The Web has rapidly become more and more pervasive in almost everybody’s lives. There are many daily activities that can be performed much more comfortably online. There are also daily activities that cannot be performed without using the Web. Much of the power of the Web comes from the fact that it presents information in a variety of formats and, therefore, is theoretically accessible by users using a variety of technologies, devices, and computer applications. The Web also becomes a medium to disseminate information in more places and times, and to more people of varying characteristics than any other media can ever achieve.
To create resources that can be used by the widest spectrum of potential visitors rather than an idealized “average,” there is a need to consider universality of Web delivery. As director of the W3C, Tim Berners-Lee, puts it: “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
This requires consideration of the needs and requirements of individuals with disabilities, older persons and children, people for whom English is a second language, people whose cultures and backgrounds are dissimilar to those of Web developers, and those using outdated hardware and software. This list is not an exhaustive list, and this book only scratches the surface of the need to think about nontraditional Web users in the Web design process.
For that reason, the key objective of this book is to look at the topic of universal Web design and evaluation in a new direction by focusing on the user aspect of universal Web design and interaction, and to present the wide range of advanced technology that can help disadvantaged users get access to Web information. The book discusses the basis of a broad framework for the development and evaluation of Web sites for people with various special needs, enriched with contributions from domains as diverse as education, information systems, library and information studies, computer science, business, clinical health, and many others.