Web accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users can have equal access to information and functionality.Extract from the Wikipedia article "Web accessibility"
The Wikipedia article quoted above is a good introduction to what "Web accessibility" is, and why it's so important. Our website is designed to be as accessible as possible, by following the guidelines and standards published by W3C.
This page contains some tips and tricks for getting the most out of this website. For example, did you know that most graphical webbrowsers (such as Internet Explorer and FireFox) allow you to increase the font sizes used? Have you noticed that our website doesn't rely on images to convey information? If you're on a slow connection, you can view this website a lot quicker by turning off the images.
Here we're going to highlight a few of useful tricks which you may have not known about before. These should all apply to any website you view, however the degree to which they work depends greatly on how carefully the website was designed.
Despite Internet Explorer's popularity (it comes with Microsoft Windows as default) it does not support many of the accessibility features listed on this page. Opera, a free alternative which run on most operating systems (including Windows, Linux and MacOSX), supports a whole wealth of accessibility features. It's completely free to download, so you have nothing to lose by trying it out. All the instructions on this page have been tested in Opera, although many of them work in other browsers too (we've noted where this is the case). Opera can be downloaded from www.opera.com.
Resizing fonts (Opera, FireFox, IE 5&6)
The simplest and often most useful trick is to resize the fonts. To fit as much information on a page as possible, many web designers (including ours) use very small fonts to maximise space. This is fine for anyone with a large display and good vision, but for people who struggle to read smaller text or those with smaller displays this can prove a problem.
You can increase the font sizes used by pressing the Ctrl and + keys together. To decrease them (make them smaller), press Ctrl and -. To use the default font sizes again, press Ctrl and 0.
Resizing fonts can also be performed by holding Ctrl and scrolling your mouse's wheel up or down.
High contrast fonts (Opera, FireFox)
Another useful trick for people who struggle reading black on white text (often people with dyslexia) can view this website with a "high contrast" style. In FireFox you can change the "page style" by selecting View, Page Style and then High contrast menu item. This will alter the website's design by changing to a page with a tinted background and high contrast colours. When viewing the website like this, you can still alter the font-size as described above.
You can do the same in Opera by selecting View, Style, High contrast. Opera doesn't stop there however. Under that same menu you will see a wide range of other options, each of which improve the readability for people with different disabilities.
Keyboard navigation (Opera, FireFox)
If you can't use (or don't have) a mouse, you can instead navigate our website entirely by using just a keyboard. So called "Access keys" allow you to use short cuts to navigate rather than the conventional "point-and-click". They're supported in FireFox, but at the time of writing, not particularly well. Opera on the other hand supports them perfectly, and is definitely the best choice for keyboard-only users.
Access keys in Opera are activated by pressing Shift and Esc together. A menu will then appear listing all the access keys on the current page. Pressing any of these keys (on the keyboard) will immediately navigate to that page (or item).
Again Opera has loads of features for people without a mouse (infact, the browser does not require the use of a mouse at all!) Their website lists all these.
Disabling graphics (Opera, FireFox, IE)
Most graphical browsers provide a way of disabling website graphics. In Opera, simply select View, Images, No images. Immediately all images on the page will disapear.
In FireFox, click Edit, Preferences and select the Content tab. You will see an option titled "Load images automatically", untick this and save the settings. Images will still appear from websites you've already visisted because they are "cached". Once the cache has expired (or you visit a new website) the images will disappear.
In Internet Explorer it's a bit more of a mission. Enter the Internet Options and select the third tab. Scroll down the lengthy list of options and you will see "Display images". Untick this option and save the settings.
Our website should view on any text only browser, if you're on a slow internet connection and would like such a browser (they download less from websites and tend to be very small downloads themselves) then you might want to try links, which is a free text based browser.