Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

Consider the Ease of Reading, and the Language Level

One aspect often forgotten about accessibility on the web is the use of appropriate language. This is primarily aimed at people who have learning or cognitive impairments. But others benefit as well. There are a lot of people on the web that don’t speak English. Simple content will be easier to understand. Of course, there is a difference between simple, and simplistic. And you also have to consider your audience.

Obviously if your website aims at people working on their third doctoral degree in astrophysics, chances are that "simple language" is not possible. But most sites benefit from straight forward language.

It was interesting to realise that at one point not that far back, 70% of the Mambo Core team spoke English as a second language. We had Italians, South Americans, Dutch, Germans, Turks, and French people on board. Only a few people from the US, the UK, or New Zealand. Even though English is the fourth language I learned, it brought the point home: many people function on the web through the use of Babelfish, or Google translator. And these translation engines are notorious for translating innacurately. Hence, simple language is essential. Even this post is probably too complicated for many people (see below for an illustration of this).

With more people in non-English speaking countries accessing the web, searching for information, wanting to purchase your products, it is a good idea to ensure that they fully understand your content. It is to your advantage to ensure your content is understood!

Then there are those of us who did not benefit from good education. A lot of people are coming online today that have not finished high school (I’m talking about adults, not teenagers for whom it is natural not to have finished school yet). Simple text will make it easier for them to "get" the content.

But then, of course, people who do have learning or cognitive impairments will also benefit from such improvements to your site.

An example of automated translation engine

This post was translated to French using Babelfish, then the translation was run through Babelfish again to get back to English.

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