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Beware the “Enhancement” Masquerading as “Accessibility”

By Geof Collis
Badeyes Design & Consulting
November 6, 2010

This is another article in my line of previous “Beware” articles, Beware The Validation Sticker” and Beware The Charlatans“.

In these articles I’ve pointed out things to be aware of when claims are made of web Accessibility, the most recent are “Talking” websites and “Accessibility Tools”.

While these might be of use to some people, they will not make your website compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) guidelines, regardless it Level A or Level AA is adopted.

An article at http://www.northumberlandnews.com/news/porthope/article/152177 says Port “Hope makes website barrier-free” because they use Browse Aloud but that just isn’t so, the Port Hope website isn’t remotely accessible.

On the Canadian Tire website they have an icon that states “global/WebAccessibility” which leads to a Suite of “Accessibility Tools” that some Disabilities might find useful but the Canadian Tire site is not accessible according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, the code alone on the home page has 322 errors, so I’m not sure what the Global Accessibility aspect of the site is unless they are suggesting that by some visitors using the Accessibility Tools that it somehow translates into Accessibility.

As quoted from the W3C, “Accessible” means usable to a wide range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning difficulties, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech difficulties, photosensitivity and combinations of these.

Following these guidelines will also make your Web content more accessible to the vast majority of users, including older users. It will also enable people to access Web content using many different devices – including a wide variety of assistive technologies.

No where in the WCAG 2.0 does it refer to any of these items as being part of the specifications, the WCAG 2.0 does not endorse any products, they are “Enhancements” and are not needed to satisfy conformance to the Standards.

Conformance to a standard means that you meet or satisfy the ‘requirements’ of the standard. In WCAG 2.0 the ‘requirements’ are the Success Criteria. To conform to WCAG 2.0, you need to satisfy the Success Criteria , that is, there is no content which violates the Success Criteria.

As the WCAG states, it is about making ‘Content’ ‘Accessible’ to “Assistive Devices” by following the Guidelines, not by adding ‘Programs’ to ‘Enhance’ the user experience, in other words, having them on your website wont make it compliant. In the case of programs like Browse Aloud, if the website is not accessible to begin with, they dont work very well.

The Bottom line is these programs are just “Enhancements” and do not make your website WCAG compliant, or AODA compliant and you should Beware of anyone telling you otherwise, it is misleading, disingenuous and irresponsible to suggest otherwise.

A site that is not Accessible by the W3C Standards yet has these “Enhancements” is like an Ice cream Sundae without the Ice Cream, all you get is toppings.

Resource

Browse Aloud:
http://www.webstandards.org/2006/05/11/all-aboard-the-pas-78-gravy-train/