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Web Accessibility: How Improving Online Communication For The Blind Aids Businesses

1958 words - 8 pages

Many businesses are struggling in today’s sluggish economy. According to ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate, total retail sales for Christmas week 2010 were down 4.1 percent and foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores fell 6.1 percent. To increase sales, companies must look for new marketing ideas and revenue streams. Web advertising and the creation of online storefronts— ‘click-and-mortar’ stores versus ‘brick-and-mortar’ stores—are two such ideas (Journal of Interactive Advertising 2002). To appeal to larger audiences, companies also want to target the massive “Baby Boomer” generation. Businesses can increase their Web presence effectively and efficiently by creating sites that appeal to the Baby Boomers as they age and to all visually impaired people. They do this by using Web accessibility.
The term visually impaired refers to people who report they have difficulty seeing even while wearing corrective lenses as well as those who are blind, according to the American Foundation of the Blind. The World Health Organization (WHO) divides vision into four categories: normal vision, moderate visual impairment, severe visual impairment, and blindness. Low vision refers to individuals who have “moderate visual impairment” and “severe visually impairment.” The low vision category includes legally blind individuals; the Braille Institute defines a legally blind person as someone who “central vision acuity” is 20/200 or less even with corrective lenses, such as glass or contact lenses. Low vision and blindness comprise the spectrum of visual impairment. The WHO states that globally glaucoma, cataracts, and “uncorrected refractive errors, such as myopia and astigmatism, are the major causes of visual impairment. According to Lighthouse International, the WHO reports that there are currently over 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired including 39 million who are blind and 246 million who have moderate to severe visual impairment. In addition, the WHO predicts that countries do not take preventative steps, these numbers will increase to 75 million blind individuals and 200 million visually impaired people by the year 2020.
25.2 million adults in the United States experience “significant vision loss” according to the 2008 National Health Interview Survey Provisional Report. In addition, vision loss among the so-called “Baby Boomer” Generation is quickly rising. The Baby Boomer Generation consists of the 119 million people born between 1946 and 1965. People born between 1946 and 1955 are “Early Boomers” and those born between 1956 and 1965 are “Late Boomers.” According to Lighthouse International, current estimates of the number of Baby Boomers with a visual impairment are 15-20 million. Various studies show that by 2030, the number of blind or visually impaired people in the United States will double because of the aging baby boomer population (World Health Organization, Lighthouse International).
As the U.S. heads into the...

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