Chris Lona of CL Design is making the web/digital a better, accessible experience for disabled and ageing people. He hopes to help organizations generate more revenue by being more inclusive of this group pf customers online. In addition, he hopes to help organizations improve compliance with accessibility initiatives and mandates. In this guest blog, he writes about web access.
Keep your hand down if you’ve ever had a problem accessing a website. After all why make you go through extra effort if you don’t have to… Imagine that the challenges you’ve had accessing websites were compounded by being visually, auditory, physically or cognitively challenged? You would be even more frustrated than you were when you had the original challenges. If you are a business owner in tourism, travel or hospitality and have gone to great lengths to ensure your destination is accessible, how accessible is your website which is the first impression and gateway to your offerings? If a disabled or older person wants to visit your destination and they cannot access your website, do you think they will book the trip through your company? Does it make sense – since your destination is about a superior, accessible experience – that your site should be as well? Canada, Europe the US and other countries all have legislation, mandates, or initiatives that address the issue of web accessibility. In 2008 retailer Target had to pay $6 million because their websitewas not accessible. The consensus around a standard for web access generates from the W3C’s WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) which has a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility. A nice goal to be sure but the realities and “best practices” involved leave a lot to be desired. What has come out of this as “best practices” is a web where it is completely acceptable to build a website and then find ways to make it accessible with assistive technology mostly for the visually challenged. This main assistive technology for the visually impaired is called a screen reader. It is software that reads the information on a web page aloud in a synthetic computer voice. But this assistive technology presents several access barriers of its own—cost, computer requirements, learning curve, lack of accessible websites and a robotic, synthetic voice. There is a new mandate in the U.S. called the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act: It contains (in short) “ground-breaking protections to enable people with disabilities to access broadband, digital and mobile innovations — a study conducted by the FCC revealed that people with disabilities are less likely to use Internet-based communications technologies”. For the web this will mean that certain videos will be required to be closed captioned for the auditory challenged. In terms of any mandates for inclusion of the physically and cognitively challenged when they use the internet, there are vague references to inclusion of a variety of people with differing disabilities. What all of this means for businesses and their commitment to (and compliance with) web accessibility initiatives is a lack of access for them. Where will they turn to make their site be able to be read by a screen reader? How will they find the right resource to make sure their online videos are closed captioned? What resources exist to ensure that the physically and cognitively challenged will also be able to access their online and physical world experience? The fact that they will be forced into providing web access as a piecemeal approach will mean that fewer companies will bother due to the difficulties and expense. The crux of the issue lies with the fact that “best practices” treat web accessibility as an afterthought rather than as an integrated design. A building is built with accessibility as an integral part of the design. What do you think? Should accessibility for websites be integrated from the ground up to create better online experiences for everyone? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Contains audio); www.cldesign.co Visit demo at http://www.sitellites.com/new_Zealand/