Raising Our Web Standards

Image of Bar graph with words Raising our web standards

Image of Logo: W4A TPG Accessibility Challenge Delegate AwardTPG Accessibility Challenge Delegates Award at the 12th Web for All Conference

In today’s world of technological advancements and digitization, nearly every resource uses the Web as a base platform, including education, research, entertainment, health and daily life. Staying connected is of pressing importance, so the Web needs to benefit and be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. Out of this need the term Web Accessibility has emerged, and led to the development of standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Upwards of 285 million people across the globe are estimated to be visually impaired, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, most websites still have accessibility barriers that make it difficult for this population to access many important resources. In an empirical study of the problems encountered by blind users on the Web, results indicate that only 50.4 percent of the difficulties experienced by users were covered by the success criteria in the WCAG.

One major barrier the visually impaired encounter is access to information-embedded pages. Graphs have always been used in many different forms and variations to provide pictorial representation of data and information. The growing trend and demand for data visualization, through graphs as opposed to text, has led to further expansion of their various forms. To date, graphs are widely used across the Web, but most commonly as simple images. Consequently, a major goal of web accessibility is the adequate representation of graphs by screen readers.

While screen readers are somewhat adequate tools for recognizing text on web pages, they are still limited in extracting information from visual content, such as graphs. When graphs are displayed as images, their designers rely heavily on the ALT tag for screen readers to recognize them. However, to be most effective, the Web pages must follow and respect the guidelines recommended by WCAG.

Several algorithms have been devised to recognize the graph images on a web page and translate them into text format that can be read by screen readers. Owing to the algorithms limitations and strict requirements, a widely acceptable practical solution has yet to be proposed. Furthermore, ...
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by Ather Sharif

Ather Sharif is the founder of EvoXLabs and Spinal Cord Injury Video Blog. He’s pursuing a graduate degree in computer science at Saint Joseph’s University. A quadriplegic, software engineer, freelance web developer, researcher, and Google scholar, he has a passion for consulting on Web accessibility.



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