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What's It Like to Access the Web With a Disability?

abstract art with wheelchairs, laddersAccessing the Web can be frustrating if you have a disability. Images that don't have text alternatives, uncaptioned video, and multimedia that does not work with assistive technologies are just a few things that may cause frustration and even complete barriers to the WWW.

Please see the descriptions below to learn about the hardware and software used by people with disabilities use to access the Internet.


Blind users of the Web typically use software called screen readers to read the contents of a Web page out loud. JAWS, from Freedom Scientific, is the screen reader available to students here at SCC. JAWS allows individuals to navigate the computer operating system, in addition to reading text-based information on the Internet. Accessible Web content is especially important for JAWS users.

 Ever wonder how a blind person will "see" your Web page? Listen to this audio simulation of a screen reader interpreting an accessible and an inaccessible Web page.

Low Vision

Low vision users will also use JAWS if the computer monitor strains their eyes. Screen magnification software, such as ZoomText from Ai Squared, is commonly used to enlarge and enhance everything on the screen, making applications easy to see and use. Magnification levels range from 1x to 16x the normal screen resolution.

 Experience the Web with a variety of visual impairments. View WebAIM's low vision simulation. (5 minutes)

Mobility Impairments

Mobility Impaired users typically rely on the keyboard or other specialized hardware/software (instead of the mouse) to navigate Web pages. The Tab and Enter keys are often used instead of the mouse. Voice recognition software, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking from Scansoft, may also be used to navigate the Web completely hands-free.

 What type of assistive technologies (AT) are people with mobility impairments using to access the Web? View WebAIM's summary of AT for mobility impairments.

Hearing Impairments

Hearing Impaired users generally will not use assistive technologies, but instead they have a need for all auditory content to be converted into an accessible format. For example, video clips should be captioned and sound clips should have written transcripts.

 Think that you don't have to consider web accessibility for people who are deaf or hearing impaired? Visit WebAIM's Introduction to Auditory Disabilities.

Cognitive Impairments

Cognitively Impaired users who have dyslexia or other literacy difficulties may or may not use assistive technologies. Well-designed and user-friendly Web sites are especially important to these users. Sites that are organized, consistent, and have clear directions will help all students.

Kurzweil 3000, from Kurzweil Educational Systems, is a program that allows users to simultaneously view and listen to Web content read aloud to them. It is our most used type of assistive technology used on campus!


Other groups requiring accessible content include people with seizure disorders and color blindness. Web content that references color will be hard for someone who is color blind to interpret. For example, directions that say to "click on the green link" would be hard for someone who has a red/green color deficiency.

 Want to see what the world looks like to someone who is color blind? Check out the Vischeck website!

apples apples to someone that is colorblind

Sacramento City College
Last updated on: October 2, 2006
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