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Re: examples of sites with good accessibility

From: Christopher Hoffman <christopher.a.hoffman@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2006 15:05:21 -0400
Message-ID: <61682a40610201205y2612adb8jda6c79c660c7f7fd@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Anna.Yevsiyevich@kohls.com" <Anna.Yevsiyevich@kohls.com>, "WAI Interest Group list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
On 10/19/06, Anna.Yevsiyevich@kohls.com <Anna.Yevsiyevich@kohls.com> wrote:
>
>   Gap, JC Penny, Sears, KMart, WalMart, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.  None
> of these do anything right?


Of course some of them do some things right, and other things not so right.
The gist of this thread seems to be that universal accessibility is a goal
we can only approach assymptotically, getting closer and closer but never
fully achieving, and I must agree. There will undoubtedly always be a
population for which a given site is inaccessible. Plus, the motivation
behind making sites accessible is arguably different for the site-makers
(reaching customers) than for standards-makers and legislators (ensuring
universal access to content).

Rather that lament that nothing on the Web is totally accessible (it isn't),
or arguing about opinions versus objective analysis, I think we could serve
you much better by pointing out where sites seem to "get it right" and where
they don't. So what follows are certainly my own opinions, but they are
based on what I have learned over time from a variety of sources,
including--but not only--objective standards.

--

Gap.com - The site uses a CSS layout which linnearizes nicely, has alt
attributes for all of its images, and includes "skip navigation" links so
keyboard users can move straight to the actual page content. It seems to be
a good effort at accessibility, though on closer inspection there are some
problems:

 1) The alt attributes are often meaningless (e.g. "what to wear now").
 2) The site uses an image map.
 3) The skip navigation links refer to their targets by their physical
location. "Side navigation" and "top navigation" are utterly meaningless if
I can't see the whole page at once in a graphical browser.

--

JCPenny.com - Here we have a table-based layout, and some of the graphical
navigation buttons don't even have appropriate alt attributes. Using
Firefox's font sizing tool has no effect on the site's content, which is all
rendered graphically. Ironically, though, this site is somewhat easier to
navigate with the keyboard than the Gap site is: the navigation is right
there at the top, so I don't waste time trying to find my way around in
"side navigation" lists or meaningless main page content. Plus, the
existence of  a search box, if not necessarily its position, adds to the
ease of navigation.

--

Sears.com - Sears has a hybrid table/CSS layout that doesn't linnearize very
well. The skip navigation links are terrible: "skip to content" doesn't
change focus to the content area, so that pressing the tab key brings my to
the next link after the skip link, and "skip to navigation" is meaningless
because the very next thing on the page is the navigation. They also use an
image map.

--

KMart.com - Another table-based layout with no meaningful navigation flow.
Try buying something using only the keyboard.

--

Walmart.com - Their main navigation is an image map, a faux pas saved by
their repeating the navigation links as text further on down the page. The
navigation here is actually not too bad. A particularly nice thing that
they've done is to include meaningful alt attributes with product images;
many of the other sites  either have blank alts or none at all.

--

BestBuy.com - Table-based, navigation in an image map (though it's repeated
as text later on the page). The thing that sticks out at me here is the
auto-generated alt attributes: What can "7993843 Angle Thumbnail"  possibly
tell me about the link I'm currently focused on (it's a digital camera)?

--

CircuitCity.com - Table-based, no skip navigation links. Like Walmart, they
have meaningful alt attributes for product images. At least the navigation
is nearly all text.

--

It seems that the most any of these companies have made is a half-hearted
attempt at accessibility. Even Gap.com, which seems to have put the most
thought into it, has some serious shortcomings. Sadly, those shortcomings
would have become glaringly clear had they tested with actual users.

As a final observation, I note that each of the sites above is littered with
little ads and promotional offers and so forth. If I am using a graphical
browser and a mouse, I can easily ignore them and move on to where I want to
be. In effect the ads and promotions can fade into the background.  When the
pages are linnearized and I have to navigate through them link by link, on
the other hand, the ads and promotions are just as prominent as the main
content, and are horribly distracting and difficult to wade through. I would
strongly suggest putting such elements at the end of a page, and then
including a link ("Skip to promotional offers", for example) somewhere near
the top.


Chris


<http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=7993843&type=product&productCategoryId=pcmcat99100050024&id=1155070314480>
Received on Friday, 20 October 2006 19:05:32 UTC

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