Blog » Accessibility
Accessibility professionals can look forward to the passage of two European laws pertaining to web accessibility: the public sector accessibility directive and the European Accessibility Act. Both of these laws will bring much-needed clarity to the drive towards better accessibility in Europe. There are, however, a number of issues which will need to be resolved before the laws can be allowed to achieve their full potential.
The Design for All Research Group at Middlesex University have produced a report called Declaring conformance on web accessibility asking the question: can website accessibility declarations be trusted?
Sadly the conclusion was no, for both self-declared and third-party certifications, confirming the findings of earlier studies. Using a sample of 100 European government and commercial sites claiming accessibility standards conformance, more than 95% were found to have accessibility issues. The study used our automated tool, SortSite, in conjunction with manual testing performed by the accessibility group at the Shaw Trust (see the report for details on methodology).
This diagram shows how web standards have developed since 1994. Originally HTML and related standards were discussed and agreed by a small group of interested parties on a mailing list. Later the W3 was formed, and it put in place increasingly rigorous processes, with increasing amounts of public consultation.
While solid process and consultation is a good thing, one striking point is how long it now takes to get W3 standards from Draft to Recommendation status.
Here's a month-by-month review of the important events of 2010 for our company and customers:
Jan - PowerMapper 5.0 Released
PowerMapper 5.0 was released to support and maintenance customers. New features included: new map styles; analytics data import; data visualization; map notes. Feb - Management Buyout
PowerMapper Software completed the acquisition of Electrum’s PowerMapper and SortSite product business as part of a management buyout (MBO). Mar - Draft of new Section 508 accessibility standards
October 14th is World Standards Day: this year's theme is making the world accessible for all, which we're passionate about (both personally and as a company).
Over 650 million people globally are affected by some kind of disability, and one quarter of the world population is over 60, so accessible products and services have a huge audience.
Remember, accessibility benefits everyone:
Wheelchair ramps in buildings make them easier to get into with prams.
We've just moved to new offices in Edinburgh in the rather stunning St Andrew Square. We spent a long time choosing offices since they had to match quite strict sustainability criteria:
Easy access to public transport (the train station is 3 minutes walk, the bus station is the other side of the square, and the new tram system will run through the square) Accessible to wheelchair and low vision users (quite hard to find in Edinburgh which is full of very old buildings that are hard to make accessible) Energy efficient with recycling facilities (the office has recycling bins everywhere, with special bins for toner cartridges which go to a recycling charity) Plenty of space for future expansion The new offices fit the bill perfectly, with the bonus of a great view across to Edinburgh Castle.
I had the privilege of visiting the Shaw Trust's accessibility testing center recently. The Shaw Trust is a UK charity which supports disabled and disadvantaged people prepare for work, find jobs and live more independently. As part of their work they provide accessibility testing services to a range of organizations worldwide.
Their accessibility testing team employs people with a range of disabilities, using different assistive technologies. This means their testing is very thorough and sets a gold standard for the rest of the accessibility community.
Last week we released SortSite 3.1. The main theme of this release was expanded browser compatibility rules.
Other features in this release include: page weight checks; new accessibility summary; and greatly reduced memory consumption on large sites (up to 75% less memory in some cases).
On Dec 11th 2008 the W3C released the long awaited WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines. The first draft was published in Jan 2001, so they've been 8 years in the making. For comparison, it took NASA 8.5 years from Kennedy's 1961 speech to land a man on the moon.
On Dec 16th 2008 Electrum released SortSite 3.0, the first commercial accessibility tool to support the final W3C WCAG2 recommendation.
In addition to support for WCAG2 there's been a host of user interface improvements, including the ability to set a corporate web site quality policy and share that with co-workers.