Why Learn About Web Accessibility

The “Curb Cut” Effect: An Accessible Web Benefits All

Think about “curb cuts” as a great example of what is often thought of as universal design.

Curb cuts were originally added to streets to accommodate those in wheelchairs so they could get up from the road onto a sidewalk and vice versa. But curb cuts are helpful for many people — not just those in wheelchairs. A person pushing a baby stroller can now easily get on the sidewalk. A person riding a bike can more easily get on the sidewalk where the bike lockups are located. An elderly person, who may have difficulty stepping up to a curb or who may be using a walker, now has a smooth gradient and can walk onto the sidewalk rather than climb onto it. Curb cuts were designed to help those in wheelchairs but have come to benefit many.

From a web accessibility perspective, most of the accessibility features you might add to a website will have that so-called “curb cut effect.” For example, the text description one might include with an image to make the image’s meaning accessible to a person who is blind also makes it possible for search engines to index the image and make it searchable. It allows a person on a slow Internet connection to turn images off and still get the same information. Or it allows a person using a text-based browser, on a cell phone for instance, to access the same information as those using a typical visual browser. Virtually every such feature that might be put in place in web content to accommodate people with disabilities will improve access and usability for everyone else.

Key Point: Think of accommodations provided to improve web accessibility for people with disabilities as “curb cuts.” Like curb cuts, they will very likely improve usability for everyone.

Video: Web Accessibility by the Department of Social Services, Australian Government

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Introduction to Web Accessibility by Ryerson University, The Chang School is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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