August 23rd, 2009

When Standards Go Wrong

I remember a few years back this trend to have a holier than thou attitude in large government supported websites when implementing standards for accessibility. The intention was good, create a website that was able to be understood by the visually handicapped (blind, colour-blind, etc), but the execution was often lacking due to lack of understanding of what it took to make accessibility work.

12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics - Berlin 2009 - Countries

The push has been primarily focussed in the more socially inclined European countries and continues today to be touted as the marker of a serious website for the general public.

Note: I don’t claim to be any kind of expert here, just an interested observer.

Today while checking out the International Association of Athletics Federations website, I noticed a little link to an “Accessible Version”. For a start I think it is hilarious that the main website is not considered accessible and they need a separate version to do that. Having a look at all the bad layouts in Firefox, I figured that was a good move on their part.

Clicking on the Accessible Version link is what really made me laugh though. Check it out below. I won’t even bother pointing out the all the poor layout and how this is completely lacking in accessibility, but a few things that you might not see on the surface… The only thing changed is the CSS between the two versions, which means reliance on javascript and that layout of the html are still there (two of the most important elements to accessibility).

12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics - Berlin 2009 - International Association of Athletics Federations

How about we stop the charade and stop claiming that we are supporting accessibility for web when we just have these half hearted efforts.

Accessibility should be able to be achieved with plain good website design. Let’s keep it simpler and forget about the accessibility if you don’t know what you are doing.

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