Accessible Website Design UK

Disability Discrimination Act compliant websites in the UK

An accessible website is not only a legal obligation but a moral one. By obscuring your information about the products or services you offer and making it difficult for people to access with disabilities, a huge online market is being turned away. If you are planning on building a website for your business or looking to redesign an existing site you must make DDA compliance a high priority for the specification.

Does an accessible website have to be unattractive?

Absolutely not. By writing to the web standards as laid out by the W3, a quality designer can apply CSS and create a perfectly presentable cross-browser web page. This very site uses this technology, has validated code and is fully (WCAG AAA) compliant.

How will a DDA compliant website assist my visitors?

Being accessible covers many areas which means everyone will benefit when viewing your website. See below for a list of positives and negatives about creating a site using X/HTML, CSS and being DDA complaint.

Positive

  • Seperating style from content creates a better, more readable document
  • Loading times are massively reduced on a per-page basis
  • More and more browsers are "standards aware" meaning higher compatibility
  • Accessibility tools such as Jaws(TM) and Read-e(TM) can interpret the page more effectively
  • Search engines can absorb your web page much more effectively and will even reward sites for it
  • Template amendments are far easier to do which results in faster turn around time and lower costs
  • Devices such as smart-phones and PDA's can view the site effectively
  • Your website will abide by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Helps assist translation tools for a truly global audience
  • Offers the ability for people without the "conventional" mouse and keyboard to view your website
  • Allows text to scale up and down according to the users browser settings
  • Forces websites to offer text alternatives for every non-text element (eg. images)

Negative

  • Tableless layouts create havoc with cross browser compatibility so requires more testing
  • Lack of quality suppliers mean those that can provide the service often charge much higher rates
  • Requires users to run a W3 standards compliant browser (most modern browsers are)
  • Innovation of X/HTML and CSS is often hampered by popular browsers that have web standards issues

DDA Compliant Website Design UK

What are the legal implications of not complying with the DDA?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 were published in May of 1999.

Source: W3

These guidelines explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines are intended for all Web content developers (page authors and site designers) and for developers of authoring tools. The primary goal of these guidelines is to promote accessibility. However, following them will also make Web content more available to all users, whatever user agent they are using (e.g., desktop browser, voice browser, mobile phone, automobile-based personal computer, etc.) or constraints they may be operating under (e.g., noisy surroundings, under- or over-illuminated rooms, in a hands-free environment, etc.). Following these guidelines will also help people find information on the Web more quickly. These guidelines do not discourage content developers from using images, video, etc., but rather explain how to make multimedia content more accessible to a wide audience.

By not complying you potentially open yourself up to a claim under the Disability Discrimination Act with regards to making information about your service inaccessible. By being aware of the web standards and working towards bringing your website up to date, you can argue that you have a plan of action to remedy the situation but this still doesn't stop the millions of disabled people, with money in their pockets, from finding alternative services where the websites are far more accessible.

You are losing far more money in lost sales than the cost of implementation of the standards.

Why all the fuss about the DDA now?

Sadly, although the Guidelines were drafted in 1999, it has taken the law to enforce a minimum set of standards. We have always followed the W3 and their recommendations and even now are continuing to study the development of next generation tools such as XHTML2 and CSS3. Since we stay on top of these issues, we know that browser developers are often slow to correctly implement the standards. If the browsers do not comply, then website developers won't either. Only with the advent of browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Opera has the gauntlet been laid down for website designers to arm themselves with the knowledge needed to carry the standards to the public.

It has also taken the law to raise awareness of the necessity of accessible website design in the eyes of the public. Even today people are still discovering that their initial investments are against the law.

What we are finding is many design and development agencies building two websites for a client to bypass the law, which is great from the end users point of view but as a small business you have to fund two lots of investment, update management contracts and two lots of search engine optimisation and marketing campaigns to operate.

The good news is that one website can be developed to acheive all goals but it does take a bit more work to get right. This is where we come in. Why pay a designer to learn about web standards while you're paying for it? We can offer consultations and audits with you, as the business owner, and your developers as service providers.

How can tn38 help?

Contact us with information about your existing site, you requirements and your goals and we can do a preliminary audit before offering you a full range of services including our comprehensive auditing and reporting services.

We also run workshops based on the technologies and we aim them at marketeers and website developers of all levels and ability.

Find out more about tn38 www Services. A focused approach to the internet.

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