It is now 2009 ... in just 11 days, it will have been 10 years since the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [w3.org] first became a W3C recommendation.
And where are we at today? What is the status of this tremendous effort?
Progress in review
On the upside, we have come a very long way from where we stood in 1999. CSS is now a commonly accepted (and used) standard for all websites. Even the WYSIWYG editors* have joined the "standards" bandwagon. We are no longer coding for X browsers. Rather, we are coding to a standard; one that actually most browsers (yes, even IE these days) adhere to.
But despite all this progress, we have overall not really progressed much. In certain areas, giant leaps forward have been made. But in other areas, we have taken equally large steps backwards.
Much still remains to be done
I recently sat in a meeting with supposed web "professionals" ... Some of the design aspects that were discussed were outright horrid from an accessibility and usability perspective. When I expressed my concern over where the discussion was heading, citing certain aspects of the WCAG, there was a big silence in the group ... Quietly, and confidently, awaiting feedback to my remarks, one person spoke up. In fact, he was exactly the person I expected to first say anything. Young, inexperienced, very much "new media" oriented, where the bells and whistles are more important than how stuff actually works.
"Where are you getting that stuff from?" he asked with clear scepticism in his voice.
When I mentioned "the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines", the room went even more silent, with a big "Who? What? Where?" look on everyone's face.
I cannot say I was directly surprised, as I have been in many of those meetings before.
"Why should we care?" "This does not apply to us." Or, the worst one of them all: "Those are not the types of customers we are seeking to attract."
This little story and the experience that goes along with it summarizes very well the current problem.
So very few truly understand what accessibility and usability is about!
Ignorance is not an excuse! Usability is for everyone!
With or without the WCAG [w3.org] and WAI [w3.org] (Web Accessibility Initiative), I am utterly in shock over some of the horrendous usability problems we are still wrestling with.
A few highlights, in no particular order:
Again -- ignorance is no excuse!
Are there other common mistakes out there? What can we do, as designers/developers to provide a counter balance in favor of more awareness of accessibility and usability?
* Or -- perhaps more accurately -- WYSIWYG+, since you seem to get just a little more markup than you had initially bargained for.
[edited by: DrDoc at 4:56 pm (utc) on April 25, 2009]