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1. Accessing The Inaccessible - Introduction

This page explains the basics of web browsers. It is one of the series of pages which contain self-help advice to help people who have poor but useful vision to access web pages more easily. Some of the advice may help people with other needs.

The examples are based on Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or 6.0 (MSIE5.5) running on Microsoft Windows 98se.

Pages in this series:

  1. Introduction to Accessibility.
  2. Adapting the Web Browser.
  3. Introduction to User Style Sheets.
  4. Introduction to HTML.
  5. How to Write a User Style Sheet.
  6. Using Special Software Tools.
  7. Internet Glossary and Guide.

Disclaimer

This information is supplied "as is". Neither Curlew Communications Limited nor the author take responsibility for any loss or damage caused by use of the information.


Page Contents

Introduction

There are several approaches to making web pages more accessible. These include:

Many organizations are working improve the standard of web design and make web pages more accessible to more people. Leading organizations include:

Curlew Communications Consultancy welcomes these initiatives and tries to follow their guidance. However, many web sites do not yet meet these standards and some probably never will. The aim of these pages is to provide self-help information so that people can make their own adaptations to their PCs and software to suit their specific needs and thus provide better access to some of the difficult sites.

These pages concentrates on tips for people with poor but useful vision who use PCs running Microsoft Windows® type software. The examples are based on Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or 6.0 (MSIE5.5) running on Microsoft Windows 98se.


Browser Basics

Web browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer are software programs which allow the user to "browse" the Internet. When the PC user requests a web page, the browser fetches a copy of that web page from the appropriate "server" computer on the Internet and then displays it on the user's PC. The visual appearance of the web page depends largely on the design of that page but can be modified by the settings in the browser.

Simple HTML web pages such as this one are written as text, where parts of the text are marked with special tags. Web browsers are programmed to interpret these tags so that some parts of the page are displayed as headings, parts as paragraphs, parts in bold text, and so on. This language is called "Hyper Text Markup Language" (HTML).

Usually, the HTML "Source" Code of a web page can viewed. In MSIE5.5 this is via the web browser's View menu:   Alt + v ..... source

At first, HTML encoding looks difficult. However it has a fairly simple structure rather like the structure of WordPerfect 5.1® documents when viewed via the "Reveal Codes" facility. The encoding of these web pages has deliberately been kept simple.


Default Settings

When first installed on a PC, web browsers are programmed to provide a default (standard) interpretation of these HTML tags. Although this default setting may suit many people, most web browsers allow the user to customize (modify) the individual settings to suit their particular needs. Style Sheets can also alter the behaviour of the web browser.

Note. Changing the basic setting of your web browser only changes the appearance of pages displayed on your PC. It does not change the original pages on the Internet. Changes should not damage your PC and are easily reversible - provided that you remember what you have changed! It is therefore best to make only one change at a time.


Difficult Web Pages

Some complex web pages use special programs such as Java® or Java Script®, to produce particular effects. Others require special plug-in programs such as Flash®. The appearance of some of these complex pages is fixed by the author and cannot easily be adapted by the user. Unfortunately this means that some pages can be accessed only by people with perfect vision, using large VDUs. Generally, these complex web pages are also very slow to download.

Some badly designed web pages can be read only using the web author's settings. Sometimes small changes of the background or text colours can make text invisible. Similarly, increasing the text size can make lines overlap. Adapting these pages is possible but takes more time and effort. User Style Sheets and special software tools can help.

If you regularly visit particular web pages, it is worth experimenting to find the best settings for each page.

Most commercial web sites, especially on-line banks and supermarkets, are keen to serve their customers. If you have a particular problem with such a web site, the site's "Webmaster" should be keen to help.

Some web sites provide special facilities or even separate sites for "Special Needs." Some special facilities work well (possibly better than the main site!) and are kept up to date. Unfortunately, some contain obsolete information and tend to assume that anyone with a disability also has a poor intellect.


Next Page:


Pages in this Series:

  1. Introduction to Accessibility.
  2. Adapting the Web Browser.
  3. Introduction to User Style Sheets.
  4. Introduction to HTML.
  5. How to Write a User Style Sheet.
  6. Using Special Software Tools.
  7. Internet Glossary and Guide.


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