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Definition: “a website is inaccessible when the bit that matters to you is inaccessible”

April 27, 2012

I think I’m facing a new type of web accessibility issue in the form of “fully accessible websites” but that just aren’t accessible to me.

Today I find my bank has just launched their exciting new and accessible website but I’m locked out of my own account because the radio buttons essential to the log in page don’t work with Jaws 12 – I urgently need to check my recent transactions…

Over the last year I’ve been unable to use a media player to listen back to radio programmes (since last august) because the new media player which in my view doesn’t work with Jaws replaced a media player that did. I’m so sad about that because radio is a wonderful thing. I think the company’s line is that the media player is accessible.

I spent 3 days feeling gutted last week because the auction sites interface prevented me from placing a last moment bid on a piece of audio gear that I’d been searching for months, the last minute countdown blows out my screen reader – it’s like being physically wheeled out of the auction room by two bouncers in the last minute “sorry mate you cannot participate in this crucial bit of the auction”. I think that company believe their site is accessible too.

So When I try to sort these problems out I’m hearing more frequently this “the site is technically accessible” and “you might need more training on your screen reader” or the dreaded “it’s accessible but there might be usability issues for some users”.

These latter attempts to neutralise the issue I’m facing should I think be dealt with much better, developers should be asking questions of users first like “could you use that bit / function of the website before” before any cause of accessibility problems are shifted onto the end user. if a user says yes then they really are facing a loss of function.

Whether developers know enough about what functions might be lost as well as gained when they are developing new interfaces probably is an issue.

I think the argument that a website is “technically accessible” is based on someone having reassured someone that there is a justification based on the guidelines, whilst vaguely acknowledging in a “you can’t sue us” sort of way to the complainant that the website might not be accessible, or usable, or both.

All this wouldn’t matter so much if the web didn’t matter – there really isn’t an alternative to the internet now-a-days


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