Must all websites comply with accessibility code?

It’s time we had an industry debate on the subject of on-line accessibility (News, DW 8 April).

It’s time we had an industry debate on the subject of on-line accessibility (News, DW 8 April).

That positive action needs to be taken to address the deficiencies highlighted in the Disability Rights Commission’s Report is clear, but despite a published Code of Practice, the DRC’s recommendations and Web Accessibility Initiative Guidelines, there are still significant grey areas. While a number of tools and techniques are available to Web designers, there is still uncertainty about whose responsibility it is to effect change, how change is best applied and to which websites.

Specifically, I’d like to see liability, implementation and relevance issues resolved. In a new brief, it’s simpler to highlight the need to make provisions in line with the act, but what happens if an existing client doesn’t brief us to implement change and takes no initiative, despite recommendations? Is it then the designer’s responsibility to discuss not just design implications but the legal requirements with them? And can the designer be held liable for failing to do that?

At the moment, consultancies are left to their own interpretations and methods, as led by guidelines and approved by clients. But I’d like to see standards and best practice guidelines drawn up to clarify the best way for designers and developers to work with existing assistive [sic] technology, browser and media player developers.

And what type of website qualifies? We all accept public service, Government, corporate communication, news, information and e-commerce retail sites should make their information/services accessible, but would a branded website offering only advertising messages and no functionality also have to comply with the legislation?

If yes, is this reasonable, considering mass media – TV/radio ads, billboards and posters – exclude one disabled group or another?

And must all sectors provide accessibility for all disabled groups? For example, will the car sector have to provide accessibility for the blind, even though this group can’t drive the vehicles and as such aren’t the primary target consumer? Certainly they can be passengers, but do they still need access to technical specifications and other marketing material?

With 8.6 million disabled people in Britain and tough accessibility legislation, there are competitive advantages in developing a strong understanding in this field.

The companies in the GT Network are committed to finding the best way forward. With GT.XM London’s expertise, we’re looking at how to simplify the issue, and how the industry and relevant organisations can come together to discuss the issues and set standards to provide clarity for all.

Richard Davies

Good Technology founder and GT Network chairman

London W2

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