Recently I visited Dunedin. I always enjoy a visit to Dunedin, even if it is the middle of winter, perishing cold and threatening to rain most of the time, but the welcome is always warm. Of course the day I left was perfect.I was there for work as part of Otage Uni’s Disability Awareness Week. It was full on. I gave a speech and took part in a debate, which sadly we lost, although only because our adjudicator had the casting vote. Oh well, there was a pleasant little bottle of wine for each of us and it was fun. The speech was reported in the local rag and the photo wasn’t too ghastly I am told, even if the story contained the odd inaccuracy.
But that wasn’t all. There was an assortment of meetings, including on career services for disabled students and several about accessible information and web accessibility. We also ran two workshops, introductions to web accessibility and to information accessibility.
Information accessibility is a really interesting area for us at AccEase. We have always concentrated on web accessibility but information accessibility is equally important and our workshops had a really enthusiastic reception. There will be more to come, and we will be taking a more integrated approach to information accessibility. And so to quote a cliche – “watch this space”.
Over the years AccEase has assessed and surveyed hundreds of New Zealand Government web sites. We have found some common problems which create difficulties for users. Here are the top eight.
- Text alternatives for images are missing or useless. Alt text is not a caption, but rather conveys the same meaning as the image. If the image is purely decorative then use a null or empty “” alt so it will be invisible to a screen reader. Screen reader users must really get sick of hearing “image image image” ad nauseam. Good alt text can be useful for sighted users too.
- Essential public accountability and other important public documents on the site are in pdf only. These are a real problem, and not just for blind people. They are large files, and often don’t re-size well. Pdfs are designed to be printed and often do not work at all well on the screen. I could go on.
- Poor colour contrast means essential information might be unreadable for some users. This is often a problem with essential navigation.
- Poor enlargement means a very tiring experience for many people, including those in poor light or who left their specs at home.
- Failure to use access keys. Consistent use of access keys is important not only for blind users but for people who navigate the web without a mouse.
- Small navigation points. These can easily be missed by the user and are really annoying for people with poor hand-eye co-ordination.
- Accessibility statements focused on compliance rather than an understanding of an audience. That is quite insulting to the user. In other words, we don’t really care about how bad your experience is on our site, or if you can find what you are looking for. We just want to tick some boxes to get the SSC off our backs.
- Overly busy home pages. Now where on earth in all this clutter can I find?