Chris Faber: (02) 9716 9744 or 0418 224 784

Andy Griffiths: (02) 9876 8107 or 0407 226 472


Accessibility

"Web accessibility refers to the practice of making Web pages accessible to people using a wide range of user agent software and devices, not just standard Web browsers. This is especially important for people with disabilities such as visual impairment. In order to access the Web, some users require special software or devices in addition to a standard web browser, or specially designed web browsers. Design for accessibility is a sub-category of good design for usability." .. Wikipedia

Even though in many situations, accessibility seems only relevant to those with disabilities, accessibility is more correctly seen as a means of providing equity to all manner of visitors, that is, even visitors with low bandwidth, old browser with limited stylesheet support, unable or unwilling to use javascript or flash (corporate policy or limited capability browser), or must use a screen reader should all be able to make full use of the website.

Why worry about Accessibility?

At one level the answer is simply "social equity". Everyone deserves equal opportunity to experience all services available. But even if you are not into this as a concept, it also makes sense from a commercial viewpoint. Can you afford to ignore any potential customers? Many websites do and as a result they alienate whole groups of potential users.

Still not sure why you should worry about accessibility. Then what about legal obligations? In the Wikipedia article aleady mentioned, it points out some of the countries around the world that have introduced legislation requiring accessibility standards compliance. In case you don't want to read the article, legislation requiring some level of compliance is enacted in Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland and United States of America. There is also legislation in New Zealand that is relevant to this issue. The Australian legislation is interesting because it is not specifically about Web Standards, it is about Discrimination generally. This legislation has been applied by the courts to apply to websites. Many other countries will have similar legislation.

What's our Accessibility Strategy?

First, we are very aware of the major elements that limit accessibility. When we build or optimise a website, we incorporate these elements directly into the design. These elements can be addressed by simple measures such as ensuring all images utilise the alt attribute and javascript is not needed for navigation.

We then process the pages through accessibility validation software and review the site in accordance with any relevant guidelines and incorporate any necessary changes into the web pages.

We also encourage our customers to provide a page on the site setting out attempts to make the site compliant and provide a mechanism for reporting difficulties experienced by the visitors. An example of this is our own Accessibility Statement.

We have to confess we are not experts at Accessibility. The process we outlined is not fool proof, but we are very aware of the issue and are always striving to implement accessible websites. We are willing to accept and act on constructive criticism.

Conclusion

Many web builders and designers fail to take accessibility issues into account when they build or modify a website. We feel this is an essential part of the process that can easily be accommodated in the design / build process without adding significantly to the cost.

As we discuss in our article SEO Method, accessibility compliance works hand in hand with SEO strategies. Why wouldn't you want to make your website compliant?

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