In his blog post entitled “Why award-winning websites are so awful” Gerry McGovern says “Practical and functional websites rarely win prizes for design but they do win sales and make profits, … The Web is a functional, practical place. A great website drives the customer to act… The shiny surface wins awards. Real substance wins customers.”
Sadly, the same goes for web accessibility awards as for other web awards.
We have noticed that in reality accessibility of web sites that win awards is not always perfect. While awards are offered to encourage accessibility in design and build of web sites as well as reward those that are truly accessible must be attention given to accessibility standards and best practice.
We were therefore surprised and disappointed to see the , ALGIM accessibility award winner, the Rangitikei District Council http://www.rangitikei.govt.nz/ with a site that was far from accessible. It seems that there are still some misconceptions around accessibility. Giving a nod in the direction of accessibility will just not do.
This reflects a wider problem of a lack of understanding that disabled people and others who face information barriers are customers and users of web sites. For some it may be the only, or the best way of finding information they can use.
Accessibility is still not taken seriously enough by some, it is seen as a lightweight consideration, a “nice to have” if time, energy and resources permit, but not important. The effectiveness, elegance and plain common sense of universal design principles are still not widely grasped.
Some examples of fundamental accessibility errors from the winning site are;
- Lots of “read more” links which with no information for a screen reader user tabbing through links
- Inaccessible CAPTCHAs on the form for collecting information for a community organisation database and the fix-it form
- Incorrectly marked up tables for layout on several pages
- Headings are used for formatting rather than for syntactical structure and there is incorrect heading hierarchy structure
- Accessibility statement with the access keys is only findable using the site map.
- The location map does not meet the colour contrast standard.
If this is the best there is, and no sites are of a sufficient standard then it would be best if no award was made.