This post and and other subsequent ones will describe the accessibility policy applied for web services developed by ReadSpeaker. It covers our definition of what we mean with accessibility and exemplify how our web based products comply to this view. Further it discusses how our view conforms to our interpretation of different existing international accessibility standards with emphasis put on web accessibility standards, especially the ones from the W3C. In short, concepts like “graceful transformation”, “open standards” and “device/platform independence” are of key importance to us. Another important principle is universal design which means that we should not assume anything about the end-users using our products, or under what situations or circumstances they are using it.
What is accessibility?
Accessibility is when as many people as possible can access as much information as possible with as low barriers as possible. Accessibility means freedom from inconvenience together with the greatest possible independence. In practice, this means that our services shall be integrated in the technical environment already available for the user since it is most likely to be the environment that is the most familiar one for the user. Constantly forcing users to adapt to new technologies such as stand-alone software, or web services with a lot of different user interfaces may be cumbersome for many. Also, requiring that someone shall help the user to do customisations, or installations, means less independence. Independence also means that people who use computers without special technical aids should be able to benefit from ReadSpeaker’s services quickly and easily from any computer in the world. This is why our services are server-based, just like the Internet information itself is reachable from everywhere where Internet connectivity and a web browser with standard equipment is present. It also means that unnecessary thresholds must be avoided. One such threshold is to ask the user to upgrade his/her computer software just because the latest technology is required by a service. This is why we want our web based products to provide a good experience even with older technologies. That is why we avoid requiring web technologies only present in the latest web browsers, or one specific browser, or technologies that might be available in older browsers but on the other hand require users with special technical aids to have the latest version of these installed on their computer. Upgrading, or changing browser, is a threshold, no matter what needs to be upgraded or changed. Another large group of users do not have their own technical aids and have to rely on technology that comes with the operating system. What is available for them varies a lot between different countries. Therefore, we never rely on the fact that new technology present in one country eventually will show up in all other countries. Consequently, our services should not interfere with such technologies. They need to coexist harmonically with such tools. This means for example that our images should scale if the user enlarges parts of the screen and our style sheet definitions of fonts and colours should always be possible to override for the user. All information that some technical aids can make use of shall be present.