ADA’s Applicability Online

Posted October 29th, 2006 by Mike Cherim

ADA Online I need your feedback. On Friday, November 3rd I will be one of the speakers for the “Accessibility in Cyberspace: The ADA’s Applicability Online” conference. There I will be representing web developers. Frankly, I’m a little nervous and could use your help. I’ve given plenty of talks and presentations in my life, but as a representative of web developers this is my first. And since it’s a teleconference I can’t imagine the audience sitting in their underwear to ease the tension. I will be the last presenter, so the audience may be bored to tears at this point, yet for ten minutes I have to try and prevent them from nodding off and offer them value.

My presentational role will be to “discuss what software/applications are available to site owners and what costs are involved.” There aren’t that many so I will speak slowly. But I’d really like to hear from you to expand my list of software, applications, and related costs, where applicable. What can companies like Target use the enhance their site’s accessibility on a consistent basis and test it to keep it in its prime? I already know I will be going off track a bit as I really want to tell these companies my feelings about web accessibility, their responsibility, and to get to the heart of the subject matter (I may be unable to resist the urge), but firms will be paying good money to listen in so I don’t want to stray too far.

I strongly believe that companies that have to meet ADA guidelines in their brick-and-mortar establishments better damn well do so online as well. There is no question in my mind about this. Being disabled limits people’s choices as it is, so letting corporations limit those choices even further by way of online non-compliance is inexcusable. Sure they may argue they they already provide choices by offering catalog sales, telephone sales, and brick-and-mortar access, in addition to their online presence, but I feel all these choices need to be offered in such a way that anyone can exercise them — to choose their method of interaction. Some firms may argue that they only have a small segment of “disabled” customers, but that depends on how they define disabled — they may count customers in wheelchairs for all I know. (This may be one of the pitfalls of narrowly defining web accessibility as opposed to the broader definition used by Camp 1 subscribers.)

Be a sport, lend me your insights. What helps you make and keep your site(s) accessible? Someone list it already? That’s fine, endorse their suggestion as this will help me place emphasis on a particular piece of software or or extra-useful application. I know of a number of testing applications, but what about e-commerce solutions, news applications? What’s the best of the best these firms can use? They don’t want to spend a lot of money, and they don’t want to endure a steep learning curve. What can they use to help them be ADA-compliant in cyberspace?

11 Responses to: “ADA’s Applicability Online”

  1. JackP responds:
    Posted: October 29th, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    Don’t forget other browsers. A site checked in more than one browser isn’t necessarily going to be better for people with disabilities, but a site only viewable in one browsers is going to cause some people problems.

    Web Accessibility toolbar for IE. And for Opera. Chris Pederick’s one for FF. Browsercam. Automated checkers (with their inherent limitations).

    Oh, “learning how disabled users use the web” is pretty important, too…

  2. Mel Pedley responds:
    Posted: October 30th, 2006 at 8:07 am

    Some firms may argue that they only have a small segment of “disabled” customers

    Chicken and the egg scenario. They may only have a ’small segment of disabled customers’ because their current web presence actively dissuades disabled users - especially those using assistive technology. Thus they may be locking themselves out of a potentially profitable market.

    Legal and General’s recent experiences with their accessible redesign might be a good example to use. Legal and General are a hard-nosed company operating in a very competitive sector. The financial benefits that they reaped as a result of their redesign were significant enough for them to actively advocate accessible design as a serious financial investment with distinct rewards in terms of marketing, SEO benefits and reduction in maintenance costs.

    If your audience is looking for a single, magic bullet, off-the-shelf, application that is going to acheive all of this, they’re going to be very disappointed. Far better for them to view accessible design as a concept, built-in from the ground up using a set of tools. The exact tools may vary from site to site but should include validators (such as Tidybot), a range of common browsers for testing and at least one accessibility parser. However, they have to back these up with manual testing and one of the best ways they can do this, on an ongoing basis, is by opening lines of communication with their intended audience, listening to any feedback they receive, investigating it seriously and, wherever possible, implementing changes based on feedback as soon as they can.

    Their sites must suit their users - not the other way around. If they stop thinking of themselves a site owners and approach their sites as users, they may find the changed perspective highlights issues that they didn’t even realise existed.

    E-commerce solutions? I personally like, and have used, Trading Eye but I’ve also heard good things about Karova. The former also have a non-ecommerce CMS based on their online shop package that seems good.

    News applications? I’ve written my own so can’t help much there - although, of course, anyone is free to use my scripts.

    Hope that helps

  3. Mel Pedley responds:
    Posted: October 31st, 2006 at 8:08 am

    You might want to have a look at Nvu which is based upon the original Mozilla Composer code base. I’ve not looked at it in any great depth but it looks as if the developers are trying to get the application to produce valid code.

  4. Jim Thatcher responds:
    Posted: October 31st, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    It wasn’t until last week that this whole “name software and web applications” thing sort of came up out of the blue. Almost as if I were thrown a curve.

    Mike, I recommend that you ignore the Chair’s topic and talk about what you think is important. They obvioulsy didn’t consult the speakers. I was assigned a survey 508 which is almost irrelevant for this audience. Also the timing is very annoying with you and me 10 minutes each after the lawyers potificate.

    The legal side of accessibility is remarkably well represented, including cases involving Target, Priceline/Ramada, and AOL.

  5. Lee Neff responds:
    Posted: November 6th, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    I attended the teleconference and thought it was pretty good. I really liked your section Mike. It was just about the only part I took any notes. Could you list here some of the tools and such that you suggested at the conference? I did take notes but missed some of the details.

  6. Lee Neff responds:
    Posted: November 7th, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for the links. I’m sure they’ll prove to be useful to us.


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