Friday, May 12, 2006

Website Accessibility Lawsuit - Issues to Consider

There is a lawsuit in California between the American Federation for the Blind and Target, alleging that Target is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit alleges that because Target's website is inaccessible to persons with disabilities, they are denied equal access to goods and services.

This lawsuit could have far-reaching impact, because many websites do not include basic accessibility features in their programming (this blog included, up until today). It also will test whether or not the ADA applies to websites and website technologies developed after its inception.

Clear as mud? Here's an example:

For a person with a visual impairment who uses a text-to-speech application to read the web, links in a webpage mean nothing. There is no description to be read. By adding an alternative text tag, these links can be titled or captioned to include a description of what they are or where they point. The same holds true for images.

For example, the following links are to the source of this story,

Hold your mouse over this link, but don't click on it.

See? Nothing happens. If you click on it, you'll be taken to the source of this post. But if you're using a text-to-speech app, it gives you no information about where to click.

Now hold your mouse over this link.

Vive la difference! You should have seen a "pop-up" title explaining what the link was. This is text that can be read via text-to-speech technologies.

I have been very remiss in making even the most basic changes to make this blog accessible. Starting today, I'll be putting this type of tagging in place so that this blog is more accessible to all readers. There are probably other changes that should be made, and as I learn about them, I'll try to put them into place as well.

(Hat Tip:, Between the Lines blog)

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