Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Is web2.0 accessible to all?

For years people have been citing accessiblity as a key requirement for any company website. Groups such as the WAI (Web Accesibility Initiative, part of the W3C) exisit to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. And quite rightly! Apart from this being the legal & responsible approach, to just ignore a key section of users could be a missed revenue or communication opportunity.

These days most company sites are now build to standards and with at least some understanding of accessibility issues. However, with the "new and improved" Web2.0 there are addition issues cased, such as:

1. JavaScript is used everywhere in Web2.0
I was once told by someone (stupid) I worked with "We don't need to use JavaScript any more Hayden. Since you think its so bad for disabled users, we've found out about a new technology we can use instead..... Its called AJAX". I still remember the look on their face when I told them what the "J" in AJAX stood for.
Now JavaScript creates issues for accessibility if done either badly or with little thought, however there are ways to combine them (including the work done on Accessible Rich Internet Applications).
Take a look at the following resource for the most definitive collection of articles written about this subject:
http://www.maxkiesler.com/index.php/weblog/comments/how_to_make_your_ajax_applications_accessible/

2. Beta versions of sites seem to forget about accessibility.
I'm sure people forget about accessibility when they consider what they are doing as ground-breaking. Standards seem to slip on these occasions and coding for all users (not just the majority) is left. The issue is that an awful lot of Web2.0 stuff that its users think is experimental has been around for ages now and seem to be stuck in permanent Beta. Even some of the more popular site forget about accessibility, including some key Social Networks:
http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/2008/04/02/are-social-networks-accessible/

However.....

New technologies can be used to reach more people if used correctly. Video, often cited for its lack of usefulness for bling people can be used for the deaf. For excample the video-based sign language site run by BT is a welcome and very public step towards a more accessible means of web communication. Using broadband enabled video to provide information about the company's products and services in British Sign Language (BSL), BT was the first FTSE 100 company to offer its customers this service.
http://www.btplc.com/Innovation/HelpingSociety/btsign/index.htm
Post a Comment