Beware The Validation Sticker!

I wrote an article a while back regarding Companies claiming to be able to create Accessible websites called "Beware the Charlatans" (1). In it I spoke of these Organizations making such a claim even though their own sites weren't accessible by today's best practices and standards as set out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). I warned that they were learning how to build accessible sites on the financial backs of their Clients. Now it would appear they have a new weapon in their arsenal and it's called the "Validation Sticker/Icon".

Perhaps you've seen them. These graphics or stickers are given out by the W3C Validator (2) when your code is valid, or if it was a building, built to Industry standards. You can add them to your webpage and they claim "Valid CSS" or "Valid XHTML" etc.

Building valid standards compliant accessible sites should be a matter of course, it doesn't need some fancy sticker to prove this, it should be self evident and you should be able to trust the Companies word. Right?

If you think that showing these stickers is a good think then think twice! Too many times I have come across these claims, checked the validity only to find that they don't pass at all. So much for trustworthiness. When contacted the Company will say things like "It was valid when we put it up" or some other excuse. Well I'm sorry that doesn't cut it, if it "was valid" then fix it, don't just leave it there and hope no one checks to see if it is true.

To make matters worse, I've seen some who claim that these stickers mean that the site is accessible and that is not necessarily true, these stickers only mean your site has past one guideline and that's all. It doesn't mean you've passed all the necessary ones to claim true accessibility. It's reasons like these that these stickers are looked down upon by real accessible web designers, it's like those amateur sites that have a hit counter that makes it appear that they have a heavily travelled site when we know that you can add any number to the counter you want to fool people.

With the impending standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) soon to come into effect it is important that your site be "Truly" accessible and not just pass a few guidelines that can be easily verified by some online validation checker. Sorry but it isn't that easy. You need to trust that the Company is giving you what you pay for and that is real accessibility, not some misleading badge.

I've noticed a lot of sites being redesigned over again that were supposed to be launched as accessible, guess some are still not doing their homework. So if a web design firm comes knocking and wants to build you an accessible site, complete with a fancy sticker that makes it appear that you have indeed taken the effort to do so, then if a year later you have to redesign, don't let it be said that you weren't warned.

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