Selling accessibility to associations

In the aftermath of a lawsuit brought against Target by the National Federation of the Blind for the inaccessibility of its Web site, Matt May at the Web Standards Project asks:

So, to what do we attribute the utter inaccessibility of many
e-commerce sites: ignorance, miscommunication, or malice? I’ve seen all
three in practice. Often, it doesn’t take the threat of a lawsuit to
get site owners to come around; they merely need to understand the
problems, and what they can do to solve them, in order of impact on the
user.

But whose job is it to make them “understand the problems”? Their users?

In the association world, accessibility is an afterthought – how else can you explain the Salt Institute making the ASAE and the Center‘s Top Ten Cool association websites list? The navigation rollovers don’t work in Firefox and there are no image ALT attributes on the huge image that makes up the home page. This means that up to 25% of users coming to the site can’t use it as it was intended, and 0% of blind and/or disabled users. But hey, “it costs a relatively low $5,000 per year to maintain”. Nice.

Ok, maybe “cool” and accessible don’t go together. Wrong. AARP also made the list, and their site adheres to the some of most strict W3C recommendations on accessibility and web standards. Maybe someone threatened to sue. I doubt it.

The bottom line is, accessibility is a tough sell. It doesn’t immediately lead to non-dues revenue or better retention or a “cool” website. 1 in 1000 users might require special needs. And there’s no way to accommodate every disabled person. The key is to get your web team thinking about web standards and accessibility now. Encourage them to educate themselves and demand any new work be designed with accessibility in mind. More on this tomorrow…

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