I attended an “Enterprise 2.0” event last week where Ian Lloyd gave a very thought provoking presentation on the impact of Web 2.0 on accessibility. Ian is a web developer working for the Nationwide Building Society, and clearly knows his stuff when it comes to designing websites that will accommodate assistive technologies – such as screen readers, voice to text and screen magnifiers.
This was particularly relevant to the work I’m presently doing in building on-line environments for support of Communities of Practice in the public sector, where accessibility standards and guidelines for websites is far more rigorously enforced than in the private sector. Conforming to standards such as W3CWeb Accessibility Initiative is a given, but websites must also conform to guidance such as Delivering Inclusive Websites, issued by the COI.
Personally, I have some sympathy with developers of ‘social media-rich’ websites (which I’ll categorise as being ‘Web 2.0’) in that it’s quite difficult to find the right balance between accessibility and making the site appealing to a mass audience. Clearly Facebook comes to mind here. However, I’m not sure that vendors/developers do enough to ensure that they have catered for the disabled minority. For example, the Captcha processes used on a growing number of websites are fairly difficult to negotiate even for someone with 20:20 vision.
I don’t necessarily think that Social Media has to mean poor accessibility, yet there seems to be a sort of tacit acceptance that this is the case . I’m now far more aware of my obligations in striving to make the CoP platform available to a more diverse audience and will be taking steps to in the next development phase to ensure we’re meeting the required guidelines and best practice.
Two very useful resources for anyone interested in issues around accessibility and diversity are Abilitynet and the Shaw Trust.
Stephen is Director and founder of Collabor8now Ltd, an organization focussed on developing collaborative environments (e.g. Communities of Practice) and the integration of knowledge management tools and processes to support business improvement. He is a certified knowledge manager with the Knowledge Management Institute (KMI) and the author of several published research papers on collaborative behaviours and information technology.