Archive for August, 2008

My university has decided to close the UT Accessibility Institute effective today. I have voiced my concern directly to the decision makers and provided data and context to explain why I believe it is critical to continue funding for academic research on accessibility at UT.

If you share my concern, I encourage you to sign the petition to Save the Accessibility Institute.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Target made accessibility history today when they announced a $6 million class action settlement. The lawsuit originated when the NFB sued Target alleging that target.com is not accessible to people with disabilities using screen-readers. Highlights of the settlement include:

  • Target is not admitting liability that target.com is in any way inaccessible or has violated the Americans with Disability Act.
  • Target will pay up to a total of $6 million in damages to qualified settlement class members.
  • Target will ensure that the target.com website meets the Target Assistive Technology Guidelines and that blind guests using screen-reader software may acquire the same information and engage in the same transactions as are available to sighted guests with substantially equivalent ease of use.
  • Target expects to implement these changes by February 2009.

Reading the settlement, I get the clear sense that the intent is to truly break down the barriers and make sure that real people with disabilities can actually use the site. The monitoring and training clauses include:

  • Quarterly Testing – NFB will use an automated monitoring tool, Worldspace, on target.com every quarter.
  • Annual User Testing – NFB will conduct usability testing on target.com every year with 5 to 15 blind people.
  • Annual Tech Review – An accessibility expert, Jim Thatcher, will review the target.com site annually, assessing up to 40 pages on the site at his discretion, including but not limited to: home page, browse page of major category, search results, product detail, add to cart, guest sign in, guest registration, address book, payment methods, billing address, place order and thank you page.
  • Training – NFB will provide periodic one-day accessibility training sessions for Target employees responsible for coding the target.com website.

Now that is the smartest, most effective settlement I’ve ever laid eyes on. Some of my colleagues are concerned that Target isn’t using the US Federal 508 requirement or the W3C WCAG. My opinion? The most important statement in this settlement is this:

blind guests using screen-reader software may acquire the same information and engage in the same transactions as are available to sighted guests with substantially equivalent ease of use

That is the point of 508 and WCAG. These guidelines are just tools that help us break down the barriers. With the NFB, real user testing and Jim Thatcher as the accessibility consultant, I have no doubt that target.com will become a model of accessibility best practice.

And for everyone who has already been making the web accessible and teaching these best practices to others…I salute you with a slightly modified version of the Saint Crispin’s day speech from Henry the V

We few, we happy few, we band of geeks;
For those to-day that shed their blood with me
Shall be my brother in accessibility;
This day shall gentle your condition:
And developers blind to standards
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their accomplishments cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Accessibility Day

The Survey for People Who Make Websites 2008

I encourage y’all to head over to A List Apart and participate in their 2nd Annual Survey for People Who Make Websites. Help ALA collect data that will allow them to draw the picture of the ways web design is practiced around the globe. And even better, by making this kind of data available we could have a positive effect on best practices and employment, and even enhance public understanding of, and respect for, our profession.

Who should take the survey? Designers, developers, information architects, project managers, writers, editors, marketers and everyone else who makes websites.

Don’t be shy! Spread the word! (or as the nifty ALA banner says…”I took it! And so should you!” Take the Survey For People Who Make Websites 2008.