Thursday, December 07, 2006

Inaccessible websites

The United Nations released a study on Tuesday announcing that Most websites flunk basic standards for disability accessibility.

This really comes to no surprise to most Internet professionals. The site I work for is certainly problematic. But with an upcoming relaunch, I hope to fix some of the known issues.

In October, I attended a lecture by Toronto Interacts (a local usability professional association) on this topic. While I was encouraged at how some easy things can be done to greatly improve access for visually impaired, it did seem like achieving full accessibility is almost impossible.

There are disabilities that are harder to addresses, such as those with mobility issues (hence keyboard shortcuts and enabling tabbing) and cognitive issues (this group seems very hard to address).

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has made accessibility a priority and has published useful guidelines and checklist.

One of the speakers at Toronto Interacts was Joe Clark. His website offers and incredible amount of detail and instruction on accessibility.

This issue is heating as various official bodies (such as the U.N.) are commenting on this and there's been some legal cases too, such as the high-profile case against Target recently.

Regardless of whether or not websites will eventually be forced to be more accessible, it really is the right thing to do, considering how it is often just some simple, basic changes that can make a world of difference to some users.

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