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Site Check Certifications, Who Can You Trust?

By Geof Collis
Badeyes Design and Consulting
October 24, 2009

I recently read an article CIBC.com the first banking site in Canada to receive CNIB Site Check certification and just had to check it out.

The new Information and Communication Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is just around the corner and it is expected that the criteria for web accessibility will be Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.0 level AA, so I felt it is important that any organization handing out certificates for web accessibility had better get it right.

I did a quick check of 2 pages, the home page and their Accessibility page and found many many basic errors; improper nesting of headings, link names that make no sense when read of context, invalid code, contrast controls that didn’t work and the list goes on.

As the article wrote: “CIBC met and exceeded the accessibility recommendations outlined in our accessibility audit,” says John M. Rafferty, CNIB President & CEO. “It is imperative that financial institutions and other corporations take CIBC’s lead and implement accessible digital platforms – for people who are blind or have vision loss – to provide equal access to online information for all Canadians.”

Mr. Rafferty is correct in stating that all online information should be accessible to ALL Canadians, not just those with blindness and vision loss, so we are really concerned that they could pass a site like this with so many errors that an accessibility audit done properly would have caught them, as a matter of fact any online validation checker will catch them, you don’t even have to know how to assess a website.

On the CIBC websites Accessibility page http://www.cibc.com/ca/accessibility/index.html it states: “CIBC is now certified through the “Site Check Program” offered by the CNIB.” and when we visit http://www.accesscontent.ca/work/site-check.aspx we find the following: “After undergoing a CNIB website audit, you will receive a Site Check remediation report within your audit report. Remediation recommendations are those that will make your site accessible and compliant according to internationally recognized W3C AA guidelines.”

And:

“If all issues have been successfully addressed, your organization will then be able to display CNIB’s exclusive Site Check certification mark on your website.”.

The CIBC website doesn’t pass WCAG 2.0 AA, there are some good practices being implemented but they are overshadowed by errors in the most basic of criteria for claiming accessibility. There isn’t even a description for the so called “exclusive” site check certification, a basic element of web accessibility, I had to get a sighted person to describe it to me.

I’m not sure why this site was certified as being accessible but it is obvious that checks and balances need to be put into place so that organizations certifying sites need to be monitored and so do the companies that display them. It is not enough to hand out a certification one day and the next week the organization fails to keep up the standards.