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After the high profile that accessibility was given 18 months ago following the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act, have things really changed?

The introduction of the DDA was to ensure that websites could be accessed by blind and disabled users, yet most research still shows that companies are still very poor at delivering accessible sites. Furthermore, new technologies such as Ajax are actually making the situation more difficult.

There are around 8.6 million people registered disabled in the UK, 3.4 million of which have disabilities preventing them from using the standard keyboard, screen and mouse set-up (via Web Design - A Best Practice Guide, E-consultancy). Despite this, a Disability Rights Commission report revealed that only 19% of websites offered a basic level of accessibility.

AJAX has not helped - instead it has created a whole new layer of complexity requiring JavaScript support between different screen readers, and text only browsers. Most AJAX applications will fail disabled users when it comes to User Testing and there is widespread uncertainty over the legislation introduced under the DDA.

The difficulty is that site owners are now faced with producing another version of their content, without the AJAX/Whizzy bits for the screen reader users or providing no script alternatives, which are normally complex and hard to achieve.

Chris Averill of CAD Interactive says: "One of the simplest tests for accessibility is to switch off JavaScript."

Averill describes his experiences first hand: "Clients tell me they are not so bothered about compliance as the improved usability for most outweighs the need for an accessible site. And the cost of implementing Ajax cuts budget that would normally be spent on accessibility."

A point reiterated in a recent AJAX and Accessibility article (Standards-Schmandards.com), which argues that: "Accessibility is often considered too late in the development process, at a time when changes cost more."

In response to this clear need for understanding and guidance surrounding accessibility, E-consultancy is introducing an intensive, full day’s workshop which will provide a practical, hands on approach to accessibility compliance and inclusive design.

Our accessibility training workshop will walk you through the assistive devices used by disabled people to overcome accessibility barriers and demystify accessibility compliance documents and laws. It takes place on July 11 in London.

The workshop will be delivered by Chris Averill of CAD Interactive and Ben Logan of Spotless Design. Chris is an expert interface designer with industry-leading usability and IA expertise, promoting user-centered design from the users and the business perspective. His career has seen him launch HomeChoice in 1996, lead BUPA’s web team and deliver web & interactive TV projects for Arthur Andersen.

Ben has over 6 years experience in the New Media industry. He has worked with key businesses, including KPMG, GE Consumer Finance Home Lending, Tesco, GE Money, MTV and more.

Naveed Akram

Published 28 June, 2007 by Naveed Akram

Naveed Akram is Senior Account Manager at Econsultancy. Connect with him via Linkedin.

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