Website Accessibility Fares Poorly
Unfortunately, I’m not surprised by the unsatisfactory results found testing websites for accessibility as published in the July, 2004 issue of First Monday. A multitude of websites from Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany were tested, and fifty US government websites were tested for accessibility and standards compliance. The results were quite disappointing, as detailed in their two new articles:
- A comparative assessment of Web accessibility and technical standards conformance in four EU states
- Assessing the accessibility of fifty United States government Web pages: Using Bobby to check on Uncle Sam
As Jim Ellison stated in the latter article’s conclusion,
As demonstrated by this study, as well as in earlier studies, even organizations that are motivated and mandated to provide 100 percent access have not achieved this goal. Unfortunately, there are many more organizations and individuals that have neither the mandate nor the motivation to make sure that electronic information placed on the Internet and in other electronic formats is accessible. There is great potential for accessibility for all—but a lot of work remains to be done to make this dream a reality. If the U.S. government cannot ensure accessibility of its own Web pages, it cannot credibly advocate that other organizations provide accessible information.
So, What’s the Answer?
Greater awareness and education about how to create more accessible websites would certainly help. It’s also been my observation that many people just don’t care, or they figure there aren’t enough people who need accessible sites for them to bother. I see these attitudes as shooting themselves in the foot, however. Creating a more accessible site helps search engines, makes a site more user-friendly, and provides access to an even wider audience and alternative devices. It’s not just about allowing for the disabled. There’s very little “extra work” involved when accessibility guidelines are built into a website right from the start. Sites don’t have to be any less attractive to be more accessible, either.