The Disability Discrimination Act expects companies to take reasonable steps to make their sites accessible to the disabled. The companies in Knexus Community reckon they are doing what is necessary - but they lack the guidance that would give them certainty.
At a Knexus forum this month, participants from member companies including American Express, Boots, Britvic Soft Drinks, BSI, ebookers, GlaxoSmithKline, Invesco, LloydsTSB, O2, Prudential, Standard Life, Telegraph Group and William Hill met to discuss web accessibility. Uncharacteristically, the forum went public with its members’ views.
Knexus chairman Graeme Foux spoke to OUT-LAW after the event. He was keen to stress that neither he nor Knexus represents the voice of these members. But he approached us to convey the tenor of their concerns.
One member, described as a leading provider of business services, said:"We have provided the facility so customers that visit our web site can get our information either through a telephone number or request it in an alternative source."
The unnamed member added:"I would question whether we are going over the top to ensure that everything has to be made [available] on-line."
But the Disability Rights Commission does not consider it"over the top,"according to Patrick Edwards, a spokesman for the independent statutory body that monitors the effectiveness of the UK’s disability legislation.
"It’s extremely doubtful that services available on the web could possibly be translated to a telephone line without some loss in fairness to disabled people,"Edwards told OUT-LAW."Web services are available 24 hours a day and have incredibly high levels of interactivity and it is unlikely that similar type services could be duplicated on a phone line."
Edwards cited a recent High Court case which confirmed that reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act"are not about doing the minimum"but all about doing everything reasonably practical to ensure that disabled people are treated the same as non-disabled people.
"Companies holding these views on web access are acting at considerable legal risk,"concluded Edwards
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Andrew Kirkpatrick — project manager for NCAM projects dealing with web and rich media accessibility at the CPB/WGBH — talked about advanced accessibility challenges at the recent Web Design World 2004 conference in Boston.
Watch a video of Andrew Kirkpatrick’s session (Windows Media 9 format)
Spotted on BBC News today: Speegle, the search engine that speaks its results and bears more than a passing resemblence to Google (no way, the company protests).
I’m with Julie on this one (see the article for comment) - a one-off search engine doesn’t really help blind or partially sighted people a huge amount - as soon as they’ve moved off that page they’ll have to use another screen reader anyway.
Anyway, the site didn’t even load when I tried it. How’s that for accessible? [Update: tried again later and got the site running but it wouldn't play ball on Firefox - plug-ins required]
So, here I am sitting at a friend’s PC, riding out the down-time between my year-long travels and Christmas/returning to work. A bit of casual browsing later reveals a little gem that just begged to be posted here …
Over at Standards-Schmandards (love the name!) is an interesting project by the name of Fangs that deserves a look. The author of this tool has created an extension for Firefox that aims to mimic the output that would be generated (audibly) by screen readers such as Jaws. Given how pricey a full copy of Jaws is, this looks like a promising option for the developer who cares about standards/accessibility but does not need to use a screen reader a huge amount (and hence justify paying for it). In addition, unlike Jaws, this is cross-platform - if you have Firefox 1.0, this *should* work. The ’should’ part needs emphasising because the extension is still in development. However, the author is definitely after feedback and is also sharing the source code. Give it a try and see if you can help out.
Try the archives on the site for more Fangs news.
As previously mentioned by Patrick the W3C WCAG Working Group is requesting your feedback on the latest Working Draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This is your (soon to be last) opportunity to have your input into the next version of these important guidelines. Once this document reaches Candidate Recommendation (hopefully early in 2005) your comments will be much more difficult for the W3C to make use of, if at all.
An introduction (which feedback is requested for too) is available at:
The five Working Drafts published on the 19th of November can be found at:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
- General Techniques for WCAG 2.0
- HTML Techniques for WCAG 2.0
- CSS Techniques for WCAG 2.0
- Client-side Scripting Techniques for WCAG 2.0
And once you’ve read some of that lot (comments on the techniques documents are especially needed) send your comments to email@example.com. 200 public comments were incorporated into the 19th of November Working Drafts, get your comments incorporated in the next and leave your mark on this important step for Web Acccessibility.
Distinctly higher quality than in 2003
Economics Minister Clement:Accessibility has a considerable innovation and growth potential
Aktion Mensch and Stiftung Digitale Chancen honoured the best German accessible Websites with the BIENE Award in Berlin last night. Golden BIENEs were awarded to the Postbank and the Integrationsfachdienst Profil Hamburg. All in all 19 websites were honoured for their exceptional accessibility. Federal Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement emphasized in his welcoming address that every Internet application has to follow accessibility standards. Herein lies a considerable innovation and growth potential for adigital Germany.