Web Accessibility and Older People:
Meeting the Needs of Ageing Web Users
(This page was developed as part of the WAI-AGE Project, introduced below.)
Older Web users are an increasing market segment and an important target group for many businesses, governments, and other organizations.
Web developers, managers, and owners who want to make their websites, web applications, and web tools usable by older users can use existing international accessibility guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
WAI's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0 materials include guidelines and techniques for making websites and web applications work better for people with disabilities as well as older users with accessibility needs due to ageing. WAI's User Agent Accessibility Guidelines UAAG explains how to make web browsers and media players accessible, which is of particular importance to older users who have accessibility needs that should be met through the browser instead of requiring additional assistive technologies.
Many older people have age-related impairments that can affect how they use the Web, such as declining:
- vision - including reduced contrast sensitivity, color perception, and near-focus, making it difficult to read web pages
- physical ability - including reduced dexterity and fine motor control, making it difficult to use a mouse and click small targets
- hearing - including difficulty hearing higher-pitched sounds and separating sounds, making it difficult to hear podcasts and other audio, especially when there is background music
- cognitive ability - including reduced short-term memory, difficulty concentrating, and being easily distracted, making it difficult to follow navigation and complete online tasks
These issues overlap with the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. Thus, websites and tools that are accessible to people with disabilities are more accessible to older users as well.
Accessibility for Older Users" Presentation
Presents the changing worldwide demographics, the prevalence and impact of age-related limitations and older people's use of the Web, some requirements of older users, and the role of WAI accessibility guidelines in meeting these requirements.
Users Online - WAI Guidelines address older users' Web experience
(Originally published in User Experience Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 1, 2009)
Explains age-related impairments that impact Web use, requirements for web design that enhance the ability of older people to use the Web, how existing accessibility guidelines for people with disabilities cover the needs of older users, and future work in this area.
Accessibility for Older Users: A Literature Review
Provides detailed research on ageing age-related impairments and Web accessibility.
- Better Web Browsing: Tips for Customizing Your
Provides guidance for users on how to set your computer to work better for your specific needs and preferences so it's easier to use websites; for example, enlarging text, making the mouse pointer bigger, and using the keyboard instead of the mouse to browse websites.
Organizations about Inaccessible Websites
Provides guidance on what to do when you come across a website that has accessibility barriers that make it hard to use. Explains how to identify key contacts, describe the problem, and follow-up as needed. Includes sample e-mails.
- Developing Websites for Older People:
How Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Applies
Introduces how to use WCAG 2.0 to improve the accessibility and usability of websites and web applications for older people.
The resources listed in the previous sections address various aspects web accessibility related to web users who are older and the overlap with web users who have disabilities. Additional resources available through the WAI website navigation also touch on this issue, including:
- Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization, specifically the sections Overlap with Older Users' Needs and Access for Older People
- How People with Disabilities Use the Web, specifically the sections on older users
- Involving Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility
Web Accessibility Initiative: Ageing Education and Harmonisation (WAI-AGE) is a European Commission IST Specific Support Action with the goal of increasing accessibility of the Web for older people as well as for people with disabilities in European Union Member States. It focuses on:
- Better understanding the needs of older web users
- Participation of older users in W3C standardization
- Development of educational materials and resources
- Pursuit of international standards harmonization
To learn more about the WAI-AGE project, see the WAI-AGE Project page, which includes: