W3C Web Accessibility Initiative

This page contains material from a presentation at the WAI Best Practices Exchange Training in Madrid, Spain in February 2004. It is not intended to stand-alone; rather, it is primarily provided as reference material for participants in the training.

Panel: Web Accessibility Issues for People with Disabilities

Shadi Abou-Zahra, W3C WAI

Last updated: 12 October 2004


Sylvie is totally blind. She has been working for five years at the BrailleNet association in France. Her main areas of work are the evaluation of Web sites, the training of Web site designers, webmasters and decision makers, and awareness raising on the necessity to make Web sites accessible to all. She works in co-operation with the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in the European Project WAI-TIEs: Web Accessibility Initiative Training, Implementation, Evaluation and Support. She uses Jaws for windows, Home Page Reader and Lynx to browse on the Web. The main problems she encounters on the Web are, for example, missing ALT text for images, use of Flash, opening of new windows, autorefreshing pages etc. She does not only use the Web for her work, but also at home to read information, do shopping on-line or book tickets.


Ignacio is deaf. Accompanied by monitor Isabel Pearez Hidalgo (ANFAS association).

The site for the University Technical College where Ignacio studies, is well designed for a deaf student, as all announcements spoken in class are published as text. The vocabulary is simple which makes it easy for him to read.

Meristation is an entertainment site for video gamers. It's easy to use as it has a simple navigation structure and the information is divided into blocks. It has lots of forums where he can post questions and an email address where users can send suggestions for improving the site.

In practice not many of the sites Ignacio visits have audio content, because it takes so long to download over a normal connection. the only ones are radio sites and some personal fan pages for music groups.

Luis Miguel

Luis is tetraplegic due to spinal cord injury (C4). He is a sociologist and does social research. He uses the Web for reference, to find documentation, and for entertainment. It is an essential tool for his work. He uses a combination of two voice-operated assistive software applications. One is Dragon Dictate for Microsoft Windows 95/98), which is now obsolete but works well for him. The other is Dragon NaturallySpeaking 5, a continuous dictation program that he also uses to browse the Web. The software he uses can emulate mouse and keyboard. The biggest barrier for him on the Web are small icons and link text: it's very difficult to position the mouse pointer on them and activating them with voice commands can be slow and clumsy.

"I think that my physical limitations are representative up to a point. Some people [like me] use a conventional mouse and others a head-stick."


Mabi has cerebral palsy. It limits her ability to speak and to move. For example, it is difficult for her to do things that require a fine degree of manual dexterity. So physical accessibility is especially important for her, including for Web pages. Using the Internet enables her to communicate with other people and to telework from home. Part of her work involves searching the Web for information about disability. One of the most frustrating things on the Web are pull-down menus; it's difficult to coordinate her movement to hold the mouse pointer over the menu long enough to click on the right link. Mabi's message is that disabled people can do the same things as those who are not, as long as they can adapt.

Mabi uses a large trackball and a headstick.


Marķa is 20. She suffers from cognitive (intellectual?) disability (Turner's syndrome). She attends a Special Education Centre in Madrid, in the final year of the Transition to Adult Life Programme.

At the weekend she likes to go out with her friends, go to the cinema. She's a member of a youth club and likes to play drums.

Marķa says "On the Web I look for different things at different times, different days: clothes, music, videos, films and general news. The other day I was reading about the royal wedding".

When there's too much information on a page, Marķa gets lost and it can be hard to find the important information. Small text. Long URLs that are hard to memorize. Banners with distracting animations. When there are lots of popup windows, it gets too frustrating and she sometimes exits the browser.

Mar”a likes Google. It has a plain simple design that is easy to use. When she makes a typing error, Google suggests the correct spelling. Marķa uses Google a lot to find information.


Felisa is manageress of a clothing boutique. She started using the computer and the Web a couple of years ago when she saw her granddaughters using one. She took a training course and now she teaches other elderly people at at a special resource centre.

The main problems she faces are using the mouse and failing eyesight that means she has to increase text size.

She likes to find out more information on things she already knows about. There's a lot of interesting information but often the text is very small and difficult to read. It can be very distracting when there are lots of adverts and popup windows about games and pornography.