 6.4.5, 6.5.1, 6.5.4, 6.6.1, 6.6.3, 6.7.2, 6.7.3, 6.8.2, 6.8.8, 6.9.1, 6.10.1.
  • Chapter 7 (Development) - guidelines 7.5(a) to 7.5(j), 7.5(m) to 7.5(q).
  • Chapter 11 (Mobile App Guidelines) - most of the guidelines under section 11.4.

The above mentioned sections have been categorized as ‘MUST’ meaning thereby that inclusion of these in a website is a mandatory for ensuring compliance to GIGAW. The reference to the corresponding WCAG 2.0 guideline is also provided.

Compliance to these guidelines will make the websites accessible to persons with various disabilities like low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities and combinations of these which may otherwise hinder access to the web. Compliance with these guidelines ensures that any disabled person using a assistive technology can easily navigate the website. Compliance matrix lists all the accessibility guidelines in a separate section along with the reference numbers.

Detailed information on the WCAG guidelines and the techniques for compliance can be found at the W3C website. Developers must visit the website to get information on the varous success criteria related with each of the guidelines.