There are many great resources and ideas in helping to support people with disabilities in your parish and on your website through technology. With improving and affordable technology such as touch supports, voice recognition, and motion detection, more people with disabilities are finding access to the power of the internet and assistive computing.
Webmasters can help in making their websites more accessible to people with disabilities. The primary support should be through well crafted text in both body and alternate text. Alternate text is added to describe pictures or graphics for those who are blind or have impaired vision. It also helps with your search engine optimization for your site to help people find related content. Text should also never be used as a graphic image, as software will not be able to recognize it as text. Forms also need to have the descriptors before the entry lines, or you will lose your readers. Here is a very comprehensive Guide for website design ideas for people with disabilities from the Nielson Norman Group (140 pages).
Good website design is only one part of helping support people with disabilities using computers. Many of the individual devices and operating systems also have many settings that can help in assisting various disabilities. Adjusting size of text, touch assistance, Bluetooth, voice-over, and many other features can be found in the links below for computers, browsers, and operating systems (Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Firefox).
FIREFOX & CHROME
Firefox may be the best browser to support those with disabilities. Because Firefox supports open-source programming, many people within the disability community have contributed custom plug-ins that work with many devices and systems. You may also want to take a look at Google’s Chrome browser, as it also has many custom plug-ins that are being added every day, and one may be a better fit than others.
Here is a video demonstration from Dr. Joshua Miele demonstrating a new technology for using WearaBraille on an iphone with voice-over, and Bluetooth. Notice how he depends on the text from the websites to interact with his supporting programming:
We recently installed a Hearing Loop at my parish to help support people with hearing difficulties. A hearing loop works with most hearing aids and cochlear implants with telecoils (T-coils) by transmitting a signal that can be heard through their devices. Hearing Loops are beginning to be seen more publicly in airports, courtrooms, and performance halls. You can find out more about the cost of getting such a system for your parish at the link below for Hearing Loop.
I have personally worked for 20 years as a social worker among the disability community, and really they are a people of ABILITY, not disability. I learned that really, the only true disability is loneliness. The best thing a parish community can do is be loving and welcoming to those in the disability community.
Apple Accessibility (Disability Supports for all Apple products)
Firefox Accessibility (WebAIM)
Google Accessibility (Disability Supports for Google products)
Microsoft Accessibility (Help with Windows 7 & 8 Supports)
Web Accessibility Guidelines W3C Checklist (1999)