Kamis, 30 April 2009

What makes an accessible website?

There is a lot of confusion regarding web sites that are 'accessible'. Many people automatically assume that it has something to do with disabled people and they'd be partly right. With approximately 8.5 million disabled users of the internet in the UK it is a very valid point (more about that later) but it's not the full story. It's more a story of acceptable standards.

It comes down to this:

Standards + Compliance = Accessibility

The mad gold rush

Imagine it is the early nineties and the Internet is beginning to take off. Who exactly is writing the script of how it works? And more importantly, who is reading? Web pages were being created in HTML, (Hypertext Transfer Markup Langauge).

This meant that if you wrote some code in a certain way you had a page in a certain format that anyone with access to the Internet could read. Gold Rush!

Now, there were some very skilled practitioners of this, but then again, there were also some cowboys.

We started to Bodge it

I say we, I know I did (in the bad old days before I saw the light). New software came out that meant we could create web pages without having to code. It was great… wasn't it?

Well not really, because we ended up with lots of websites that exploited the way browsers displayed web pages. We used tables to cheat layouts; we used frames to make use of slow download speeds.

Another important point to mention is that the browsers, although similar, had (and continue to have) slight nuances between each other that displayed web pages slightly differently.

Yes, we ignored the user because it was easier for us to build web pages that way. You can excuse everyone for that, but not anymore.

Let me ask you a question!

You are using a word processor and you are creating a document that also includes a list, do you:

  • Assign style sheets to all the subheadings or just make them bold and slightly bigger?
  • Tab your list items across, or put in lots of spaces?

This is a very basic example of what standards are.

W3C and WAI

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the guardian of the internet:

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential. W3C is a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding.

Hooray, a set of standards! Not only that but they introduced the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops strategies, guidelines, and resources to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities.

Rules and Guidelines

So now we had a set of standards. If only we could enforce them then the whole world could live happily ever after: People with disabilities would be able to access the entire web and the Internet could transform into something so much more.

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995

Discrimination against disabled people is not just an ethical issue, it is now law and that includes your web site.

  • 19. - (1) It is unlawful for a provider of services to discriminate against a disabled person-
    • (a) in refusing to provide, or deliberately not providing, to the disabled person any service which he provides, or is prepared to provide, to members of the public;

The relevant text can be read on the OPSI web site.

Is Having An Accessible web site important?

Easy answer - yes.

There are cases of large organisations being taking to court for not having an accessible web site and being seen to be discriminating. Although these are rare at the moment, the profile of these cases mean that large companies are taking note. Late 2005, for instance, saw a lot of the banks relaunch new accessible web sites.


Creating a web site to be accessible is not hard and neither is it some kind of voodoo. You shouldn't see it as big brother telling you what to do, you should embrace the standards. It actually makes great business sense. As a web design agency, we can honestly prove the following major advantages:

  • Accessible Web Sites get better traffic because the search engines can easily find the content (as long as it's good content).
  • Accessible web site design is cheaper in the long-run. Accessible web sites are easier to maintain and update, adding pages and sections.

Other Advantages

If that doesn't convince you that your business does need an accessible web site, perhaps this will.

An accessible web site opens your business up to the web. It is the standard. Imagine suddenly speaking the same language as everyone else, including search engines. They start wanting to talk back - as long as you have something worthwhile to talk about, of course.

Is your Web Site Accessible?

The best place to start is by going to the W3C Validation Markup Service and validating your web site. If the page turns red perhaps the second step is one of the below.

Source http://www.the-escape.co.uk

3 komentar:

  1. Great Blog and the answer your questions, I guess I'm a standard category. Thanks again for linking up. Will be back again to your blog.