Making digital content accessible by everyone

Thankfully, the Government, industry workers, and members of the voluntary sector have come together in an eAccessibility forum, to develop an action plan to help make digital content accessible by more users.

Parlour Design works hard to ensure all their websites are accessible in a wide variety of formats, using:

  • Logical page structures for all the content (even with style sheets switched off), 
  • Not using ‘flash’ animation for layout or content purposes (just for pleasing design aesthetic features)
  • Always using ‘alternative text’ for images (and only then when text is not appropriate in the first place).
    • (rather than the common technique by many designers of using images for text, because they’re being lazy designers and can’t work out how to make the text appear how they want to, in it’s pure form!).
  • Placing the bulk of navigational links at the base of the page (even if on display, it seems to be before the main text)
  • Helping the page render differently, depending on the type of browser being used.
  • Using flexible font sizes (rather than fixed pixel dimensions), so users can easily increase the size of any text with a simple mouse action.
Thankfully, this particular group mentioned at the outset are also working on expanding the roll out of these simple methods, along with many other ideas as featured in this initial report:
(The report is also due to be updated every 3 months, with new developments).
One key area I was interested in, is point 3, Website Services:

3. Websites services work stream

Websites are the gateway to almost every business, voluntary organisation, or provider of information about public services. Whether or not they are direct sales and marketing tools, they are key contributors to the financial efficiency of each body. A well designed website draws in more users, and reduces the need for other means of customer support such as call centres. Although there are internationally recognised standards and guidelines of website accessibility, these are poorly adhered to by the public sector or by the private sector. This work stream will explore the reasons for this and assist both government and private sector to develop websites and online services that conform appropriately to web standards, guidelines and best practices, such as WCAG 2.0 AA and relevant W3C specifications. It will also take forward plans for a One Stop Shop for information on eAccessibility, and look at how the website designers of tomorrow can be trained to design accessibility into their products and services.

I’m very often so disappointed with the incredibly poor ‘housekeeping’ of so many website developers, and just how much extra code has been thrown in to most of the source code, particularly when using ‘design software’ to try and make things look like they think (rather than understanding the language behind it, to just use the ‘pure ingredients’).

I look forward to the further adoption of these developments, and seeing how the working party get on.