Beware The Charlatans
The year 2007 saw a lot of new site launches, from the Provincial Government
to a number of Charities and all have been a big disappointment when it comes
to accessibility. It's nice to see that they're at least addressing the issue,
but I believe that it has more to do with the people behind the creation of
These companies claim that they can create an accessible website, yet their
own website isn't remotely accessible and to top it off, they cant even produce
work they've done that proves their so called expertise in this area. If you
buy their story and go ahead and use them then you are looking at retrofitting
down the road. These charlatans dont care, all they're interested in is your
Once you bring the inaccessibility of your site to their attention the excuses
start to fly. Stop me if you've heard these.
- When we built the site it was accessible. Right, sure it was. Anyone with the
minimum knowledge of accessible design knows that at no point was it ever accessible.
- We have so many people updating the site that accessibility has suffered. To
some degree this is possible, but people submitting articles etc are not doing
anything to the back end where the real accessibility issues are present, this
was a design issue from the start.
- This site is a work in progress and we are addressing the accessibility issues
as we go along. Really? Would you put the foundation of a house in after it
is built? Of course not, then why would you start putting accessibility in after
you've already built the site. I'd say for 2 reasons.
- 1) You really don't have a clue about web accessibility
- 2) You're just interested in making money and adding to your reputation.
So a little advice for anyone having a website designed in the coming year,
or even some retrofitting, do some homework, don't just take the advice of some
big slick marketer whose got some swamp land in Florida for you to buy at a
Some Tips Before You Get Started
- Check out the companies own website. You can use any online accessibility
checker like Bobby at http://webxact.watchfire.com/
and the W3C Validator at http://validator.w3.org/
. Remember that this is only a first step and is not always accurate since
some of these charlatans know how to doctor them so it looks like their site
is up to standards. More often than not their site will fail miserably. If
it does, run in the opposite direction and fast.
- Ask to see their work, if they cant show you then again, turn and run as fast as you can. If they do have a portfolio, then use the method above and check their work, but clutch your wallet tightly, an accessible site shouldn't cost too much more than one that isn't.
- Perhaps the best method would be to consult an accessibility expert to do a simple audit of their site, this shouldn't cost you anything and you will get an assessment of the companies level of expertise, or lack there of.
Things To Look For
When assessing a site for accessibility there are a number of things you can look for when deciding if the site is accessible or not. This is not a comprehensive list.
- Code should be valid
- Look for "skip links" at the very top of the page
- See if there is semantic markup such as headings and lists and they are used
correctly, for example the first heading should be "level 1".
- Images that have important content should have a description, if it cant be
held in the alt text, then a long description should be used instead.
- Look for a way to customize the site, such as changing background and foreground colours.
- If you see any multimedia such as Flash, make sure there are text equivalents.
- Make sure the navigation is consistent throughout the entire site and easy to understand.
- Make sure link phrases make sense when read out of context, for example don't use "click here" and "read more".