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RE: examples of sites with good accessibility

From: Geoff Stephens <GeoffsLists@GeoffAndWen.com>
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2006 15:02:34 -0400
To: <Anna.Yevsiyevich@kohls.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <00ea01c6f3b1$242e8fb0$ea2bfea9@LatitudeD610>
I had to think about this for a while, but I think I have an example of a
major retail site, Banana Republic, that has at least addressed
accessibility in a somewhat constructive fashion from the perspective of
some users I know.  I do not use the site myself.  It probably violates many
guidelines defined by WCAG--I didn't check.  My wife just likes the product
descriptions so I thought I would mention it here.  someone is going to go
and do a check and point out many faults but there it is.
As has been mentioned here countless times, it's not enough to conform to
standards and it's easy to explain why.  There are many retail sites that
are navigable with screen readers.  One of the problems that makes these
sites challenging is the degree of description of the products for sale.
Sometimes products are just not described adequately.  I recently purchased
a piece of leather furniture online.  I assumed it was black in color
because some of the descriptions other leather furniture available on that
site provided color descriptions.  But these descriptions were only provided
in passing.  In the instances where descriptions were provided, it seemed to
be done in that fantastical, infomercially exaggerated way some furniture
stores try to persuade people to buy their products.  The descriptions for
the pieces of furniture ranged from pretty good to none at all.  Consistency
in product descriptions is extremely important.  A picture may be worth a
thousand words but it doesn't describe the features and specifications in a
detailed way.  Online salesmanship is markedly different than a human
salesperson who plies his wares by never shutting up.
In fact, I am usually willing to work my way through a largely inaccessible
retails site if the product descriptions are excellent.  I have been known
to follow every improperly labeled link on a site, label all of them for
myself and then continue to use the site religiously if the content is
attractive enough.  The reason I am pointing this out is that many users
might have given up on those inaccessible sites long before I did.  I have
the luxury of using the latest release of a competitive screen reader that
allows me to make up for some of the shortcomings of ininaccessibility. 
Although a well thought approach to the structural presentation of
information can go a long way toward accessibility, the real measure is the
overall attractiveness of the content.  If that content is accessible then
it's that much better!
I sometimes find sites that conform to WCAG guidelines to be more
problematic than those that are just logically designed.  I only say this
because some people seem to be obsessed with guidelines.  It would be great
if accessibility was quantifiable.  This list would be unnecessary.  But
we've all heard this too many times.
The bottom line is that conforming to WCAG may be the easy part of the job.
All those other parts of accessible design--the user involvement, et cetera
are the tricky parts.  I guess that's been said here before too.
Another fact worth noting is that people with disabilities probably do far
more Internet-based shopping than average consumers.  I qualify this with
the word probably because I cannot back my statement with any meaningful
statistics on the subject.  I can say that without doubt, blind people fit
this postulate.
Received on Thursday, 19 October 2006 19:02:56 UTC

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