October 11, 2005

Access Denied

In many web shops it's all too often the case that accessibility features get ignored. Either the schedule doesn't allow for the extra time involved in implementing and testing these features, or they just don't bubble up the chain of importance to become any sort of priority. For some unexplainable reason it can be easy for the development community to forget that there are millions of people in the United States alone who have disabilities that can affect the way they interact with software.

What strikes me as morbidly amusing is the notion that sites might generally become more accessible as a result of the recent SEO hype, rather than recognizing the value of accessibility in and of itself. For example, making sure alternate text is available and formatted properly for webcrawlers is also likely to benefit those who surf with screen readers. While many business owners might simply shrug and approve of this two-birds-with-one-stone mentality, it seems as if the ethical implications go silently unaddressed. Don't developers have a responsibility to try to make their software as inclusive as possible for all different kinds of people?

Watchfire has a good site that allows you to test pages for "quality, accessibility and privacy issues". In addition to summarizing other concerns, it gives a good run down on instances in your source where you are not meeting accessibility needs as defined by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and Section 508 standards. After playing around with this tool I was surprised to discover that even large portal sites have some accessibility problems that need to be fixed. It may be helpful and make you more aware of accessibility issues within your own sites to run this or a similar tool during testing.

1 comment:

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