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Web Accessibility Gurus? More on Accessible Web Design

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Once again, we return to the topic of accessible web design, and with it, web accessibility gurus.

It’s been about five months since I posted my last article on the subject in IceGiant’s archive, and boy, has a lot happened since then.

For starters, accessible web design is now becoming a topic of choice, with all manner of new and established companies jumping onto this particular bandwagon with a will.

Is it time then, for the industry to give itself a collective pat on the back and begin the process of self-congratulation for having tackled this particular subject with such determination?

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Not quite... Some Web Accessibility Gurus are not what they appear to be

While it is undoubtedly a good thing for the web development and promotion industries to recognise the importance of accessible web design, we now seem to have entered the inevitable ‘cashing-in phase’, where everybody and his brother is suddenly a disability access expert displaying his or her self-proclaimed knowledge of the guidelines laid down by WCAG, the Disability Discrimination Act, and Section 508.

Unfortunately, a healthy proportion of these new web accessibility gurus are also quite blatantly playing on their potential customers' ignorance and paranoia in much the same way certain less ethical operators in the SEO sector were carrying on a couple of years back with W3C compliance by trying to bully potential clients into implementing their particular version of accessible web design.

We all know what happened to Target.com… Do you want to be the next ‘Target’ on the hit-list?

  1. Yes, the NFB did launch a test case against Target.com in the Californian courts.
  2. Yes, they did win, thus setting a legal precedent.
  3. Yes, this will prompt an ever increasing number of court cases against online retailers and, in all likelihood, lead to al change in legislation governing online disability access right, certainly in the USA and Europe.

However, although all the above statements are basically true, any implementation of accessible web design should be undertaken with care and thought, not in a hurry, just because some self-proclaimed web accessibility guru is trying to force the issue by spouting half-truths down a phone-line.

If, as an online business owner, you are thinking about addressing your site’s accessibility issues, my advice would have to be to seek out an established operator in the field and, more importantly, one whose company employs or preferably is owned by those most closely concerned with the topic of accessible web design; the disabled web users themselves.

Why have disability access tests?

Occasionally I get asked why, in the face of the recent publicity had by WebXact and others, there is even a need to trouble disabled web users with accessibility tests when online tools are available to check a web site’s compliance automatically?

The simple answer to this question is that the currently available means of automatic compliance testing are only able to verify a relatively small (albeit important) percentage of currently recommended standards. You can find out more about web accessibility compliance testing in page two of this article. Please click here

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