They’re my Web standards and I’m going home

Last month I read with interest an article on the BBC Web site stating “‘Most websites’ failing disabled“. The article referred to work commissioned by the United Nations to assess the accessibility of leading Web sites in five different sectors across 20 countries.

The results make depressing, but not unexpected, reading. However, the BBC article also included this quote:

Building dull, technically compliant websites is easy but building commercially successful sites that are also accessible is not

I think the quote can be misinterpreted as a “Web standards == dull Web site” argument. Most developers and designers (should) know that this argument simply doesn’t hold water and is an opinion disseminated by designers stuck in the dark ages of the 1990s.

However, if you read the full quote you realise that it is actually a request for developers and designers to share experiences and resources. Personally I’ve always found Web designers and developers to be a fairly altruistic bunch and many practitioners share their knowledge and resources freely and openly.

In addition, the W3C accessibility guidelines are made available for free and groups such as the Web Standards Project and WebAIM provide tutorials and articles on using Web standards and improving accessibility. There are also many individuals publishing information on current best practice and increasingly the popular Web conferences are offering developer days.

Consequently, the issue for me is not one of developers keeping information to themselves but that of designers and developers not reading the information that is available to them. Many are stuck in the 1990s and rely on the bloated invalid code that their software produces for them. They should be questioning the suitability of the code they produce and the techniques they use.

Let’s not gripe about a lack of available resources, the resources are readily available. The serious problem of Web sites remaining inaccessible will be solved if developers and designers undertake continued professional development and their employers allow them the time to do so.