The accessibility of segregation

Trenton Moss tackles “text-only” websites head on with his newest article titled “Manchester United: top of the web accessibility league?“. Man Utd have won awards and praise for their accessible version of their websites - it is excellent to see a well recognised public company taking accessibility seriously enough to make an investment like this. But is creating two separate websites - one accessible the other highly graphical - the best approach?

I agree with Trenton’s position that the two website approach to accessibility isn’t within the spirit and meaning of accessibility. Accessibility is about equality as well as inclusiveness. We need to include people with disabilities into the audience for our sites - not give them their own separate website. Keeping the content of both sites synchronised is a management nightmare, and as we have seen with other websites, the accessible website quickly falls behind, and its audience relegated to being less equal than their fully-abled counterparts.

I grew up in South Africa (Uitenhage) during the early eighties - at the height of the Apartheid regime of the country. Apartheid was initially established as a solution for equality without prejudice - equality through separation. Separate education, separate communities, separate medical facilities, separate justice system, separate political representation - all based on race. A social solution that quickly became a social nightmare, one that oppressed millions of people. One of the biggest factors in the continuing oppression was the distinct lack of - or disregard of - knowledge as to what was happening on the “other side of the fence”. Seperation gives us an excuse to forget.

The parallels between disability segregation and Apartheid are frightening, it is not an allusion I like thinking about. Let us not go down the road of segregation as a solution to meeting the needs of disabled people on websites. Segregation is not a solution.

From Trenton’s excellent article, I will however criticise just one point. He pleads with Manchester United to scrap the two website system and make the main richly-tailored website accessible. I say take the accessible website, and enhance the look of that to bring it closer to the richness of the current version. Good strong buildings need good strong foundations, and an accessible foundation delivers benefits to a non-disabled audience too.

Mike Davies (Isofarro)

Filed under: Accessibility
Posted by Accessify on Tuesday, June 22, 2004

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.