Thursday, February 24, 2005

Shocked to my foundation.

Well, perhaps not that dramatic but I was nonetheless very surprised to read just how many government websites are not up to the current standards of accessibility for the disabled (meeting W3C standards: 47% of federal, 33% of state, 20% city sites [Acheiving e-government for all]). I found these numbers especially shocking because, knowing nothing about webdesign, I attended a very simple introduction to it through DoIT. The first thing I remember them talking about, and what I found most interesting at the time, was that things like Jaws programs are dependent on the format and layout of the website. What I took away from that little intro was that it was easy and responsible to format the page with headers, paragraphs, and other titles. Have I simply been mislead on how easy it really is to design a site to be accessible? Knowing little to nothing about these sorts of things I should hope that it is quite complicated for our assorted governments to be so irresponsible about such things.

2 comments:

  1. I was surprised by the results in this report in general. Based on the W3C's website (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/) there are 14 content guidelines. I skimmed through the guidelines most of which I could not I understand. So I would dare say that maybe designing a web page is more difficult than it seems. In a previous job, I created web pages of policy manuals and placed them on-line. In retrospect, the pages were very crude and full of text. I wonder if the IT department performed any of these tests for accessibility before posting the web pages to the server.
    So while I acknowledge that adhering to the guidelines may be more difficult for a non-IT professional, I think that web designers would have more experience in these matters. So maybe the government needs to hire different webmasters...

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  2. I don't think it's difficult to design an accessible website, it just requires keeping the guidelines in mind. Of course, it's very easy to disregard the guidelines! But in terms of actual coding, it only takes a tiny bit longer to provide a text label for each image.

    Part of the problem may be that so many people use web design software that lets them avoid writing anything in HTML. These programs can make it much easier and faster to put together a website. However, if people never have to look at the code I think it can become all too easy for them to stick in a bunch of images or paste in long blocks of text and never think about how the page will display on computers that are not like theirs.

    Image maps can be a problem both for the visually impaired and for people with slow connections that take a long time to download large pictures. It's kind of a pain to make an image map in HTML, so a web designer probably would not bother to do one without good reason. If they did go through all the trouble of making one, it would seem like a minor bit of business to stick in text links at the bottom. But in many web design programs it's easy to make an image map, so more people will want to put them on their pages. They may forget that not everyone will be able to use them and not bother to add text links.

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