Accessibility and the Web

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 were developed in order to provide guidance for publishing content for the web that is easier to be read and accessible to all members of the internet.  Ultimately the internet affords a freedom to communicate and interact in ways previously not available to many with physical and cognitive disabilities. This freedom is felt however by more than the disabled or disadvantaged. Consider the following scenarios:

  • A father has his two children, one in a stroller the other meandering away plus an armload of bags from the grocery store.  He wants to stop in to a local bookstore with all of this bags and children, however there is no ramp into the store.
  • You are out shopping with your friend in the mall, and you want to point something out to her in a busy store. There are several extra blinking sign advertisements, and a video commercial playing on a Television on the wall. Your friend is a bit overwhelmed and confused as to what it is that she is supposed to be looking at in the shop.
  • Before work, you went in for your eye checkup, and your doctor did a glaucoma test which has left your pupils dilated and sensitive.  You have returned to work to your computer to read an important document for a meeting but it is displayed in light gray text on a white background and you are finding it difficult to focus in order to read it.

Barriers to access may be permanent or temporary. Regardless it is important to recognize that some users may be challenged to “view” the material in the same way that it was initially developed. The WCAG 2.0 guidelines help those developing material for the web or to be received digitally to ensure that materials are Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust.

Perceivable – “Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.” (W3C, 2014)

It may be possible that someone with a visual impairment may be trying to review your website or document. In this case, ensuring that images, tables and diagrams have a text alternative in order for assistive reading devices to be able to interpret those images for the user. This guideline also touches upon the ability for content to be viewable across platforms, such as computers, laptops and mobile phones.

Operable – “User interface components and navigation must be operable.” (W3C, 2014)

This guideline focuses on providing the users control over the pace and speed at which they move through the material, and ensuring that the navigation can be done through a keyboard.  Many Flash objects are not possible to read or navigate unless the user is using their mouse, and for some this is not an option.

Understandable – “Make text content readable and understandable.” (W3C, 2014)

There are many web conventions that have surfaced and evolved over the last couple decades that the Internet has been around. As such both navigation and narrative should be easy to use and decipher. This includes descriptive titles, and articulate writing. Creative and abstract titles may seem fun and interesting, however if your favourite band uses obscure titles for the sections of their website, they may be confusing and frustrating some of their fans when they call the tab for tour dates “orange” or “chesterfield”

Robust – “Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.” (W3C, 2014)

By applying universal design principles the general format and navigation of documents and websites can be standardized.  This does not mean content must all look the same, however certain principles such as tagging headers, and using alternative text not only improves the user experience but also provides essential code for linking internally and navigating the document or website.

How does this affect us as faculty and administrators? Academic Institutions are expected to be complaint to WGAC 2.0 AA standards, I have been told in training sessions at the college that fines can be hefty.  While these are just an overview of the general guidelines, the complete Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 can be found on the W3C organization website.



W3C Organization (2014) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Retrieved from website:


– Heather Farmer


Roles and Users

Although there is not one common structure of roles for the development of a blog, there are some fundamental communication principles which influence the flow of information. As with every website, a blog typically has a specific topic or group of topics which it covers. As a result followers, or readers may begin to regularly check in on the blog for more information should the blog prove to be useful and informative.

Unlike other social media, a Blog remains primarily broadcast in nature. This can be in the form of One to Many,  or Many to Many. In either case a limited number of authors or contributors are granted access rights to be able to write articles which are posted in the blog, and the content is then received by the intended audience.  This is only mitigated somewhat through the availability of readers to post comments on Blog posts. In this manner the reader’s thoughts can be shared, however it is not a two way conversation unless those comments are follow up on within future posts.

One to many diagram, vs a Many to Many Social Media network.

One to Many vs Many to Many
Source: (Karthik, 2011)

In the image to the left, we see how the content of a blog – or website for that matter – is often generated by a user or group of users, this messaging is then received by several individual readers or consumers. In the image to the right, more closely represents networks such as Facebook, and Twitter, where individual consumers also have the ability to broadcast their information to their own set of consumers.

Given that Blogs are also recognized as residing in a public sphere, meaning that, the posts which are made to a blog are available for the public to view. The implications of this means that not only can an article viewed by the intended audience, but it may also find new audiences and readers not previously considered by the author(s). Readers therefore may not have a direct connection with the author, as such are not necessarily allies. It has been seen that readers, or consumers can become quite vocal in their distaste for blog postings (Greig, 2014). 

The general roles that one might identify as it relates to the participants within a blog or community page.

Blog Author:  An individual who writes articles/blog posts for public consumption.

Blog Contributor: An Author who writes articles for a blog for which they are not the owner.

Blog Editor/Administrator: An individual who manages a blog. Sometimes this means having final publishing rights for the articles that are written or drafted. An Editor may also curate articles from a variety of sources to one larger blog about a specific topic.

Blog Followers/Readers: These are the individual readers of the blog.  A Follower has added the blog to their RSS or News Feed to be kept up to date on the newest articles being posted from the blog. They may read posts, comment on posts or share posts with their social networks.

Power Users/Influencers: These are often the individuals that are most vocal followers of a blog, commenting frequently and engaging in regular dialog with the authors. These individuals may gain enough visibility that they may influence the direction of future posts.


Greig, A. (2014) Student turns cruel anonymous messages about her selfies into powerful art project.  The Daily Mail. Retrieved March 15, 2014 from website: Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Karthik S (2011). 5 specific instances of social communication and how brands can deal with them. Beast of Traal . Retrieved March 15, 2014 from Beast of Traal website:


– Heather Farmer