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Accessibility and Usability Forum

Firms Urged To Do More: Web For All

 4:15 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Companies must do more to break down the barriers that deter people with disabilities from using their Web sites or risk prosecution under equality laws, a trade body said on Friday.

Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), the Internet shopping industry body, said shops could lose 4 billion pounds in potential sales next year because many customers find their sites difficult to use.

More than a fifth of the population has trouble using Web sites, including people who are visually impaired or dyslexic, it said.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, companies must ensure that everyone can access their sites. Most currently fall foul of the law, the IMRG said.

Firms Urged To Do More: Web For All [today.reuters.co.uk]


smells so good

 4:36 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

The group supports the new "toolbar" that sits on a shop's site and reads out words in a computerised voice, enlarges text and tinkers with colours to make the page clearer. "It's the silver bullet," IMRG's Chief Executive James Roper told Reuters. "Put this little button on your site and suddenly you are legal."

Toolbar on my site? I honestly though that was a function of the browser.



 4:46 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Although people with sight problems already use special software to browse Web sites, the new tool will put the onus on retailers rather than customers to make sites readable. It also means the costs are paid by the retailer.

Hmmm, I don't think that one is going to fly. Those with disabilities spent quite some time finally deciding which software/tools they are going to use for web browsing.

Its a great concept but getting users to change from existing methods is going to be an uphill battle.

Why not just follow the established guidelines for creating usable and accessible sites and let the software that is out there do its job?

The new tool will put the onus on retailers.

This is just another tool to take the onus off the developers and designers which is where the ultimate responsibility lies. ;)


 5:02 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I do think it needs to be emphasized that shopping websites are losing money by not being accessible. But when I read that entire story - beyond the opening blurb - I'm wondering how helpful this technology would really be.

That is, would an online text reader really make a site "suddenly" legal - or accessible? Would it be any more able to interpret inaccessible content than the customer's own text reader? Providing this service for customers could be a great idea, especially to make shopping easier for those whose disability isn't serious enough to make them go out and buy a reader but who still could use some assistance. But it seems to me the website would still need to follow accessibility guidelines in order to be read correctly. Or am I missing something?

--If it does turn out to be a great idea, I'm betting someone will find a way to build a permanent reader into a site, rather than paying a company 50 pounds per month (and up!) for the service.

[edited by: Beagle at 5:08 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2007]


 5:34 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

The only tool that will work is the brain of the Web designer.

There ain't no such thing as a "technological silver bullet."

The one, single, BIGGEST thing that a Web designer can do to support accessibility is to WORK ON OLD BROWSERS.

This simple, blunt lesson is constantly buried by the "Web 2.0" fluff, and the AJAX fluff.

Blind readers are expensive and clumsy. I know quite a few disabled people, and not one single one of them floats around their 50-room mansion in a rocket-powered hoverchair, surrounded by millions of dollars worth of tech.

Most of them live hand-to-mouth, own old equipment and are painfully out of touch with tech trends.

I write sites that have to cater to these people. I can't write sites exclusively for the disabled, and they are not my main audience; however, I must keep them in mind as I design my sites.

I know it's not sexy, but really, supporting old browsers is the best way to support accessibility. It's a platform from which we can build a more comprehensive solution.

I'm not saying we should code old tech. All of my sites validate XHTML 1.1/CSS 2/WAI AAA (along with the appropriate headers), and I also tend to write WML 1.1/2.0 handler pages.

However, I test backwards a long way. One of my test VMs is Win98SE/IE5.01. We finally decided not to support NN 4.X in our new site.


 7:59 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

"If you do something right for people with difficulties, everybody benefits," he told Reuters.

Why not start at the source? What is so difficult about beginning at the source of the problem? Why create an additional layer and provide a crutch? That just doesn't seem like the correct way to go about this.

And, how does that toolbar know what alt attribute to assign to an image? Or what the <noscript> content should be? Or what the title of a link attribute should be? That has to be some pretty powerful stuff to take all of those factors into consideration and provide an audible solution.


 2:26 am on Jan 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Blind readers are expensive and clumsy. I know quite a few disabled people, and not one single one of them floats around their 50-room mansion in a rocket-powered hoverchair, surrounded by millions of dollars worth of tech.

Amen. I'm busily re-writing a website to add Accessibility and Usability for disabled people, particularly sight-disabled, and I have several testers that read & comment on my new pages as they go up.

I've discovered the two most popular, Jaws and WindowEyes have somewhat different approaches to how they render web pages, and neither of them are close to perfect.

Even worse, most websites have large sections of text that severely tax the screen-reader user's capability to keep up.. I've listened to their screen-readers babble hundreds of words grouped together and can't think of anyone I know, no matter how smart, that could assimilate what they hear in these "batches" to any usable degree whatsoever.

PageOne is also on the money.. this magic toolbar is very unlikely to work, and IMHO it will probably cause big trouble anyway with the screen-reading programs these users already have turned on.

The site I'm working on also uses the selected Windows audio device and screen-reader users have to first turn off their programs to use it, or very often their browsers become wobbly (particularly IE7) and often crash, for whatever reason.

Just my take.



 3:02 am on Jan 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Reuters have updated the article [today.reuters.co.uk], removing the wildly misleading "Silver Bullet" statement.

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