Valid code doesn’t equal being accessible

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have lunch with Peter, the guy behind standards-schmandards.com. Why lucky? Except for the facts that he’s a smart and knowledgeable guy, and also the guy behind the Fangs Sreen Reader Emulator extension for Firefox, he told me an intriguing story.

It was about Support-EAM, whose object is:

…to create an e-Accessibility Quality Mark for Web services, as part of the Action Plan eEurope 2005: An information society for all.

This is really a commendable initiative, we have something similar in Sweden that Statskontoret is working on, called 24-timmarsmyndigheten.

The problem with Support-EAM is the example they set with their own web site. Although mostly valid, it’s not that accessible. Let me take care of a common misunderstanding here: just because a web site/page validates doesn’t mean it’s accessible. One crucially important factor in making it accessible is writing semantic code.

Their web site is a table-based layout, there’s no skip links present (although they might not be that necessary in this case) and there are places were headings aren’t written out using the correct h1...h6 elements. There are also a number of inline styles and script blocks that don’t have any comments around them to allow them to be hidden.

Although, it has to be said that their web site has been updated since Peter first visited them, they now use list elements for lists of links, heading tags in some places etc. But what I’m going for here is that such a big project that will affect the whole European Union must be as close to perfect as possible when it comes to setting the bar for others.

Am I overdoing it, or you don’t generally agree with my points of criticism? Or do I actually have a point? Let me know.

4 Comments

  • andr3 says:

    You most certainly do have a point.

    In their "Accessibility Policy" page they mention things they don't even have. For example:

    "A bypass navigation link is provided as the first link in the site navigation bar"

    But at least they're open to suggestions. πŸ˜‰

    I'm not waiting for the Portuguese politicians to come up with legislation to enforce accessibility, but if the European Union could give us a hand… it would be awesome. But do it the right way.

    It's sad that they're following the saying:

    "Do as I say, not as I do."

    If they can't do it, hire someone who can. It's not like they don't have qualified people in the EU.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    andr3,

    Yes, I can't understand why they haven't even fixed these basic things.

    And yes, there's definitely people in the EU that can do it right, if they themselves aren't qualified enough.

  • Support-EAM is a very unimpressive site indeed. Is it really an official body representing the EU?

    Really awful CMS, couldn't tell what it was from a quick glance?

    I also dislike the UK partner being a ltd company – should be a not-for-profit org IMO.

    Rant over, thanks for the great link to standards-schmandards, which I'd heard of but not come across before – after a quick tour it looks like I have a lot to learn about writing readable English! 😳

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Steve,

    I agree, it should only be non-profit organizations involved.

    Peter's web site has got lots of useful things. Read away! πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *