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Accessible website design - What is it and why we use it.

Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people with changing abilities due to aging.

Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.

Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. For example, a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people with "temporary disabilities" such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging.

Websites, just like buildings and offices can be made accessible to everyone - including those with disabilities. Unfortunately there are too many websites that don't meet the most basic levels of accessibilty.

Many Internet users with disabilities find web sites difficult or even impossible to use simply because of the way they are designed. We are working hard to provide a site that is helpful to all our customers.

We are aware of the types of adaptive technology used by people with disabilities and have redesigned pages to ensure compatibility with as many of these systems as possible. Changes include keeping text clear (italic fonts can be hard to read) and making sure links adequately describe where they go ('click here' does not mean much in isolation).

We have rebuilt the site to meet Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Content Accessibility Guidelines set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and we aim, wherever possible, to ensure we conform to 'Double-A' standards. You can find out more about the initiative on W3C's website opens in a new window icon

Accessible design means making sure that your site can be used by the widest group of people possible. As well as being a sensible objective, since 1999 the Disability Discrimination Act it's a legal requirement.

About 20% of the UK population have some kind of disability and many of these people will find it difficult to use a lot of sites currently on the web. This site is built to W3C web standards. These standards govern many aspects of a site's construction and ensure that it can be accessed effectively by people with a wide range of abilities and technologies. This is particularly important where the user may be using assistive technology such as a screen reader.

Why Web Accessibility is Important

The Web is an increasingly important resource in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more. It is essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. An accessible Web can also help people with disabilities more actively participate in society.

The Web offers the possibility of unprecedented access to information and interaction for many people with disabilities. That is, the accessibility barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through Web technologies.