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The Web Accessibility Myth in the UK

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Have you been approached by website companies stating your web site design does not comply with the UK Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)? Worried?

Thinking of a whole new site redesign to ensure compliance? Well hold on…did you know that no company is capable of producing a website for you that is “compliant with the law” in the UK?

I’m not stating that there aren’t professional web design companies out there that build good quality, best practice web sites for clients. There are. But you should be sceptical if contracting companies declare that they will create web sites that are “DDA-compliant” or “compliant with the law”. Quite simply, it’s It is not possible to provide a definitive specification for a fully accessible web site which will satisfy the requirements of the UK DDA and asking a web designer to design a website that is “DDA-compliant” or “compliant with the law” is impossible.

Why? Until case law has been established (i.e. Some big corporate company is taken to court over the inaccessibility of it’s site) such claims cannot be made or honoured. Simple as that.

So what should you do?

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 designs – 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!

Conclusion?

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!

How do you choose a web site design company?

There is currently no nationally recognized system of accreditation for website developers who claim to create accessible websites that uphold W3C guidelines and specifications. You should therefore perform your own reference checks until you are satisfied that the web site designer has competence and experience in developing accessible web sites that uphold W3C guidelines and specifications.

Checks should include:

* a review of previous work – test it free at Accessibility101

* references from previous clients

* a practical knowledge of PAS 78

* a practical knowledge of W3C guidelines and specifications

* an appreciation of the implications of “The Disability Discrimination Code of Practice (Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises)” 2002 edition

* familiarity with assistive technologies.

Hope this helps!

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Shaun Anderson is the Web Marketing Director of Hobo, Accessibility101 and

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