Web Accessibility and UK Law: Telling It Like It Is

by Trenton Moss

95 Reader Comments

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  1. To add some clarifications on some points, the DDA code of practice is not the only reference for UK web sites. The standard set by the UK government web sites is also a likely source to be drawn upon. It stipulates that web sites should comply to WAI guidelines at level A, this would then include the little known Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (ATAG), with the more well known Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG). The guidelines for local government sites are even more stringent suggesting that Web Sites should comply to level AA of the WCAG 1.0. This obviously follows the European line set out in the article.

    Personally, I have been told by RNIB staff that they have supported claims against web sites that have been settled out of court. I do not have details because the parties involved have not disclosed them.

    I think it is also important to add that although the legal issues exist which can be an incentive for an organisation to make it’s web site’s accessible, it is also a positive step to take. Accessibility adds inclusion to a slice of the population which may have hitherto been unable to use web services provided and adds value for other users. I would really ask people to promote accessibility on it’s merits rather than the threat of dire legal consequences.

    To declare my affiliations, I am participant in good standing of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines working group, and an invited Expert for the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines. I also am a member of the Euro Accessibility Consortium’s Task Force 2, and I am about to participate in a proposed British Standard on Accessibility for e-learning. I also consult on accessibility in the UK for Netalley Networks LLP a partnership of which I am a partner.

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  2. To add some clarifications on some points, the DDA code of practice is not the only reference for UK web sites. The standard set by the UK government web sites is also a likely source to be drawn upon. It stipulates that web sites should comply to WAI guidelines at level A, this would then include the little known Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (ATAG), with the more well known Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG). The guidelines for local government sites are even more stringent suggesting that Web Sites should comply to level AA of the WCAG 1.0. This obviously follows the European line set out in the article.

    Personally, I have been told by RNIB staff that they have supported claims against web sites that have been settled out of court. I do not have details because the parties involved have not disclosed them.

    I think it is also important to add that although the legal issues exist which can be an incentive for an organisation to make it’s web site’s accessible, it is also a positive step to take. Accessibility adds inclusion to a slice of the population which may have hitherto been unable to use web services provided and adds value for other users. I would really ask people to promote accessibility on it’s merits rather than the threat of dire legal consequences.

    To declare my affiliations, I am participant in good standing of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines working group, and an invited Expert for the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines. I also am a member of the Euro Accessibility Consortium’s Task Force 2, and I am about to participate in a proposed British Standard on Accessibility for e-learning. I also consult on accessibility in the UK for Netalley Networks LLP a partnership of which I am a partner.

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  3. The DRC report mentioned in the article is due on the 14th April. More information canbe found here:

    http://www.drc-gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=630&section=1

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  4. I went to Glasgow March this year for a Web Accessibility workshop host by an International Law Firm Manson (Co-host by the Scottish Enterprise Network). They did mention the RNIB law sue (They claim it was a success). But nobody could get a word out of them about the detail etc. They also cliam that there is money availble to any one who feel that they want to make a formal complaint.


    I believe this is only a good thing. If you look around the world, a lot of develop country already (or planning to) put this practice into law. And anyone who are developing website for Government Agency or Charity in US and Australia already have to comply with the W3C requirement.


    Looking forward for more article and info about this in this website.

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  5. Should we let blind people drive cars or trucks?

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  6. From what I understand, WCAG 1.0 will be superceded by WCAG 2.0 (when?), which will jumble about one’s current accessibility checklist. WCAG 2.0 is now a W3C Working Draft.

    To paraphrase one of the contributors, Yvette Hoitink:

    In WCAG 1, priorities were based on importance. The problem with that was, that you were basically applying preferences to handicaps: this handicap is more important than that one.

    In WCAG 2, Level 1 contains what can reasonably be expected from authors. The idea behind this being that you want as much support for accessibility.

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  7. sholuld we all provide “text only” versions of sites or do we have to do complete re-designs. If text only is viable then will there be regulations as to the style and format of the linking text?

    mark

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  8. does this mean that any company providing a brochure should have to create audio versiona, large type or brail versions?

    mark

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  9. Yes it is almost like providing a “text-only” site with plain (no styling) but structured mark-ups. If it is done right, it can be accessible by most mobile browsers and screen readers too.

    As for graphical purposes on the web, we can use CSS to change the whole look of the site including graphics enhancement. Most sites need a redesign to get into the standards.

    ``does this mean that any company providing a brochure should have to create audio versiona, large type or brail versions?’‘

    This sounds exactly like what I thought before, ridiculous. People were asking me to convert and code my graphical site to conform with the web standards, which was like making an image gallery with no text other than just images, page numbering and navigation buttons, to be accessible on a screenreader.

    I was wrong. Creating an accessible and good structured site is to design with the web standards. Once you do it right, you get what you want and it is accessible. This is a challenge, a good practise, and a requirement for future web designers.

    I think I do not explain well but hope this little bit of informations can be helpful.

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  10. Mine is already accessible.
    The government should stay the hell away from websites and leave web developers alone, IMHO.

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  11. That is good to know.  I wasn’t aware of these laws.

    I believe my sites already comply, but what is the best way to test this?  I’ve already validated the XHTML and CSS, plus passed the 508.

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  12. A very good read for American developers, who too often view Section 508 and W#C WAI as the only accessibility guidelines that matter.

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  13. In the US, only government websites are required to meet the accessibility guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I have yet to hear of any plans to extend these requirements to private or commercial sites.

    That being said, I believe designers and developers should keep accessibilty in mind. If you build an accessible site from the beginning, you’ll have less work to do if or when the law is applied to your site. Just ask the folks who managed the Sydney Olympics site how much fun they had retro-fitting their site to meet accessibility requirements and how much it cost them to do so.

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  14. Most states have also adopted some accessibility standard, either 508 or WAI.  The funny thing is, once you begin a redesign with accessibility in mind, it really is simple to develop and maintain. 

    One state webmaster I know has incorporated accessibility and standards into his freelance work as well, and is having no trouble producing some “gee-whiz” effects and attractive designs, all using compliant, accessible code.

    There isn’t any plan to make the private sector comply, but if you are a company and are selling a product, it only makes sense to build accessibility into your site.  Why limit a site to sighted people? 

    Think about it for a minute.  How many blind or physically impaired people can hop over to the shops any time they want?  Transportation is a problem as well as accessibility (how do you know what store you are standing in front of if you can’t see it?). 

    Maybe that’s why the disabled are so active on the web.  They know what store they are in, they know what is for sale, and there is no impediment to purchase, provided the site has some accessibility. 

    The private sector should be smart enough to figure this out on its own.

    Now

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  15. One of the rare advantages of the EU is when laws like these are harmonised throughout the community; the internet doesn’t stop at Calais.

    But readin the W3C guidelines is like reading an European lawbook. I guess showing this knowledge is a great advert for the consultancy of the author, but I rather would see indepth examples that show WHEN a site conforms.

    Is XHTML + CSS enough? Or do we have to offer alternative aural stylesheets? Where does the responsibility of the user start to outfit themselves with the right tools and what is the boundary of what the developer has to take care of?

    Mark Pilgrims website “Dive into accessibility” http://diveintoaccessibility.org/  has been an eye-opener for me and still is one of the best resources I know beacuse of the examples.

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  16. as the title says, not bad, if rather short and fluffy small article.

    a few replies to other comments here:

    rich: “Should we let blind people drive cars or trucks?”

    why do people always think that accessibility = “catering for the blind” ? to be more precise, your flamebait should have been “Should we let anybody with a disability drive cars or trucks?”. then you’d see that your statement also includes people in wheelchairs, hard of hearing / deaf, colour blinds, dislexics, etc. heck, let’s just ban driving for anybody who’s not a “norm”, shall we? your comparison is also particularly offensive if you consider that it doesn’t take much effort to make a website at least baseline accessible…except for the effort of learning a bit about the issue, rather than taking the “hey, i don’t care about the blind” approach. mark my words, web designers/developers simply opting to stick their head in the sand will be out of business in years to come – and get sued along the way – just the same way that “i only make sites for IE” just doesn’t quite cut it anymore today…

    mark rushworth: “does this mean that any company providing a brochure should have to create audio versiona, large type or brail versions?”

    actually, under current law, you may well get a request to provide any material in an alternative format. this does not mean that you have to produce everything in any possible format right away, but you DO need to have a plan in place in case you do get a request. example: you produce a certain piece of literature, but also keep the original text and get costings on how much you need to create a braille/large text/audio version. you don’t actually get all these done, but you know what to do when you get a request. there is also a “reasonable” clause, of course. if it ever comes to a court case, you wouldn’t get sued if, say, somebody rang you up and said “i want ALL your literature for the last 10 years as audio tape by next week”, if you can prove that you offered alternatives (e.g. “we can’t produce all that as audio, but we’d be happy to send you all the text on a CD” for instance).

    mark rushworth: “sholuld we all provide “text only” versions of sites or do we have to do complete re-designs. If text only is viable then will there be regulations as to the style and format of the linking text?”

    again, a common misconception. accessibility does not just mean “the blind people”. text-only versions of a site benefit only a small percentage of the population with disabilities (and even there, a properly coded site – table-driven or completely css, it doesn’t matter – can be just as accessible provided you play by the rules). how about users with hearing impariments ? or mobility impairments ? or dislexia ? heck, particularly with users with dislexia, you should strive to provide visual stimuli to alleviate the heavy reading burden or pure text. or somebody might be perfectly sighted, but only able to operate a keyboard with a stick in their mouth…should they just get a text-only version because you can’t be bothered to ensure basic things like logical tab order and general keyboard access ?

    michael: “In the US, only government websites are required to meet the accessibility guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

    not just government sites, but any sites fully or partially funded by the government, if i recall correctly…a distinction worth making

    ryan: “I believe my sites already comply, but what is the best way to test this? I’ve already validated the XHTML and CSS, plus passed the 508.”

    there is no mechanical/automated test that will give you a true answer. validating xhtml/css is easy, as it’s only a case of ensuring that you follow correct syntax. Cynthia, Bobby and co cannot test all aspects of accessibility…they can only check that you meet certain technical requirements (much in the same way that, say, css validators can check that you’re following the correct syntax, but they can’t check if you css actually makes sense and if it will achieve the layout you’re after). in many cases, accessibility is a judgement call: what might be good for one site may not be good for another. the best way to test for accessibility ? learn as much as you (the developer) can about the problems, the potential solutions, and implementation…get other people’s opinions on it…in an ideal world, get users with various disabilities to test the site for you…and, if you can afford it, get a company/organisation involved that does this sort of testing.

    as a related note: yes, if it comes to court, WCAG will be the yard-stick by which the inexperienced court will judge a site’s accessibility…but as i said, accessibility extends beyond the mere rote mastery of the secret art of the Wuh-Kag. in many cases it can happen that breaking a certain guideline is necessary to fulfill another (particularly the “until user agents support it” clauses can bring up all sorts of horrible things). WCAG 1.0 is outdated. and even if WCAG 1.0 is to be adhered to, there are often no clear indications on HOW they can be met successfully. there are some examples of good practices, but again it’s all judgement calls for the most part.

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  17. Sydney Olympics site was never upgraded for compliance. The Olympics were over and the site essentially shut down by the time mighty IBM and SOCOG lost the case. (They paid the $20,000 fine, by the way.)

    http://joeclark.org/book/sashay/serialization/AppendixA.html#p-2070

    The exact application of the Americans with Disabilities Act is in dispute even to this day. Jurisprudence so far suggests “private sector no, public sector yes.” The Section 508 regulations are what apply to U.S. federal-government departments and a very few other organizations. (Google ADA “Southwest Airlines” and ADA MARTA for some links. Nobody, not even me, has a Web page up that concisely explains all this.)

    http://joeclark.org/accessiblog/ab-government.html#ada

    http://joeclark.org/book/sashay/serialization/AppendixA.html#h2-550

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  18. AFAIK all these laws only relate to businesses. Individuals are not likely to be sued for inaccessible sites. But they should aim to make them accessible anyway, out of respect for disabled users.

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  19. chris: “AFAIK all these laws only relate to businesses. Individuals are not likely to be sued for inaccessible sites.”

    by my interpretation, you’re correct. the DDA only applies to the provision of services, goods, etc.

    as soon as an individual, however, starts to provide services (in a commercial manner), they obviously cross over to being businesses, and then the law applies.

    but yes, worth making the distinction clear…so many times i’ve heard owners of crappy geocities fan-sites decry this law as unreasonable because it would force them to curb their freedom of expression… sigh

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  20. sorry to swamp this discussion thread, but…mulling this over, i do have to disagree with the article’s following statement, among others:
    “The only time it will affect you is if a disabled user can’t access your website and decides to complain about it — it’s up to you to decide whether you think this is likely or not.”

    actually, that’s a bit like saying “the only time law X will affect you is if somebody complains about it – it’s up to you to decide whether you think this is likely or not” where X could be any kind of law…a bit of a dangerous statement to make, on par with “you decide if you can get away with it or not”. the law states that providers need to be pro-active. simply sitting there and not acting upon it until a complaint comes in is not the right attitude.

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  21. We don’t need a nanny state with proscriptions for everything we do.

    Individuals and companies should be free to choose their own design standards and guidelines.  (In many cases that will include wide accessibility.  For goverment departments that will often include very wide accessibility, but costs should be controlled for the sake of the taxpayer.)

    Legislation can be the product of criminally ignorant people (just look at various e-mail legislation around the world!) so we need to keep these people out of our lives.

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  22. Mike, by the same reasoning it would then be ok for me to open up a shop with a big sign saying “we only serve white people” or “only members of the catholic church may enter”. the state, however, prohibits me from discriminating in such a manner. just the same way, the state is trying to ensure that all people are treated fairly.

    saying that legislation that safeguards equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities has been drafted by “criminally ignorant people” is actually only proving your ignorance, i’m afraid…

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  23. I phoned a UK company and the guy had a funny accent and used strange words. Couldn’t understand a thing he said. Can I sue them?

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  24. michael: “In the US, only government websites are required to meet the of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

    That’s true now, but just wait. I remember when there weren’t any wheelchair ramps or bathrooms accessible to those with disabilities. Then the government had to make their buildings accessible. Now, the private sector has to provide accessible buildings.

    I believe that this is just the “writing on the wall”. If you create web sites for commercial (this includes corporate intranet sites) use you will eventually have to make them accessible to those with disabilities in the US.

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  25. michael: “In the US, only government websites are required to meet the of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

    That is flat out wrong. ADA is separated into three sections (called Titles). Title 1 applies to employment, Title 2 applies to governmental and public department services and programs, Title 3 covers “the goods and services of public accommodations and commercial facilities”.

    Title 3 covers the remit of “places of public accommodations”. You may try to assert that a website is not a place of public accommodations, but they you would be mistaken again. There are two key legal precedents.

    The first is the SouthWest Airlines case, which is currently on appeal with the expectation the original mis-judgement will be overturned. (Ironic, in the meantime, that SoutWest Airlines have actually made adjustments to their website to comply with ADA).

    The second case is “Rendon et al. v. Valleycrest Productions Ltd” which successfully argued that a “place of public accommodations” is not restricted to physical places. In that regard, a precedent is established that a website can be a “place of public accommdation”.

    I suggest people affected by US law read this interesting paper: http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2003/adainternet.htm – this one at least gives you the facts.

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  26. Mike Gale: “We don’t need a nanny state with proscriptions for everything we do.”

    The ADA and the UK DDA are both acts intended to protect the rights of a minority group – the disabled. They were established precisely because people like yourself did not do enough to ensure you were not discriminating against them. So the logicaly solution is to legally mandate that you do so.

    You’ve already failed in your attempt to prove that you don’t need a nanny looking after you. If you had originally ensured you weren’t acting on a discriminatory basis against the disabled, it is unlikely the Acts above would have been produced.

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  27. stylo~: “I phoned a UK company and the guy had a funny accent and used strange words. Couldn’t understand a thing he said. Can I sue them?”


    Which disability of yours are you claiming is the basis of this guy’s discrimination against you?

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  28. I am a UK resident but due mainly to cost my website is hosted in the US.

    However my site could be accessed, for instance, by a partially sited person in Japan.

    Do I have to comply with English law, EU law, Section 508 or the equivalent legislation in Japan?

    And could he sue me for not supplying a large text version of my website in Japanese?????

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  29. Dante-Cubed mentioned “older browsers”

    I have included an “@import “style.css”” workaround for older browser.

    I have included Alternate style sheets for some of the newer browsers.

    Can Microsoft be sued for not producing IE to the W3c guidelines:- <quote>“User agents should provide a means for users to view and pick from the list of alternate styles. The value of the title attribute is recommended as the name of each choice.” and “User agents should also allow users to disable the author’s style sheets entirely, in which case the user agent must not apply any persistent or alternate style sheets.”</quote>?

    This impairs my site being viewed by partially sited people using IE.

    Also does Dante-Cubed suggest everyone should test their site in every single version of Opera, Netscape, IE, Konqueror etc, etc,….. and include workarounds for each version?

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  30. I am not a lawyer, nor do I want to be one. What follows is my interpretation of the DDA. This may be wrong, or may be right – it is my opinion only.

    Bob, you don’t say whether you offer services or goods to the public, nor whether your website is part of a business.

    If you, as a UK resident, run a service meant for public use, the DDA would apply (since disabled people are part of that public). I don’t think it matters where your site is hosted – but where you – as a legal person – are based, and do business.

    Its the construction of the website that is typically the barrier to access – where that content sits is largely irrelevant unless its location / network / hardware / software is a contributing factor towards discriminating against someone with a disability.

    Bob: “However my site could be accessed, for instance, by a partially sited person in Japan. … And could he sue me for not supplying a large text version of my website in Japanese?????”

    A partially sighted person could make a complaint if he could not resize your text to be readable to him (assuming there are websites he does find scalable or readable, and your text is readable to the public).

    A Japanese speaker in the UK could not make a disability complaint under the DDA against your website if it was English only. His sight disability is not being used in this case as a foundation for you to discriminate against him.

    The only time he could take action is if you presented a website to a fully-sighted Japanese-speaking customer in Japanese, and you refused the same service to a partially sighted Japanese customer on the basis of his partial sightedness.

    So the one problematic area for you here is non-resizable fonts.

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  31. Bob: “Can Microsoft be sued for not producing IE to the W3c guidelines:- <quote>“User agents should provide a means for users to view and pick from the list of alternate styles. The value of the title attribute is recommended as the name of each choice.” and “User agents should also allow users to disable the author’s style sheets entirely, in which case the user agent must not apply any persistent or alternate style sheets.”</quote>?”

    In the above example – No. “User agents should” has a formal definition in RFCs and W3C recommendation and guidelines. Should differs from must. A must is probably actionable, if the legislation uses WCAG to test for compliance. Should means it is strongly recommended but not mandatory for compliance.

    The key issue is what level of WCAG compliance the law sees as acceptable for accessibility. As I understand it, no law in the UK and US has specified a WCAG compliancy level. Section 508 may be the closest to that so far – that piece of legislation takes particular WCAG guidelines as a start point.

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  32. Comrades

    Trenton’s points are well made, and with a little luck, should help in stemming the UK tide of so-called ‘accessibility consultants’ who see accessibility compliance as the next Klondike but wouldn’t know a good looking website if it jumped up and bit them on the arse.

    Designing with accessibility in mind (accessibility in the widest sense, not just the visually or otherwise impaired) is simply the right thing to do. It is a fundamental part of good design for the web.

    As <a href=“http://www.veen.com/jeff/”> said recently, “When Web design is practiced as a craft, and not a consolation, accessibility comes for free.”

    We need laws to give rights, not to enforce them.

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  33. Have to put extra 2 cents after I read all this comments.

    To stat with. I found a few people think this is just some other law anther red tape impose by the government etc.

    Ask yourself. What if you are blind? Have you ever try to be blind (just for example) I use the jaw on my laptop reading website while I was doing something else. And it annoys me all the time when Amazon couldn’t give me any thing meaningful.

    I do have friends are disable. One is in wheel chair another one is partially blind. Have you think about how this people live their live?

    Before the internet age. They have to count on the other people all the time. Be that their friends and family or someone else from the government or charity. But do you think they want to be in that situation? No!


    Now they could use the internet to do a lot of things that they never dream of. Unfortunately the current situation is pretty hard for some of them to get things done.
    And let me tell you they will trade what ever they got to be “ABLE”. (and please don’t make comment like “should we let blind people drive cars”)

    It’s the least thing you could do, is to repesct another human who is less capable than you.

     

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  34. I see some sights still have this:
    if (parseInt(navigator.appVersion) <= 4)
    Create new stylesheet code…
    Use the @import thing for older browsers. I test in Netscape 4 from time to time. I don’t know where I can download older Opera’s.
    A stylesheet switcher should be used a last resort, in my opinion.

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  35. …and lots of other browsers: http://browsers.evolt.org/

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  36. What about images that don’t have any alt text to be associate with them?  You know this comes happens.  Do we just use alt=”“?  If I put alt=“nothing” I’d feel like I was wasting some text-only reader’s time.

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  37. Give an example of an image where you wouldn’t need alt text.
    Please don’t tell me you’re using spacer gifs…
    Heh.

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  38. An interesting discussion.  A problem I see is that ‘accessible’ appears to be based on subjective/interpretive opinion rather than an objective standard.  Imagine the chaos that would result if drivers ended up in court because someone thought they were “driving too fast” on a road with no speed limit.

    What’s the near miss?  Fortunately, I have no visual impairment or I would never have been able to use this form because it continues to use micro-size lettering even when I set text size to ‘largest’.

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  39. yes, alt=”” is the preferred choice (despite claims by the RNIB that something like alt=”*” is better).
    dante-cubed: images can be purely decorative. ok, we could debate for ages now how even decorative images convey a certain emotional, aesthetic, etc subtext that may need to be conveyed to non-sighted users, but then we’d end up in a purely subjective area…“describe to me the general feeling you’re trying to convey by placing this diagonal 1 pixel pattern on this side then…objectively!”…

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  40. CSS3 has a standardized method for image replacement: The icon property.
    You don’t need to insert images the old way with HTML (whatever.gif)
    Say you have this:
    <span id=“test”  300px; width: 250px”> </span>
    In the CSS:
    span#test {
    icon: images/file.gif;
    display: icon;
    }
    Blind users won’t know an image is there, there will only be a blank space. Other uses will get an image.
    The catch is no browser supports icon or display: icon yet.
    Test page: http://www.geocities.com/seanmhall2003/css3/misc.html
    Of course, for now you could just put alt=“Decorative Image”

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  41. The CSS should be:
    span#test {
    icon: url(images/file.gif);
    display: icon;
    }

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  42. Wow, I didn’t realise my article would create such emotional outbursts! I’ve just read all these posts and there seems to me to be a lot of confusion. I find this really surprising given that A List Apart is so stylesheets focused and stylesheets are one of the cornerstones of accessibility. Like Malarkey said (page 2, referencing Jeffrey Veen), if you design with standards in mind then accessibility comes for free. This isn’t entirely true, but if you do use stylesheets for layout and don’t absolutely rely on JavaScript on your website then you’re most of the way to an accessible website. There is more you need to do, but the rest of it is pretty simple to implement.

    Actually, web accessibility is really simple. Martijn ten Napel mentioned http://www.diveintoaccessibility (page 2) – read this website and you’ll pretty much be up-to-scratch. The next best place to go is… here. A List Apart is one of the best stylesheet resources on the web – all the fancy stuff that people can do with stylesheets, it’s pretty much always accessible and it shows you how you can make amazing and accessible designs. Look no further than http://www.csszengarden.com to see about accessible website design. Oh, and if you want to make sure your forms are accessible then read this article: http://www.sitepoint.com/article/accessible-online-forms – again, it’s really simple stuff.

    There are so many benefits to making your website accessible. It’s not just about disabled people being able to use your website, it’s about everyone being able to use your website. This article doesn’t really reflect this but that wasn’t its purpose – it was written to inform people of the UK legal requirements. If you want to see some of the many reasons why web accessibility is so important then read this article: http://www.sitepoint.com/article/sell-web-accessibility (also written by me, it’s kind of UK-focused).

    Probably the best point in this discussion was made by Malarkey (2nd page). I don’t have a clue what Klondike means but you’re right, Malarkey, most advocates of accessibility wouldn’t know a good looking website if it came and bit them in the bum. Take a look at the RNIB, one of the strongest advocates for web accessibility in the UK: they tell us that an accessible website can still look really good, yet they have one of the ugliest websites out there (in my opinion). Plus it’s made with tables! Check out http://www.cssvault.com for some nice looking stylesheets-driven (and probably therefore accessible) websites.

    In my experience as a usability and accessibility consultant, people generally don’t care about this law. As I said in the article, the chances of you getting sued over this are pretty slim (although perhaps I said that a bit nonchalantly, like you say, Patrick (page 2)).

    Oh, and the WCAG 2 can be seen as it progresses at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/, if anyone’s interested.

    Sorry this post went on for so long.

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  43. Trenton: “Take a look at the RNIB, one of the strongest advocates for web accessibility in the UK: they tell us that an accessible website can still look really good, yet they have one of the ugliest websites out there”

    in fairness, they probably think their site looks ok, and their aim is not to actually be one of the leading edge designed sites. it’s a bit like, say, criticising a design lecturer by saying “if he was such a great designer, why is he teaching instead of being ‘out there’ working on projects”. and there’s nothing inherently wrong with properly marked up tables with regards to accessibility – particularly if your target audience includes people who may well be running older browsers on older machines (i.e. not everybody can install the latest and greatest browser, as their machine could not handle it)…

    but i have to say, i’m really not surprised by some of the comments here. as soon as you mention “law” and “guidelines”, web artistes with their head firmly up their bum just go all “freedom of expression” on you…

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  44. Why the hell should you not have a full Javascript behaviour layer?
    I’ve just about had it with people associating Javascript with inaccessibility. Visit my site (http://geocities.com/dc_sfhe)with Javascript on (I know Mozilla has a problem with the buttons). Then turn it off and view it. I have tons of Javascript functions I use for enhancing usability. If the user has no Javascript, the site is still accessible.
    That said, use Javascript responsibly. Don’t go off making Flash-like effects with Javascript. I use it to change font styles, show or hide the navbar, insert a “Top of Page” link before every HR, etc.
    This rant brought to you by DCScript.

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  45. Patrick, you’re right, the RNIB website doesn’t need to be one of the leading edge designed sites. I just think it would be really beneficial to the accessibility cause if they made a good looking site. Their site is probably one of the first stops for people looking to find out more about web accessibility – imagine if their first impression was “Wow, look at that accessible website – I want mine to look like that too”.

    And as you say, Dante-Cubed, there’s nothing wrong with JavaScript, provided the page is fully functional without it.

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  46. Trenton

    Thank-you for your kind comments. In Klondike, I was referring to the famous American gold rush.

    We always try to design with accessibility in mind, although, as I said on Accessify Forum (http://www.accessifyforum.com/) recently, let’s not confuse clients with ‘anyone who gives a shit’.

    Many clients simply do not understand, or care about accessibility issues and it is often up to us as designers and developers to raise awareness of web standards and accessibility.

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  47. I’ve been preparing documentation for our main client, the prep work for version two of their site. Adding the accessibility section was important us, but perhaps a marginal issue to them. Articles such as these back up our assertion that it’s best to tackle the issue head-on now, rather than panic in a year or two’s time.

    And yes, the client in question is loosely associated to Governmental information. So, you’d think they’d be wise to the issue now. Seems to be a running theme here in the UK :o(

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  48. I work for a hosting company and provide streaming video solutions,currently our web site is hardly non disabled friendly (but thats by the by really) Its being redesigned by me and what I would like to know is with our company being audio and video host do we still need to conform?

    I mean my opinions are that the internet is visual medium, and you need to be able to see to use a computer!! but having said that do i create structured markyup, but there is one thing which baffles me if we are creating structured markup using the W3C specs as intended, then why can browsers, screen readers etc… still only have 60 – 80% compatability overall!!!!

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  49. Comrade

    May I suggest that you might like to post questions such as this to the excellent resources available on Accessify Forum (http://www.accessifyforum.com/)?

    Accessify Forum’s regular contributors include many notables from around the world including Patrick Lauke (http://www.splintered.co.uk/) and Isofarro (http://www.isolani.co.uk/blog/) from the UK.

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  50. stuart: “I mean my opinions are that the internet is visual medium, and you need to be able to see to use a computer!!”

    thank god your opinion is not that of goverments and lawmakers, as it’s discriminatory and frankly insulting.

    imagine if architects, for instance, said “it is our opinion that stairs are essential to buildings, and you need to be able to walk to get into them!!” or some such crap…

    and once again: do not confuse accessibility with “catering to the blind”. there’s many more disabilities that are covered by accessibility. one could be, for instance, for users with mobility impairments who can’t use a keyboard and mouse, but only a small suck and blow device or joystick. thus, you need to ensure that, for instance, you do not just rely on mouse inputs. or are you suggesting that the web is also a medium where “you need to be able to use a keyboard and mouse!!” ?

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  51. additionally to my last comment: before anybody starts saying something like “well, in that case, should we have radio made accessible to the deaf?”…the internet itself is designed for transmission of text data. images, multimedia, flash and all the other whiz-bang stuff came later. also, it does not require any modification to send information to users in whatever form they require (text, audio, video, whatever). radio, on the other hand, was designed from the start as an “audio only” medium, and receivers would require heavy modifications to allow for text to be sent along as well…and that is why deaf users may well prefer to use never technologies (tv with captions, or indeed the web) which offer non-audio alternatives easily.

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  52. http://www.alistapart.com/discuss/accessuk/4/#c7606

    “Trenton’s points are well made, and with a little luck,
    should help in stemming the UK tide of so-called ‘accessibility
    consultants’ who see accessibility compliance as the next
    Klondike but wouldn’t know a good looking website if it jumped
    up and bit them on the arse.”

    Run Trenton’s site http://www.webcredible.co.uk/ through
    the accessibility checker at http://www.webxact.com/
    and you’ll find he doesn’t practice what he preaches.

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  53. Hey Danny ;),

    I didn’t say that Trenton’s site was good-looking or even accessible, just that his points about the UK legal situation were well made.

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  54. Danny: Run Trenton’s site http://www.webcredible.co.uk/ through
    the accessibility checker at http://www.webxact.com/
    and you’ll find he doesn’t practice what he preaches.

    This is going way off topic, but in terms of accessibility webxact.com is obviously not always correct. It states that webcredible.co.uk has images without alt tags, which isn’t true.

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  55. Re: http://www.alistapart.com/discuss/accessuk/5/#c7632

    Disclaimer: I know there are a few problems with my site, I’m working on it and the content management system.

    I have found that management isn’t interested in accessibility. However if you tell them that their search engine rankings will go up, you’ve got their interest.

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  56. Danny Morning: “Run Trenton’s site http://www.webcredible.co.uk/ through
    the accessibility checker at http://www.webxact.com/
    and you’ll find he doesn’t practice what he preaches.”

    Quite incorrect. The report generated again demostrates that automated tests are not a reliable way of testing for accessibility. Trenton’s knowledge of accessibility supercedes webxacts report. Take a look at the error webxact is complaining about.

    It claims there isn’t an alt attribute on a number of images – that is clearly wrong. The images noted do have an alt attribute.

    What webxact is claiming is that the supplied alt text is wrong. These in particular are empty strings. webXact claims this is an error. And it is wrong.

    The purpose of the above-mentioned images on the web crucible website is to iconise typical website functionality (a picture of an envelope) – for example contact us. This icon is followed by its textual equivalent – “Contact Us”.

    In this particular instance the text that follows does adequately describe the function of the image (Contact Us), so duplicating that text in the alt attribute is just a meaningless redundancy. The correct alt – which Trenton has used – is alt=”“.

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  57. automated accessility checks are, as others have mentioned, not an accurate measure of true accessibility…just in the same way that, say, the w3c style validator can check if your CSS conforms to the syntax, but can’t check if the resulting layout is actually what the designer intended…

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  58. Great point made by Tanny O’Haley (above. Two examples:

    Gez at Juicy Studios saw his traffic from search engines increase from 1000 to 6000 visitors after making the website accessible.

    Sitepoint had an increase from 250,000 to 1,000,000 monthly visitors after making their website accessible (stylesheets and a whole number of other changes). They also saw their average page size fall from 150k to 60k.

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  59. http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_wgtmonline.doc

    I’m afraid I don’t have Word. This document is inaccessible to me.
    ;-)

    Other than that, this is an interesting debate.
    It does amaze me the number of designers that don’t “get it”.

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  60. In reply to Stuart Lindley assertion that the internet is a visual medium and you need to be able to see to use a computer, I say rubbish.
    I’ve worked alongside sightless programmers for a number of years and I can inform you that they are just as adept at using them as anyone else.

    It’s quite offensive to claim that these people are somehow less able than you and your eyes to be honest, the only difference is that they do things in a different way.

    The internet of a means of disseminating information. This is not something that only “normal” people can digest. Just because you see the world one way does not mean that it can’t be seen another way. 

    You maybe interested to know that Television, a medium perhaps most associated with “looking” is enjoyed by a number of unsighted people, and certainty a great many people with disabilities get just as much enjoyment out of it as you do, mainly because most people with dissabilities are not infact blind as seems to a comman assumption when accessibility is discussed.

    In general if you make an assumption about accessibility, it will probably be wrong. There is no excuse ever for saying “but I’m sure blind/deaf/mobility impaired/other “disability” folks would want to be looking at my site so I’ll just ignore them”. I think you should let them decide that for themselves really.

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  61. Foamcow: “I’m afraid I don’t have Word. This document is inaccessible to me.”

    although this could degenerate into a free as in speech vs free as in beer discussion, you could install OpenOffice. the wider-ranging argument here would be: should we use proprietary formats (for which, however, readers are freely available), or just stick to pure W3C standards ? according to the Wuh-Kag Clan we should only use W3C technologies, but of course this is what they would have to say, as it’s their guidelines.

    just playing devil’s advocate…or am i ?

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  62. I run my own website about sport, a fansite which is completly free to view by all. I’m pretty new to web design myself and after 2 years of running the site I’ve now decided to get the site designed professionally.

    In my own dabblings I’ve always tried to make the site easy on the eye and accessible by offering altnerate navigation clear menu’s and a decently sized font that most people can comfortably read. In my new site I’ve asked the developer to consider altnerate style sheets also which are being developed.

    So I am making an effort to make the site accessable to all but does a free non commercial service also have to comply with these laws?

    I would say my site does okay on that score, but faults can surely be found on most websites with some level of professionalism applied, so where is the line drawn? I would imagine that if every site HAD to comply with accessability laws there soon wouldn’t be any sites left, and especially those of us who are new to web design and trying to have a go and improve with each design.

    If it is applicable to all there will be no semi-professionals around and considering most are self taught where would that leave the future of web design?

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  63. I agree with Patrick, http://www.alistapart.com/discuss/accessuk/6/#c7656
    automated tests such as Webxact and Bobby aren’t the be-all-and-end all of accessibility testing.

    Trenton and his company seem quite happy thought to quote the automated checking processes of the W3C (X)HTML and CSS
    validators when results fall in their favour.

    Trenton and Isofarro http://www.alistapart.com/discuss/accessuk/6/#c7654
    both point out Webxact incorrectly flags empty alt tags.
    What about the 14 examples of only separating adjacent links with whitespace?  They definitely aren’t the result of an over-eager parser pointing out non-existant errors.

    If you’re selling yourself as an accessibility guru then your own site should be beyond reproach as you’re free from the time and the budget constraints of the paying client.

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  64. I keep coming across other designers who dismiss the disabled users as a minority, are an inconvenience and clients are just not interested. Tell them that there are over 8 million people in the UK who could be registered disabled (source RNIB). That’s a big slice of the pie and one that your clients cannot afford to ignore.

    The RNIB have also told me that they have good research that disabled users spend more time and more money online – well they would -they are not disabled online. (For all you know I could be severely disabled but I am joining in this discussion on the same level as all of you.)

    Since making my own site accessible and conform to a whole range of other standards (thank you Mr Zeldman) I have seen a huge jump in traffic and positioning on search engines… Google is my biggest visitor and it’s blind as a bat…

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  65. Darren: “So I am making an effort to make the site accessable to all but does a free non commercial service also have to comply with these laws?”

    Any site in the UK offering or purporting to offer a product or service. Whether a payment is attached is irrelevant. So the law isn’t limited to commercial entities and government. Have a look at 19-(2) of the DDA: http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/Ukpga_19950050_en_4.htm#mdiv19

    “I would say my site does okay on that score, but faults can surely be found on most websites with some level of professionalism applied, so where is the line drawn?”

    I would say the “reasonable adjustments” criteria would be applied. I would expect the reasonable adjustments of an online banking service would be higher than one of a hobby website.

    “If it is applicable to all there will be no semi-professionals around and considering most are self taught where would that leave the future of web design?”

    Don’t put yourself down. Its very surprising (as well as disappointing) how it is the professional web designers and websites that have the greatest problem grokking the need for accessibility. I’ve found semi-professionals and hobbiest the quickest and eager to understand and implement accessible websites.

    Joe Clark himself notes that hobby sites like blogs are far more likely to be accessible and standards compliant than businesses with high-budget websites. And blogs typically get done with a shoestring or non-existant budget.

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  66. Danny Morning: “What about the 14 examples of only separating adjacent links with whitespace? They definitely aren’t the result of an over-eager parser pointing out non-existant errors.”

    The majority of them are highlighting lines where this problem isn’t occurring – and missing the very lines where it actually is happening. Lifting the view-source of the webcredible.co.uk page – skimming through this shows the problem of adjacent links on line 143-146. And something similar on lines 139 and 140. The rest of the links don’t seem to be – at a cursory glance – adjacent.


    “If you’re selling yourself as an accessibility guru then your own site should be beyond reproach as you’re free from the time and the budget constraints of the paying client.”

    Quite right. I won’t be surprised to see Trenton correct the legitimate accessibility problems in the near future.

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  67. Simon Cox: “I keep coming across other designers who dismiss the disabled users as a minority, are an inconvenience and clients are just not interested. Tell them that there are over 8 million people in the UK who could be registered disabled (source RNIB).”

    Not to mention the disabled within the UK have an annual disposable income of 50-60 billion pounds. source: http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/content/oneoffs/e-nation2.htm

    But, it must be pointed out, the Disability Discrimination Act is legislation protecting the rights of a minority group. Using an argument that there’s not enough disabled people to warrant action to prevent discrimination is nothing short of legal suicide.

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  68. Comrades

    Trenton’s article sure has sparked some debate! I go back to (and elaborate on) the point I made earlier, designing with accessibility in mind is simply the right thing to do.

    Design to me, is form AND function. While developing with standards-based methods does not guarantee accessibility, it goes along way towards making sites easier to use for all, (perfect might take a little bit more and is very subjective).

    There are many examples of standards-based, accessible sites which stand proud among their aging, non-compliant, non-accessible competitors. Looking only with a browser it is often impossible to tell them apart creatively.

    So why would you not want your work to be available to as many people as possible? Answers on a (very small) postcard to…

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  69. Just thinking it’s a good idea to instate these kinds of laws that cause people to be thoughtful of those who might otherwise get left behind. Certainly, it will be a challenge to conform to the accessability laws, but isn’t that what web design is all about? Isn’t it the conformity to standards that facilitate access to online information what ALA (and other such organizations) is all about?

    Some interesting accessibility challenges lie ahead, but they are challenges for the collective electronic comminication community, not just web designers. We cannot control how, saw, a person with no arms will interact with our web sites.

    It will be interesting to see what innovations will arise from the accessability challenge.

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  70. It’s getting to the point that im going to really think if web design is my occupation of choice, i’d rather stick with print/grpahic design, and leave the troubles to standard compliant designers.

    i mean, i already make sure my sites have text only versions, and that they are accessiable, but it’s gettig a bit extreme that designers and companies are getting sued for designing for people with disabilities. I dont see McDonalds cahnging there add compaigns to suit blinde people, and i dont see Sony developing audio devices for the deaf.

    There has to be a line drawn because these new laws are getting a bit pathetic.

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  71. Steven: “i mean, i already make sure my sites have text only versions”

    Text-only versions of websites are not necessarily accessible. There are a number of problems with that approach. See

    • http://www.isolani.co.uk/articles/accessibilityOfTextOnlyWebsites.html—Accessibility of text-only websites
    • http://www.isolani.co.uk/blog/access/AccessibilityAndContentManagement—Accessibility and Content Management.

    Stephen: “it’s gettig a bit extreme that designers and companies are getting sued for designing for people with disabilities. I dont see McDonalds cahnging there add compaigns to suit blinde people, and i dont see Sony developing audio devices for the deaf.”

    The web was designed to be an accessible medium – it is not limited to a visual-only medium. It doesn’t have the limitations of audio. It doesn’t have the limitations of print. To suggest that web accessibility should be ignored because deaf people can’t hear audio devices is ridiculous.

    I wonder how you would feel when you lose your sight (old age will do that to you), and are prevented from doing the simplest of things – not because you aren’t capable of doing so – but because some “web designer” insists you must be incapable of doing so.

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  72. Both Bobby and WebXact get this wrong – they interpret WCAG too strictly.  Cynthia Says reports on the errors more sensibly.

    Watchfire themselves have said that this check is based on the WCAG guideline that states “Until user agents are able to render adjacent links distinctly…” or something along those lines,  unfortunately there is no mechanism to define a time wher user agents are able to render them distinctly, even though in reality there are no such user agents.

    Is anyone aware of any user agents that present two links that are in separate divisions, and paragraphs with whitespace in between, as one link?

    WebXact is too strict in that it requires a space and a non-space printable character between all links, not only does that mess up formatting but in reality makes pages less accessible to speech browsers etc as all the separator characters will be read out.  “vertical bar”, “period”, “forward slash” etc.

    I set up a test page with two pairs of links.  The first pair ran into each other and you couldn’t tell that there were two links there, but Bobby passed this.

    The second pair were on two distinct lines, but Bobby failed this.

    Conclusion: use your common sense when validating your pages for accessibility.  Do not rely completely on automated validators as they all have bugs and their behaviour is up to the whim of the individual company anyway.

    Unfortunately, if it comes to law, what validator will be used?

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  73. Hi

    the DRC report and a webcast is now available at
    http://www.drc-gb.org/webcast/live_subtitles.asp?type=3

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  74. Just think about what you are saying for a moment. Basically your point is that it’s getting a bit pathetic that we try and let people actually read our sites. This is a most bizarre point of view. There are millions of people out there who your writing off cause you can’t be bothered to understand the new guidelines.

    If for some reason you lost the use of your legs and were unable to use any public transport, go to restaurants, cinemas, shops all because some architect though it a bit pathetic that we build wheelchair ramps cause they ruined the “look” of his building you, i imagine, would be a bit miffed. Yet this is identical to what you are saying.

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  75. Comrades

    The UK Disability Rights Commission today published their long awaited report into UK web accessibility issues.

    http://www.drc-gb.org/publicationsandreports/report.asp

    Other coverage of the report is available from the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3623407.stm)  at Accessify Forum (http://www.accessifyforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=1134), and on Isofarro’s excellent site (http://www.isolani.co.uk/blog/access/DrcReportOnUkWebAccessibility)

    PS: Ed, can you install comment previews please?

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  76. Steven: “It’s getting to the point that im going to really think if web design is my occupation of choice, i’d rather stick with print/grpahic design, and leave the troubles to standard compliant designers.”

    if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the incinerator. so what you’re saying is “it used to be fun to do websites, but now there’s all these rules i need to follow and i don’t like it anymore” ? well, web design is a craft. it’s good that people are slowly realising that there’s more to web design than just owning a copy of DWMX and putting nice looking pictures up. usability, accessibility, information architecture…all these “extra” things that are part of web design and are often just not seen. sure, it’s not easy for a novice to pick all these things up…
    it’s the same with architecture: sure, you could design amazing buildings, but if you don’t consider the need of visitors and users with disabilities, you’ll fall foul of legislation.

    “I dont see McDonalds cahnging there add compaigns to suit blinde people”

    why do you think an advertising campaign needs to be changed to suit blind people ? what, should they just have a black screen with descriptive dialogue…“i’m blind and i’m loving the new McBlindBurger” ? their advertising campaign works fine BECAUSE it’s been designed with various target audiences in mind. the importantn information on a TV ad, for instance, is given both visually and aurally (this latter part also because advertisers want to reach those people who have a TV running, but are in another room at the time and can only hear the audio).

    McD also have radio campaigns running, which by definition will work for both visually impaired and normally sighted listeners alike. again, no problem there.

    Their site, however, falls foul of DDA requirements (ironically, they do have an HTML version, but the button to access the HTML version is embedded inside the flash…duh!)…I’ve emailed them about it, let’s see what they come back with (their HTML site is actually not too bad, once you get to it…looked at it via Lynx without any major problems)

    “and i dont see Sony developing audio devices for the deaf.”

    there is, of course, a “reasonable” clause built into the legislation that most people, in their vain knee-jerk reaction, fail to see. just the same way that the law can’t be used to force a dental practice to employ a completely blind dentist, for instance, developing audio devices for the deaf falls outside of the reasonable area.

    having said that, Sony is, if memory serves me right, actively involved in various research projects – as are other major manufacturers – to produce assistive technologies for the deaf and hard of hearing, amongs others…

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  77. Mentioning disabilities in a discussion about accessibility of the web has its advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage is that people generally have a pro-accessibility opinion when it comes to the disabled, either because they think the disabled deserve extra protection, or because they feel sorry for them.

    The major disadvantage is that it narrows the scope of the subject. Accessibility also means letting the Google webcrawlers visit your site, so that it gets indexed and preferably ranked as high as possible. It also means that that high-paid executive surfing his phone for the designer who’s going to build his next multi-million dollar website is able to find out your address.

    The web is a text medium. As such, it is intrinsically accessible to anyone who understands text. That’s a good thing. The fact that we abstract from physical properties makes the web an immensely powerful means of communication, because we can now translate our message to any physical medium we like. And this freedom of choosing your physical medium is what’s called ‘accessibility’; it comes free with the web.

    And here’s something funny that a lot of designers seem to forget: building an inaccessible website costs more money. Simply because the web is built on accessible technology, making a site inaccessible takes extra work.

    Somebody mentioned that amateurs are more likely to get accessibility right, despite that they’re on a shoestring budget. I would like to argue that they get it right, BECAUSE they are on a shoestring budget. They just don’t have the time or the money to ruin a perfectly accessible site.

    Real designers work with the medium, not against it. Unfortunately, this (our) medium is often misunderstood by its designers.

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  78. A McDonald’s advertising campaign might not be accessible to someone who is blind, but a restaurant would have to have a ramp to make the service accessible to someone in a wheelchair. Equally, their staff would have to make a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for someone who was blind. This might not be providing a Braille menu (certainly not at short notice) but might, for example, entail a staff member being prepared to describe what is on it.
    What I don’t get is this. What do you (the complainers) want to do on your websites that couldn’t be accessible with proper care and thought?
    Someone said ‘Individuals and companies should be free to choose their own design standards and guidelines.’ Well, fair enough, but the trouble is they DON’T. I cannot understand why anyone is against websites being accessible? If you lost your site tomorrow (which is entirely possible) would you suddenly abandon the Internet?
    Also, and this is something people haven’t mentioned, NOTHING annoys me more than getting emails from reputable companies (having given them permission to contact me) that are done in inaccessible HTML. Why? I mean, it really isn’t that difficult.

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  79. I meant ‘lose your sight’, not ‘site’. Freudian slip ;-0

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  80. Perhaps one day everyone who couldn’t access your site will form a class-action lawsuit against you? Then you’re screwed.

    I wish we had this:
    @page {
    accessibiltiy: auto;
    }

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  81. Please be careful quoting any organization’s statistics. The source said, “could be registered disabled” in the sentence, not that there are 8 million people in the UK who are disabled. Many times organizations will “cook” the numbers because they have a “greater good” in mind. I don’t know if this is the case with this number, but they did say “could”.

    You should make your web sites accessible because its the right thing to do. It is a moral choice to do the right thing.

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  82. It is a good start, hopefully this will result in a more accessible web. In the olddays the web was accessible. Bring back the good old days.

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  83. There is something about all this that I am struggling to put my finger on.  I guess I also need to find time to go and read all the references on accessability as they might help.  Just what constitutes an in accessable website?  i.e. what should I as a potential web designer avoid?  Based on this discussion I’m left with a confused and subjective impression.  Over here in the land of the lawsuit [US] subjectivity is a boon to those in a position to hire a lawyer who is “smart” enough to out argue the defense.  “Frivolous” law suits and this kind of lawyer is one of the reasons the legal profession is so hated in the US and also one of the reasons why it is so wealthy.

    What if I want to display the image of a flower on my website.  What am i to provide as a text alternative?  What if that image happens to be the company logo? will <img=img12345.gif> do or do I have to be more discriptive <img=flower.gif> or <img=ABC Corp Logo.gif> does a lawsuit charging me with failing to provide a 3 page essay describing the design, history and feelings the flower logo is designed to provoke, fall outside the reasonable clause?

    The example of adverts has been used.  Advertisers often “discriminate” and target a very specific audience.  I am I right to be offended and sue because an advertiser uses flashing images and a heavy-metal sound track which happens to trigger my epilepsy, as well as my musical taste, instead of using a calm image and a Classical sound track.  There may be some services which by their nature are outside the scope of a given disability. (c.f. the Dentist example).  What to do if I want to add a Quicktime video showing an animated CAD model to illustrate my Architectural services, specifically showing shadows thrown by the sun over a 24 hour period?  Corecte me if I’m wrong but this is something of value to a person with capability to veiw the video and is targeted at that audience only.  Trying to empathise I don’t think I would like to be reminded about my disability at every turn, “hey here’s another image of a house you can’t see.gif” or “here’s another sound track you can’t hear.wma”.  Actually the last example applies to me already at work as my employer provided PC has no sound card.

    Don’t get me wrong I am all for those not quite as blessed as myself enjoying life to the fullest possible but there are limits.  I’m never going to be able to live in Buckingham Palace.  I am never going to be able to perform secure internet transactions at my bank on my Atari 520ST.  Isn’t it discrimination to block those limited, as many disabled are, to older hardware and software?  I also experience similar discrimination at home accessing sites requiring IE 5.5 or above, unavailable for all versions of the Mac OS (my prefered OS).
    Limited or no sight require plain text, dyslexic require stimulating graphics, hearing impared require none audio, and Mac users require Saffari, Opera, Mozilla, Netscape, Omniweb, Camino, iCab compatibility etc.

    I’m sure all kinds of examples can be raised and disected but the point is what is the spirit of the law here.  What lengths does one have to go to provide relavent content?  What obligation are you under if you choose to target part of your “readership” and provide an ambient background soundtrack to help sooth them as they make their purchacing choices?

    The concern is not so much for the Nanny State, though I suspect the Nanny State is self made (“oh the g’vt will take care of it I don’t have to”), as much as for the greedy lawyer and his equally greedy client.

    Sorry for the ramble I’m kind of thinking “aloud”

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  84. T A: “I guess I also need to find time to go and read all the references on accessability as they might help.”

    All the questions you have raised are adequately covered by the following documents:

    • DDA Part III: http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/Ukpga_19950050_en_4.htm
    • ADA: http://www.access-board.gov/about/ADA Text.htm
    • WCAG1.0: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/
    • WCAG1.0 Techniques: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-TECHS/
    • Joe Clark’s book: http://www.joeclark.org/book/sashay/serialization/

    T A: “Just what constitutes an in accessable website?”

    One that doesn’t prevent a disabled person from getting the same information and functionality as that of a non-disabled person. Joe Clark has a lucid definition of accessibility: “Accessibility involves making allowances for characteristics a person cannot readily change.”

    T A: “What if I want to display the image of a flower on my website.”

    WCAG Checkpoint 1.1

    T A: “I am I right to be offended and sue because an advertiser uses flashing images and a heavy-metal sound track which happens to trigger my epilepsy,”

    WCAG Checkpoints 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3. Your taste in music is probably not a disability.

    T A: “What to do if I want to add a Quicktime video showing an animated CAD model to illustrate my Architectural services, specifically showing shadows thrown by the sun over a 24 hour period?”

    What pertinant information is that going to give the visitor?

    T A: “Isn’t it discrimination to block those limited, as many disabled are, to older hardware and software?”

    This is covered in the DRC report released on Wednesday: http://joeclark.org/dossiers/DRC-GB.html?IG

    T A: “I also experience similar discrimination at home accessing sites requiring IE 5.5 or above, unavailable for all versions of the Mac OS (my prefered OS).”

    Using a Mac isn’t a disability, so it is not covered by disability focused legislation.

    However, an accessible website is more likely to be usable on Mac browsers, so you actually can benefit from accessible websites.

    “I’m sure all kinds of examples can be raised and disected but the point is what is the spirit of the law here.”

    The spirit is to protect the rights of disabled people. They have as much right as you to participate in society (in this case an online society).

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  85. “I dont see McDonalds cahnging there add compaigns to suit blinde people, and i dont see Sony developing audio devices for the deaf.”

    Newsflash: Deaf people can’t hear anyway.  Blind people can’t see.  Common sense, kid.

    Nobody says you have to provide only 100% accessible content.  But if your content is only provided in a potentially inaccessible medium (like a picture of text, instead of plain text), you are creating a problem if you don’t provide some sort of backup.

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  86. Personally, I think it sounds like a giant opportunity for people with disabilities to make lots of money with questionable lawsuits.  Sure there are lots of disabled people who just want to use the web, but i’m sure there are also people who like with other laws are just waiting to exploit these laws.  Whats to stop those people; with the millions of web sites i’m sure they wont have any trouble finding a few or a thousand websites that don’t cater to their disablity.

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  87. I always ensure that my HTML sites are accessible. But I sometimes build sites in Flash when I perceive that it is appropriate for the target market (eg photographer’s portfolios, for certain fashion brands, rock band and movie websites). Should I always provide an HTML alternative, or can Flash be made legally accessible? I’m also not sure how to go about making some Flash content accessible (video, audio, animation?) in any meaningful way. Anyone else dealing with these issues?

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  88. Regarding lawsuits I have better things to do, than complain about lack of accessibility.

    It depends upon what level of accessibility you are aiming towards but essentially with Flash, you’d probably be using the object element. When using object you should provide a fallback mechanism as defined in the Technical Recommendations, for example a hyperlink to an alterative version.

    Albeit if you have a Flash only navigation system and my user-agent does not have the proprietary Macromedia plugin then you would possibly be discriminating against the user and user-agent respectively.

    Tommy Olsson puts it rather nicely; “To avoid creating unnecessary impediments, for people and devices, to accessing the web site’s content.”

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  89. So long as the core information of the site is, where applicable, available in other ways you should be OK.
    As per your example…
    You obviously can’t show the photographers portfolio to the blind, but you CAN make sure that the photographer’s contact information is available for a screen reader.

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  90. Perhaps the DRC should follow its own advice. A quick accessibility check in Acrobat 6 Professional of the PDF version of the DRC report found that the report iself isn’t accessible to people with disabilities. In the “Easy Read Summary” PDF of the report the document is not XML structured, has no specified language, and all 17 images are missing alternative text—so the vision impaired know they’re missing some of the content, but have no idea what it is.

    The full report, though it contains no images, is even worse. Again, no language is specified, 120 words are inaccessible because they contain no reliable Unicode mapping, and the document is unstructured.

    Reference:
    http://magazinedesign.weblogsinc.com/entry/3239236368168881/
    http://www.iampariah.com/blog/archives/000360.html

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  91. To clarify a few points.
    Websites should be accessible for disabled users (ie Blind is just one type of disability).
    “Accessibility” & the goldrush – check out how many “experts” have been in design for more than 1 year.
    Most laws have been based on guidelines – not set in stone and are open to legal interpretation.
    Almost everyone has mentioned validation, css etc – how many have asked at least one disabled peron to review a site AND paid a professional fee fro that review.
    We designed and invested in BlindRadio.com to be accessible – it works and it does not meet AAA.
    oh…We’ve been designing products for about 20 years and are still not “experts”

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  92. To clarify a few points.
    Websites should be accessible for disabled users (ie Blind is just one type of disability).
    “Accessibility” & the goldrush – check out how many “experts” have been in design for more than 1 year.
    Most laws have been based on guidelines – not set in stone and are open to legal interpretation.
    Almost everyone has mentioned validation, css etc – how many have asked at least one disabled peron to review a site AND paid a professional fee for that review.
    We designed and invested in BlindRadio.com to be accessible – it works and it does not meet AAA.
    oh…We’ve been designing products for about 20 years and are still not “experts”

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  93. 1)
    Section 1.4 of the Code clearly states “The Code does not impose legal obligations.
    Nor is it an authoritative statement of the
    law – that is a matter for the courts.”
    A Code has a distinctly different legal meaning than a Law – it is NOT a law.
    2)
    The phrase “reasonable adjustments” does not define reasonable – this may be a very decisive factor in cases.
    It often indicates the “relative cost” – what is reasonable for a large business could be very expensive for a small business.
    Equally “reasonable” must take into account “fit for purpose” – the concept that a product is designed for its users and not for everybody – as practical examples, a printed newspaper is designed to be read by a sighted person – a music CD is not designed for the deaf.
    As technology develops, “reasonable” increases in scope but we have to stop running around like headless chickens and scaremongering. That will end in negative publicity for “accessability” and defeat the good work being done to open up the web to a larger audience.

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  94. I’d like to see more sites that aren’t with white backgrounds – working in a low lighting area, staring at a bright screen trying to pick out dark text is nearly as efficient as staring at the sun.

    That’s not just about accessibility, but about common sense.

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  95. About 8 years ago, while studying IT at college in the UK, I lost the vision in both my eyes temporarily, regaining 1 eyes perfect site a month later. The other however has severe vision problems, i have about 5% vision in the left eye with a very big problem with lights sensitivity. The web for me is a daily battle with headaches and eyestrain, caused by high contrast and small text.

    This however did not stop me going to university to study multimedia design, nor did hinder my chances of getting a job with a UK design firm. Another member of our design team is colour blind and is one of the better designers I know.

    Disability is perceived as being a hindrance, it is not. The disabled are not unable, just less able and to provide aid IS the right thing to do.

    Ask Daniel Brown whether he will be continuing his career after the accident that left him disabled, I don’t assume he will say “No the web wasn’t made for me to use”

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