May is Healthy Vision Month, a month-long event that raises awareness of eye diseases and conditions and strategies to protect your vision. First established by the National Eye Institute, Healthy Vision Month encourages a number of proactive steps to help prevent vision loss and blindness, including eye exams at regular intervals and the use of sunglasses and protective eyewear.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are 3.2 million Americans with some degree of visual impairment or blindness. What’s more, this number is expected to more than double to 8 million by 2050, including 2 million people who will be legally blind. Web accessibility will be increasingly important in order to provide goods and services to the millions of Americans with visual disabilities.
How Web Accessibility Helps People with Visual Disabilities
There are a variety of visual disabilities, and each one manifests itself differently in different individuals. When designing your website to be accessible for people with visual disabilities, consider the conditions below:
- Blindness: People who are legally blind may be unable to read the text on your website themselves, relying on screen readers to vocalize the text.
- Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration: These conditions are some of the most frequent causes of low vision. In order to help with readability, users should be able to resize the website’s text without zooming in on the entire interface.
- Color-blindness: People with color-blindness have difficulties discriminating between different types of colors. Web accessibility guidelines encourage websites to use high-contrast color schemes that are perceivable even by most people with color-blindness. In addition, color should not be used as the sole means of conveying information.
How Screen Readers Help People with Visual Disabilities
In order to browse the web, many blind and visually impaired people rely on screen readers: software that converts the textual content of websites and documents into synthesized speech.
For screen readers to be maximally effective, your website should use text rather than images of text whenever possible. In addition, any non-decorative images should have a textual description contained in the HTML alt tag. Not only will these descriptions help people who use screen readers, they’ll also improve your website’s rankings by giving search engines like Google more information about —a win-win situation.
If your website contains significant passages of text in a foreign language, then you should demarcate these texts and pages using the HTML lang attribute. This helps the screen reader use the correct accent and pronunciation, and also helps search engines return results in the correct language.
Prioritizing Web accessibility makes it easier for the 253 million people worldwide with visual impairments to enjoy the full benefits of the Internet. The Bureau of Internet Access is proud to support Healthy Vision Month by raising awareness about web accessibility for people with vision conditions. For more information on how web accessibility assists people with visual disabilities, contact our accessibility experts.