Web design for the disadvantaged.

Helping the disabled, poor, rural, elderly, illiterate, orphaned and disenfranchised gain access to knowledge and skills.

Precise figures are difficult to find and the ways they are measured vary, but in the United States about 18% are disabled in some way and something like 80% are either poor, rural, elderly, illiterate, orphaned or disenfranchised (including their families). How many fit in more than one of these groups is hard to tell, (for instance,  the median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year) but more than 50% of Americans qualify as disadvantaged.

World wide it is as much as 90%. – “Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted; in fact, nearly half do not have regular access to food, clean water, or shelter.” *

These statistics from an article in the New York Times gives the percentages of hi-speed access for some of the poor and minorities in the US: “… about 65 percent of all Americans have broadband access at home, but that figure is 40 percent in households with less than $20,000 in annual income. Half of all Hispanics and 41 percent of African-American homes lack broadband.” Similar low levels of hi-speed access appear to apply to the other disadvantaged groups.

In rural America median downstream speeds were between 1.5 Mbps to 3 Mbps in the first quarter of 2012. And upstream rates remained slow as well, with 95 percent receiving 1.5 Mbps or less.

66% of Americans are living on less than $30,000 a year which is above the poverty line, but makes a smart phone, a computer and wireless and wi-fi service relatively large expenses.

And more than 40% of U.S. adults in the lowest level on the literacy scale are living in poverty.


These are people who are often under stress and if people are under stress, the ways they respond are remarkably similar. “They get sad, distracted, aggressive, and tune out.” Addressing Poverty in the Schools

They also have a reduced sense of control of their lives, limited social resources and low self-esteem.

There are also problems of being able to afford the use of media, especially video, which take a large amount of bandwidth.


Many of disadvantaged are those with a slow internet connection. Much of their use of the internet is only by phone, for instance, these are the percentages of mobile-only users in five countries:

Text is the primary way they are able to receive and send information.

As Bill Clinton has pointed out: “Mobile technology is doing so much now to lift the poor,” ... noting that in many impoverished countries, smartphones are by far the cheapest alternative for gaining access to the Internet and all that now comes with it — banking services, communications, social media, et cetera.

And the information: “It should be accessible from any kind of hardware that can connect to the internet: stationary or mobile, small screen or large.”

Is it possible to make the web available to all within these limitations?

Yes, HTML can be done so that anyone can write for the web, using a text editor, and share that work with anyone else, regardless of the platform they are using, the speed of their connection and any disabilities they may have.

The basics

These five lines are essential to any web site which is going to work on all devices and be accessible – every page should begin with them.

<!doctype html>
<html lang=en>
<meta charset=utf-8>
<meta name=viewport content="width=device-width,user-scalable=yes">

lang=en will have to be changed if the site is in another language, so a text-to-speech reader will know how to pronounce the words.

Here are the HTML5 tags which are most frequently used within the <body> and help give your pages a meaningful structure so they can be navigated by a machine reader or someone using a screen reader.


The files are mostly text and use little or no scripting, so they are small, load quickly, and use few resources.

Here is a model site.

You can open the model site, save it, open it in a text editor, enter your text, save it as html, and post it to the web.

Making images scale on different devices

If you use images and want them to scale on different devices, add this to your style sheet: img{width:100%;height:auto}. The % can be varied.

Add this to the body: <img src="foo.jpg"alt="foo">


Most of web design is the designing of text – picking the fonts to use and shaping them with style sheets. The primary goal in designing text is to make it transparent, so that it is there to support the information it presents, without intruding on it.

How paragraphs are presented is a central part of the design of useful and unobtrusive text. Following these few directions will make them easier to read.

Any Unicode character can be inserted into a web page using either the decimal or hexadecimal format in two different ways: the decimal can be in the short form (&#65; A) or the long form (&#0065; A), as can the hexadecimal – short form (&#X41; A) or long form (&#X041; A)

If anyone says san-serif is better than serif, or the reverse, ask which fonts they mean, since Georgia iIl123 isnʼt the same as Times New Roman iIl123 and Verdana iIl123 isnʼt the same as Arial iIl123

Also find out which font-size, line-height and line-length will be used – they often matter more for readability than the font chosen.