Website design accessibility

1. Does My Website Have To Be Accessible in 2008?

You do have a responsibility at some level, whether or not you are the designer or the commissioner of the website, to ensure your website design does not discriminate against disabled visitors to your site.

2. So what happens if your website design is not accessible?

Unsurprisingly, you leave yourself open to criticism, bad press and and more seriously legal action if your site is not accessible.

3. What level of compliance should your website design meet?

No case has been brought to court in the United Kingdom to date, so there is no case law guidance. In any event, case law can only provide broad guidance – what websites have to do may vary from site to site. What is important, however, is the outcome: the DDA requires that you make what it refers to as “reasonable adjustments”, to your services to ensure that a person with a disability can access that service. This means making changes to websites – which offer 24 hour service, and a variety of features not available via, for example, a telephone service – so that disabled people can use them.

4. Web Accessibility Opinion

Basically, you need to make sure your site is built to W3C standards for good website design. That means valid html and valid css. It means passing Priority 1 W3C WCAG (Google it!) at least. It means well formed website code (i.e. without errors) and simple and correct use of technologies. Actually – this is fairly simple to do for an experienced web designer – do not accept that you need to pay more for accessible web design – it should come as standard, part of good practice web design. You could go one step further and ask “vision impaired” testers to test drive the site. Finally, you need to listen to your web site visitors. If someone contacts you about the inaccessibility of your web site – then fix it!

There’s a business case and moral obligation to make your site as accessible as you can. There are over 8 Million people registered as having a disability in the UK, and a lot of them use the net – do you really want to ignore them? Prosecutions have been successful in Australia and the US – it will happen in the UK, just not any time soon – so don’t worry too much about prosecution – and don’t listen to the snake oil salesman who want your hard earned cash for total website redevelopment!