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30% of web users have low literacy

According to Jakob Nielsen 30% of web users have low literacy and the number will probably grow to 40% in the next five years.

Unlike higher-literacy users, lower-literacy users don't scan text. They can't understand a text by glancing at it and must carefully read word for word. Scrolling breaks their visual concentration and they start skipping text as soon as it becomes too dense.

Some recommendations:
- Use text aimed at a 6th grade reading level on important landing pages
- On other pages use an 8th grade reading level
- Place main points at the top of the pages
- Make search tolerant of misspellings
- Simplify navigation
- Streamline the page design
- Avoid text that moves or changes

A study showed that revising the text of a web site for lower-literacy users made it perform significant better for both lower- and higher-literacy users.


  • The article Lower-Literacy Users

Henrik Olsen - March 17, 2005

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See also: Text (12)  Tips and guidelines (60) 



Accessible doesn't equal usable for people with disabilities

The Communication Technologies Branch of the United States National Cancer Institute has been conduction usability testing with blind people to learn how they work with web-sites and what that means for designers and developers. They conclude that meeting the required accessibility standards doesn't necessarily mean that a web-site is usable for people with disabilities.

The authors describe how blind users work with their screen readers and present 31 guidelines based on their findings.


  • The article Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites

Henrik Olsen - January 17, 2005

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Accessible pop-ups

Pop-up windows are prohibited by the WCAG accessibility standards. To quote:

"Until user agents allow users to turn off spawned windows, do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear…"

Also, Javascript, which is often used to open pop-ups, is forbidden: Quote:

"Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic objects are turned off or not supported…"

If you for some reason are forced to use pop-ups, the least you can do is to make sure they are accessible for people without Javascript. Caio Chassot shows you how.


  • The article Accessible Pop-up Links

Henrik Olsen - June 15, 2004

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Accessibility humanized

The Q1 2004 issue of GUUUI is about accessibility. The article is motivated by an evaluation of a governmental health care project, where we had both an accessibility consultant and a blind tester to evaluate a website. The outcomes of the two test where disturbingly different. While our blind tester was fairly content with the site, the accessibility consultant judged the site "A bad site in terms of accessibility." Conclusion: Official accessibility requirements might not be the most important thing when designing accessible sites. Instead, accessibility should be approached from a user-centred perspective.


Henrik Olsen - February 03, 2004

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Attitudes to web accessibility

During the summer of 2003 Birmingham Institute of Art and Design ran an online questionnaire, conducted interviews and carried out a literature review on web accessibility.

Some key findings from the questionnaire:
- 86% of respondents agreed that "Developers do not have adequate training" in Web accessibility.
- A "lack of expertise" was given as "the main barrier to developing accessible Web sites".
- 48% disagreed that "most development lifecycles are too short to incorporate accessibility".
- 64% of respondents agreed that "management is unaware of the importance of Web accessibility".
- 94% thought that "clients ask for their sites to be accessible".
- 67% of respondents agreed that "some WAI guidelines are difficult to implement".

In the article, the survey findings are discussed on the background of the interviews and literature reviews that were conducted during the research.


  • The article Attitudes to Web Accessibility

Henrik Olsen - January 17, 2004

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Dive Into Accessibility

Mark Pilgrim's online book Dive Into Accessibility answers the why and how of website accessibility. It starts out with a presentation of five fictitious internet users with different kinds of disabilities and presents 25 tips on how to make their online life less tedious.

The book is focused on how to make popular weblogging tools more accessible, but the tips apply to all types of websites.


  • The online book Dive Into Accessibility

Henrik Olsen - January 04, 2004

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Building Accessible Websites

With his book Building Accessible Websites, Joe Clark has done an amazing job in explaining how disabled people experience the web and how we can improve their online life. The book is a thorough, practical and pragmatic guide, with a mission to teach us to do accessibility the right way - opposed to the "correct" way.

Clark's book is engaging, informative, amusing, frequently provocative and available online for free. But you should consider buying it, since Clark deserves every penny he gets from it.


  • The book at
  • The book at
  • The book at

Henrik Olsen - December 20, 2003

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Screen reader simulation

Ever wanted to know how blind and visual impaired people surf the web with their screen readers. Here's your chance. WebAIM has designed a screen reader simulation of a fictional web site, which includes a few tasks that you can try out. It's designed with some common accessibility errors to illustrate what users of screen readers have to put up with.


  • The screen reader simulation

Henrik Olsen - December 16, 2003

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W3C rocks the house

Ok, this beats it all. If you are a musician and accessibility consultant this might be an obvious thing to do, otherwise not. Anyway, here's a song about writing accessibility standards for WCAG. To the tune of YMCA. Faturing "Sharky" the ScreenReader rapping. Made me fall of my chair with stomach cramps.

Let's rock the house...


  • The WCAG Theme Song (lyrics and MP3)

Henrik Olsen - December 11, 2003 - via Maccessibility

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Accessibility and Usability

Anitra Pavka writes a great article that covers the lawsuit over Southwest's website and the "Accountability of Accessibility and Usability." For those who are still wondering why usability is important, you should read this article.


  • Accountability of Accessibility and Usability

Nick Finck - November 07, 2002

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See also: Cases and Examples (12) 

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