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Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility

Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility
Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility
Purpose: Currently, dominant web accessibility standards do not respect disability as a complex and culturally contingent interaction; recognizing that disability is a variable, contrary and political power relation, rather than a biological limit. Against this background there is clear scope to broaden the ways in which accessibility standards are understood, developed and applied.

Methods: Commentary.

Results: The values that shape and are shaped by legislation promote universal, statistical and automated approaches to web accessibility. This results in web accessibility standards conveying powerful norms fixing the relationship between technology and disability, irrespective of geographical, social, technological or cultural diversity.

Conclusions: Web accessibility standards are designed to enact universal principles; however, they express partial and biopolitical understandings of the relation between disability and technology. These values can be limiting, and potentially counter-productive, for example, for the majority of disabled people in the “Global South” where different contexts constitute different disabilities and different experiences of web access. To create more robust, accessible outcomes for disabled people, research and standards practice should diversify to embrace more interactional accounts of disability in different settings.

Implications for Rehabilitation:

*Creating accessible experiences is an essential aspect of rehabilitation.

*Web standards promote universal accessibility as a property of an online resource or service. This undervalues the importance of the user’s intentions, expertize, their context, and the complex social and cultural nature of disability.

*Standardized, universal approaches to web accessibility may lead to counterproductive outcomes for disabled people whose impairments and circumstances do not meet Western disability and accessibility norms.

*Accessible experiences for rehabilitation can be enhanced through an additional focus on holistic approaches to accessibility blending digital and physical solutions, the use of BS 8878 and mixed-method approaches to accessibility benchmarking.

*Web standards and accessibility conformance should be considered together with user input and the recognition and development of local accessibility and rehabilitation expertize.
accessibility, cultural norms, disability theory, WCAG, web standards
0963-8288
1375-1383
Lewthwaite, Sarah
0e26d7cf-8932-4d65-8fea-3dceacf0ea88
Lewthwaite, Sarah
0e26d7cf-8932-4d65-8fea-3dceacf0ea88

Lewthwaite, Sarah (2014) Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility. Disability and Rehabilitation, 36 (16), 1375-1383. (doi:10.3109/09638288.2014.938178).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Purpose: Currently, dominant web accessibility standards do not respect disability as a complex and culturally contingent interaction; recognizing that disability is a variable, contrary and political power relation, rather than a biological limit. Against this background there is clear scope to broaden the ways in which accessibility standards are understood, developed and applied.

Methods: Commentary.

Results: The values that shape and are shaped by legislation promote universal, statistical and automated approaches to web accessibility. This results in web accessibility standards conveying powerful norms fixing the relationship between technology and disability, irrespective of geographical, social, technological or cultural diversity.

Conclusions: Web accessibility standards are designed to enact universal principles; however, they express partial and biopolitical understandings of the relation between disability and technology. These values can be limiting, and potentially counter-productive, for example, for the majority of disabled people in the “Global South” where different contexts constitute different disabilities and different experiences of web access. To create more robust, accessible outcomes for disabled people, research and standards practice should diversify to embrace more interactional accounts of disability in different settings.

Implications for Rehabilitation:

*Creating accessible experiences is an essential aspect of rehabilitation.

*Web standards promote universal accessibility as a property of an online resource or service. This undervalues the importance of the user’s intentions, expertize, their context, and the complex social and cultural nature of disability.

*Standardized, universal approaches to web accessibility may lead to counterproductive outcomes for disabled people whose impairments and circumstances do not meet Western disability and accessibility norms.

*Accessible experiences for rehabilitation can be enhanced through an additional focus on holistic approaches to accessibility blending digital and physical solutions, the use of BS 8878 and mixed-method approaches to accessibility benchmarking.

*Web standards and accessibility conformance should be considered together with user input and the recognition and development of local accessibility and rehabilitation expertize.

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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 20 June 2014
Published date: 10 July 2014
Keywords: accessibility, cultural norms, disability theory, WCAG, web standards
Organisations: Social Sciences

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 373522
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/373522
ISSN: 0963-8288
PURE UUID: 42053358-fb26-404b-8d32-36e8c6811856
ORCID for Sarah Lewthwaite: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-4480-3705

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 21 Jan 2015 15:15
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 03:04

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