Web Standards, Accessibility and Sri Lanka
Today web designing industry is focused more on standard based web development and it had developed to the extent of “Each web page must be standard compliant and semantically correct.” This gives no room for designers who still use tables for layout handling and WYSWYG editor such as Frontpage to create pages. Another aspect that comes with Semantics and Standards is the Accessibility. This means allowing using a web site for a disabled person without any discrimination (I hope I got my definition right).
The real value of semantically correct web page occurs when it is accessed through a screen reader or a brail system. I personally believe if every web site adopt semantics and standards internet will be the most easiest medium to gain knowledge for the disabled. Compared to the costs and time of Brail books and Audio Cassettes, Internet is far more cheaper and they could access information as it releases (no need to wait years for a Brail version of a book). They only have to get a screen reader or a brail reader/writer. This is what the real value of internet. Truly it vanishes the boundaries and limits.
Let’s think how this applies to Sri Lanka. When it comes to the rights of the disabled, we are far behind. Very few buildings are “Wheelchair Accessible” and public transport haven’t even thought of disabled. So how Internet Accessibility matters to the country like us ? Few weeks ago, I watched a television interview with a professor at Paradeniya University, who is visually impaired (forgive me for not remembering his name). He integrate computer and internet seamlessly for his academic work. It’s a one instance and I don’t have an idea how much they use internet for their education in the schools for disabled. If they can really get the maximum out of internet, they could be par on match with others in knowledge and education. Only matter of fact is adequate technology and accessible resources.
Another point is if we could get many services online and make them accessible (at least banking and other government form-filling processes), it will give the disabled a power in doing their work on their own.
So I guess it’s nice if all the web designers in Sri Lanka will give a concern in producing accessible web sites in future.