Website Accessibility in the Private Sector

Ronald Milliman at Western Kentucky University has published a study analyzing private sector web sites for accessiblity. His results showed that 98.24% of the sites sampled failed the Bobby accessibility test for ADA Section 508 compatibility. The most interesting findings are that web designers were not knowledgeable of the exact techniques for making their site fully compliant (17.40% were knowledgeable) and that web designers did not feel that disabled users were a part of their target audience (42.07%).

The academic in me wants to question some of the rigor used in the experimental design of the study, however, with resources like Dive into Accessibility and Joe Clark’s book it is amazing that more designers, managers, and CIOs aren’t aware of the benefits of moving to standards based design and the risks of ignoring a significant population.

  • Jim Elve

    <p>Yes, David, the sad but true fact is that few business owners or web developers pay any attention to people with disablilties. The Sec. 508 legislation in the US is aimed only at government websites. Businesses, failing any pertinent legislation, see accessibility not as an opportunity to increase their client base but rather as an added, unnecessary expense.<br />
    <br />
    In our own small web development business, we spent considerable time and effort in the creation of a divison meant to cater to the 'accessibility market'. Remediation of existing sites and accessible design of new sites were our proposed services. In spite of climbing to the top of the search engine indices for queries on web accessibility and some agressive marketing to accessibility-oriented businesses with inaccessible websites, we failed to procur a single contract. <br />
    <br />
    Some of our published material was used in the curriculum of web development courses at MacMaster University. It seems that the interest in accessibility is still largely acedemic or grounded in the more responsible government sector.<br />
    <br />
    Even the biggest accessibility pariah, Macromedia Flash, made major upgrades to the FlashMX version aimed at satisfying Sec. 508 and the US ADA. DreamweaverMX also incorporates accessibility checking and implementation features. These features, however, need to be seen as necessary and need to be utilized by choice. Often, they are merely ignored.<br />
    <br />
    After the lack of interest shown for accessibility, I even find myself occasionally letting some accessibility shortcomings slide. When 'no one' cares about it, it is sometimes hard to justify the hours required to go from single A to double A standards.</p>

  • http://www.blogscanada.ca/blog Jim Elve

    Yes, David, the sad but true fact is that few business owners or web developers pay any attention to people with disablilties. The Sec. 508 legislation in the US is aimed only at government websites. Businesses, failing any pertinent legislation, see accessibility not as an opportunity to increase their client base but rather as an added, unnecessary expense.

    In our own small web development business, we spent considerable time and effort in the creation of a divison meant to cater to the ‘accessibility market’. Remediation of existing sites and accessible design of new sites were our proposed services. In spite of climbing to the top of the search engine indices for queries on web accessibility and some agressive marketing to accessibility-oriented businesses with inaccessible websites, we failed to procur a single contract.

    Some of our published material was used in the curriculum of web development courses at MacMaster University. It seems that the interest in accessibility is still largely acedemic or grounded in the more responsible government sector.

    Even the biggest accessibility pariah, Macromedia Flash, made major upgrades to the FlashMX version aimed at satisfying Sec. 508 and the US ADA. DreamweaverMX also incorporates accessibility checking and implementation features. These features, however, need to be seen as necessary and need to be utilized by choice. Often, they are merely ignored.

    After the lack of interest shown for accessibility, I even find myself occasionally letting some accessibility shortcomings slide. When ‘no one’ cares about it, it is sometimes hard to justify the hours required to go from single A to double A standards.