Technologies for making applications accessibility friendly.
With better internet connectivity and more access to computers and smart phones, access to web applications has become a necessity for everyone. The applications that are developed are no longer limited to a particular audience. There has been a considerable increase in internet users who are disabled in terms of vision, speech, hearing and mobility over the past decade. Newer and better technologies categorized as “assistive technologies” have made it easier for people with disabilities to access web applications. It is very important for every developer to ensure their web pages and web applications are accessible. The list below gives a brief understanding of different assistive technologies that are available in the market today. It is crucial that developers understand how these technologies work and ensure that applications being developed are compatible with assistive technology. As our society moves to more and more online activities, for both home and work life, it is essential that all web applications are accessible.
Prominent assistive technologies in the current industry:
- Readers : Readers are used by people who have difficulties reading. The screen readers perform a text to voice translation so that the user can listen and comprehend what is being displayed on the screen. Some widely used applications are JAWS and NVDA for windows operating system. Mac has a built-in VoiceOver system to perform this task. The W3C has published standards for web application developers to follow called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). By adhering to the coding standards mentioned in the WCAG guidelines, one can develop accessibility compliant web applications.
- Screen Magnification: These softwares help in magnifying the underlying screen area. Most of the currently available operating systems come with the feature where a pointer can be used to magnify the required area on the screen with respect to the remaining layout.
- Voice input : With the advancement in Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language processing, voice processing has become accessible in many applications. According to the reports from Google, 20 percent of the web searches were performed using voice commands in the year 2016. This is expected to grow up to 50 percent by the year 2020. Siri from Google, Alexa from Amazon and Cortana from Microsoft are some of the voice recognition tools that are available in the market today to achieve some basic accessibility using voice commands. Web page navigation using voice is still limited.
As a web application developer, it is very important to become familiar with assistive technologies and develop applications that are accessible. Meeting the WCAG guidelines will ensure that your applications are accessible.