Figures released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) state one out of six (16%) people in the region live with a disability, which amounts to roughly 650 million people. This means that a significant portion of the population faces barriers to readily access websites and other internet services.
Now more than ever, new information and communication technologies designed for use in the region and other parts of the world need to foster accessibility. Website developers must incorporate tools or specific designs that can make content accessible for all individuals. Through web accessibility initiatives, all people can have the ability to explore, understand, and interact with the web —and at the same time contribute to the internet.
Challenges for People with Disabilities
Poorly designed websites could present barriers for people who are hoping to access needed information on the web. Interestingly, people with disabilities experience almost four times the likelihood of succumbing during natural disasters that occur in the Asia-Pacific region compared to people without disability. This can be attributed to the lack of disability-inclusiveness when broadcasting early warnings, which has proved to be a major design flaw in many ICT solutions.
It is not uncommon for people with disabilities to encounter various obstacles online that restrict their access to the internet. In one survey of 36 Asia-Pacific countries by Internet Society, only eight had made it a priority to improve online accessibility standards for people with disabilities. With information regarding education, employment, banking, and healthcare increasingly moving online, ensuring there is a universal and inclusive design of all websites and other services is more crucial than ever.
Towards Website Accessibility
The fundamental design goal of the web is to remove communication barriers by reaching people of all locations, abilities, and languages using any software and hardware. Thus, websites need to be accessible to people with diverse capabilities of movement, sight, hearing, or cognitive ability to achieve this goal. Developers therefore have an obligation to develop high-quality web tools to ensure everyone is included in the access to their products and services, such as ‘alt-text’ codes on every image and captions on videos. Governments may also consider running support and awareness programs to enhance digital accessibility.
In the Asia-Pacific region, it’s imperative for developers in website services to constantly think about accessibility for people with disabilities. Designing sites that can be utilised by all people will not only assist them in receiving emergency warnings but also allow them to access crucial welfare information and services.