Web Design for Maximum Accessibility:
Just as a number of accessibility factors must be considered when designing (or modifying) a physical facility to accommodate people with a variety of disabilities, the same is true with website design.
For many years, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published guidelines for what they feel is "accessible web design." And generally we have followed most of W3C's accessibility guidelines wherever possible, if it makes practical sense for us to do so.
However, sometimes our design practices are modified from strict W3C standards, in response to comments from users of our Service with a variety of disabilities, who may have different viewpoints about what may be accessible for them as individuals, in view of their particular unique disability situation.
Over the years we have learned that "accessibility" doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to all people. And sometimes the same factors that make websurfing easier for some may make it more difficult for others.
However, in the past few years, advancements in web browser design protocols have enabled individuals with certain disabilities to override design specifications of a web page, to meet their own special needs. For example, this includes such formerly complicated tasks as changing the size of text; or suppressing graphics and displaying only the text on a page; or playing audible text through a text reader; or changing the basic colors shown on both text and page background; or even changing the language used on a particular web page.
These modifications and more can be accomplished with relative ease by websurfers today simply by changing browser settings to accommodate a specific disability where necessary, or by using assistive devices (such as text readers, special keyboards, mice, and other forms of adaptive technology) depending on the nature and severity of an individual's disability.
Consequently, we try to follow web design practices that maximize the everyday usability of our Service for the vast majority of those who use our Service on a regular basis. Specifically, we address the following issues:
To accommodate users with visual impairment, we've selected bold colors and color combinations for the text, background, and graphic images on our pages, with sufficient contrast to ensure good visibility without excessive harshness.
Studies have shown that pastel backgrounds such as we use tend to be more relaxing and to cause less visual fatigue during extended usage than white or bright color backgrounds for all users. (However, we still get an occasional complaint from someone who thinks pastel colors are not as "pretty" as white backgrounds.)
To accommodate users with seizure disorders, we use minimal "flash" technology; do NOT use confusing "pop-up" ads (although we do use "pop-up" alternate text labels where helpful); and especially do NOT use rapidly moving graphic animations (which studies have shown can trigger seizures in susceptible individuals).
Yes, we do realize our site design might seem a little "tame" to a few children and hard-core video gamers, who usually tend to prefer something a little more dramatic.
However, our own research with disabled Internet users (and those who care for them) has shown that a "tamer" website design tends to be preferred by most internet users over age 30, whether or not they are visually impaired.
An intuitive approach to logical organization of the information on the site provides an extremely user-friendly interface environment in which our site users can quickly access what they need with minimal scrolling and fewer mouse-clicks.
Great care has also been taken to make the site more usable by those with orthopedic impairment (such as arthritis, joint injuries, or soft tissue injuries), coordination impairment and learning disabilities.
Our navigational menus are divided into a series of separate small, easy-to-navigate, pages, vastly different from the conglomeration of cascading pop-up menus that have become so "trendy" these days.
We've received feedback from our own Staff Members as well as many users of our Service that complex cascading menus are confusing for people with learning disabilities, and extremely difficult to use by people with orthopaedic or coordination impairment of their "mouse hand."
Apparently some webmasters seem to feel an urgent need to get everything they possibly can onto a single page, regardless of how much the user may have to scroll. We have tried to avoid that where possible.
Wherever it makes sense, we use brightly colored button links for navigation rather than text links in many areas of our websites for the same reasons. The buttons are easily identifiable to the user as "links" and present larger targets that are easier to hit with a mouse cursor.
To accommodate users with older systems or slower Internet connections, our page sizes are intentionally kept small with minimal graphics so individual pages load quickly, and to minimize the risk of "time-outs" and connection failures. This makes our Information Service usable by the widest possible audience.
And of course, all of our navigational buttons and graphic images are clearly labeled with "alternative text" to accommodate those using text readers as well as to provide additional information for our users.
Where we do use text links, they are a bright purple rather than the standard blue, which provides better contrast against our "easy on the eyes" light cyan (blue-green) page background. And our text links still do turn a bright red when a cursor passes over them ("mouseovers").
We are constantly endeavoring to improve our service. If you have suggestions or comments you feel would be helpful, please write to us: