Why oh why – still ……..

We hand code web sites to W3C standards, every page we create is validated against the standards for HTML, XHTML and CSS, to us it is the backbone of our business.  These standards exist to assist everybody from the web designer, developer to the user.  As I have said before, good validated code will help with both SEO and will give greater access to a web sites information to those users who have some form of disadvatage, whether physical or technological.

Yes accessibility applies to technology aswell.

Last December the W3C published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0  these differ from the previous set of recommendations (1.0) for Web Content Accessibility in that they (2.0) are now results based.  In the past the 1.0 guidelines were vague and many recommendations could not actually be tested against a result.

No we can test against results for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 it should become easier for people to design and develop web sites.

But why is it that so many designers and developers still totally ignore any of these Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The lifeline of most designers and developers is the work they get from businesses i.e. B2B (business to business).  We see work from many designers worldwide and the majority of them do not appear to actually have any knowledge of WCAG.

If you think that most countries have some form of accessibility legislation that relates to the internet and business web sites you would have thought that these designers might actually be aware of WCAG – maybe even promote it.

Take the USA it is thought that the main legislation for this is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.   But the scope of Section 508 is limited to the Federal sector and does not apply to the private sector.  However if a business is in receipt of Federal funds the relevant contract may (not necessarily) requre 508 complience.

Currently there is no ‘firm’ opinion of accessibility legislation but the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, is a civil rights legislation governed by the Department of Justice.   This law is to make sure that people with disabilities can have an equal opportunity to participate in programs, services, and activities.

While the ADA does not deal directly with the accessibility of the Internet.  There it contains two major sections that may apply to Web accessibility. These are:

  • Title II, which states that communications with persons with disabilities must be “as effective as communications with others” [28 C.F.R. ss 35.160 (a)] and
  • Title III, which deals with public accommodation of people with disabilities.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 covers public accommodations and commercial facilities.  A public accommodation are the goods or services provided to the public by any business. There are no limitations on the types of services or goods provided.

Under §36.303 a public accommodation shall take those steps that may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services, unless the public accommodation can demonstrate that taking those steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations being offered or would result in an undue burden, i.e., significant difficulty or expense.

Whilst the ADA legal position is unclear – there have been numerous legal cases and opinions – one thing is definite if you do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act you are placing your business in a situation where you could be sued for denial of services or privileges.

It seems to me that when a business considers a new website or a website redesign they should check on the accessibility credentials of the designer/developers they approach.  Would you place your business in a position where you may be breaking the law?  In the event of any legal action who will it involve? the designer/developer or the site owner.

It is the responsibility of business owners to ensure they comply with the law, yet most forget that this ‘new fangled internet thing and new web site’  actually is part of the business and subject to the law.

As I said, a public accommodation are the goods or services provided to the public by any business.  That includes web designers and developers.

Now that we have the results based Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 it is easy to map these results against ‘legislation’ such as Section 508.