Thursday, May 18, 2006

RNIB responds to Road Test critic

In the April edition [3.0] of Travolution magazine our Road Test examined eight travel websites and how well they catered for users with disabilities.

[Read the Road Test and our reasons for producing the article]

It would be reasonable to say that the sites in question did not come out of the exercise particularly well.

Reaction has been mixed – in fact, just one of the websites in question responded, privately, to say they thought it was a useful exercise – but Alex Bainbridge from Travel UCD left a post on the Blog to highlight a few issues.

Henny Swan, from the Royal National Institute for the Blind, who carried out the Road Test for us, left this response:

“You are correct in saying that Firefox does re-size font sizes. While it addresses the issue of fixed fonts for users of this particular browser it is still not considered a "pass" in terms of making a site accessible as fixed fonts act as a barrier to access for other browsers.

“The issue here is really around standards compliance and following the internationally and universally accepted guidelines on web accessibility the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 1 (WCAG1):

"3.4 Use relative rather than absolute units in markup language attribute values and style sheet property values.

“Whether a browser accommodates for fixed fonts or not WCAG requires that fonts are flexible. A website should never be built to accommodate a particular browser or software because if you do then you are at risk of locking users out. And while we don't want to pander to a particular browsers failing in their inability to scale font sizes the issue has to be looked at in a real life context: Internet Explorer is the most widely used browser at the moment and you can't force, or expect, a user to use a browser that you have deemed the most suitable for your site.

“Taking your Ferrari analogy, would you build a seat that only fitted a person of average height that had no flexibility to move the seat forwards or backwards? I would also argue that some of us could do our weekly shop in a Ferrari (although if I had one I'm pretty sure I'd have someone else doing one for me :-).

“Building on the standards compliance issue, all user agents (browsers, access technologies, media players etc) should also be built to a defined standard, the WAI User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG). Authoring tools (Content management systems, HTML editors etc) are the third piece of the picture. Authoring tools should facilitate the output of accessible content outlined in WCAG and user agents should be able to render and read accessible content.

“It's important to remember that standards and guidelines like these not only enable sites to be accessible but also future proofed and protected against the website breaking when new technologies emerge. A useful document explaining the concept of web accessibility depending on these three components can be found on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) website Essential Components of Accessibility.

“So to wrap up, there are plenty of people out there who do want to resize text in IE, who may not have Firefox either because they are not aware of it or prefer not to use it. Who wants to be forced to drive an estate when you could afford a Ferrari? Or, to turn it on it's head who wants to be told you can only drive a Ferrari if you can only afford an estate?

“I hope this helps and thanks for the feedback.”

Join the debate by posting a comment on the Blog or email us.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

1 comment:

Michael Rhodes said...

We took it upon ourselves to integrate the Accessibility Standards within our original design brief in the first instance and we will continue to adhere to the W3C guidelines as they are updated.

We worked hard to ensure that our site(s) are easy to use for people of all abilities. Hopefully more of our peers will try to incorporate these guidelines into their sites.