Web accessibility is just good usability – Notes from the 18th June lunchtime seminar

By Alex Cato

This is a public service announcement to all librarians, information managers, web developers, designers and anyone who is responsible for a web page or intranet:

Accessibility is just good usability!

Thanks to the fantastic lunchtime seminar delivered by Darren Fittler of Gilbert + Tobin and Amajjika Kumara from AccessIQ on the 18th of June, members from ALLA NSW learnt both the importance of accessibility and the effect of poor website development and design on disabled individuals.

The expansion into the online environment as a communication/information medium and its rapid popularity presents a fantastic opportunity for the disabled to easily access information and communicate independently. Employing tools such as JAWS (job access with speech) screen readers with vision impairments are able to read and navigate the web without the need to seek the assistance of a sighted person.

This access and independence is dependent upon individuals, organisations, associations, governments developing website that are usable and adhere to the WC3 guidelines. With 20% of the population disabled (either vision, mobility, hearing or cognitively impaired) the development of a website or information product that is not accessible can either render the information product inaccessible or make it incredibly difficult and time consuming for the content to be navigated, understood and used. As a blind person, Darren brought home the impact of inaccessible websites to attendees. Inaccessible websites make it difficult for him to meet the requisite chargeable hours that lawyers must meet. Every hour taken struggling to navigate a website which is created entirely of tables, does not employ or adhere to a style sheet or is dominated by images with no alt text coded is another hour at work and another hour away from his young family.

It is for these reasons it is important for librarians, web administrators, designers and anyone responsible for a website or intranet to consider the accessibility of their online domains. To add further incentive to this social and corporate responsibility the federal government has passed laws to require that websites must receive a level AA+ accessibility rating. This legislation is expected to commence late this this year.

There are a number of free and paid resources available on the AccessIQ website to assist in ensuring that your website meets these standards.

The AccessIQ website is http://www.accessiq.org/

This post was written by the NSW ALLA web co-ordinator, Alex Cato. The post has also been republished on her blog http://curiousmeow.wordpress.com/.


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