Web Accessibility in the Middle East

World Wide Web Consortium LogoWeb accessibility, or the act of improving the access and use of websites by a wide range of users, some of whom may suffer from physical or visual disabilities, is becoming increasingly important across the globe, the Middle East included.

In fact, web accessibility benefits all Internet users as it improves the general usability of websites, contributing to an increase in the usage and take up of services overall. Added illustrations and captions, navigation systems that are user-friendly, selectable font size, and clear organization of content improve accessibility for everyone.

The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is the internationally recognized standard that ensures web accessibility. The W3C has issued the “Initiative Access Web” stating the standards to be adhered to for optimal web accessibility. Websites should aim for AAA level and not have less than AA level as a minimum. The latest recommendations for web accessibility can be found here.

Conforming to Level AA of the WCAG 2.0 ensures that a website meets the required standards for removing barriers to accessing content on a website by people with certain physical impairments. To meet the (W3C) the following regulations should be followed:

  • Providing text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, Braille, speech or simpler language.
  • Making it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foregrounds from backgrounds to aid people with limited color vision or cognitive disabilities.
  • Providing users enough time to read and use content so as to ensure that users with disabilities are given adequate time to interact with web content whenever possible.
  • Making text content readable and understandable. This principle ensures that screen readers and assistive technologies can correctly present and pronounce content written in multiple human languages.

Many organizations in the Middle East are focusing on web accessibility and implementing their own recommendations for helping to achieve the W3C’s requirements. For example:

The Saudi Arabia e-Government Program

For building an accessible website the Saudi e-government program has issued several recommendations. A website must support logical expressions and using both Arabic and English languages is fundamental to respond to the needs of websites visitors. The website must also support Arabic language features such as accent marks, rhythms and word roots. Other recommendations can be found on this online:

Website design and management for government sector (PDF) issued by Saudi e-government program.

The Recommendations of the Central Bank of Kuwait for Web Accessibility

For public websites the Central Bank of Kuwait includes voice recordings to guide people with visual impairments and recommends tools such as such as screen readers, text alternative (audio) and Braille, for people with disabilities in order to allow them to make their online transactions correctly and securely. For internet and mobile banking The Central Bank of Kuwait recommends using modern and safe technologies such as screen and fingerprint readers to help the disabled complete their bank transactions.

Recommendations from the Central Bank of Kuwait can be found here.

The Supreme Council of Communications & Information Technology in Qatar

Qatar’s Assistive Technology Center (MADA) is a non-profit organization that aims to empower and enable persons with disabilities and the elderly through Assistive Technology. To ensure that persons with disabilities in Qatar benefit from the wide range of assistive technologies and services available in the marketplace, MADA ensures funds to improve access to assistive technologies and services. MADA is also responsible for developing practical guidelines and providing technical assistance to facilitate the uptake and usage of Assistive Technologies.

More information about web accessibility regulations in Qatar and the role of MADA can be found here:
http://www.motc.gov.qa/sites/default/files/documents/QATAR’s%20eAccessibility%20Policy%20-%20Eng.pdf

The guidelines of MADA for building an accessible website can be found here:
www.blind.gov.qa/sites/default/files/accessibility_guidelines.pdf

Information Technology Authority Oman

To follow the standards of e-Accessibility Information Technology Authority (ITA) has established a policy that must be followed by government agencies and government-owned companies. The policy is states that, “government agencies and government-owned companies shall ensure that public information and e-services are accessible by persons with disabilities and the elderly people. Government agencies shall initiate and lead to explore and implement the use of ICT to fully accommodate to persons with disabilities and the elderly people within their respective lines of businesses.”

In addition the Information Technology Authority (ITA) recommends that websites and e-services comply with World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. As best practice, people with disabilities must be involved in the process of designing and testing of websites, e-services and ICT-based public equipment.

For more information and initiatives on general accessibility visit: http://www.mosd.gov.om. or for the ITA e-Accessibility Policy, view the PDF document here: ITA e-Accessibility Policy.

You may also contact ReadSpeaker’s Middle East business managers for more information about how ReadSpeaker can help your organization meet web accessibility requirements.

Yassir Abbassi
yassir.abbassi@readspeaker.com

Paul Walstra
paul.walstra@readspeaker.com