Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Accessibility, Compliance, and Discrimination

Accessibility is about the user experience. Because a web site can always be more accessible, accessibility is best viewed as being a continuum. Web accessibility guidelines and standards (such as Section 508 and WCAG) provide useful measures along that continuum. Discrimination laws (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), however, generally do not define web accessibility, but instead clarify that web sites should not discriminate based on disability. Because standards and guidelines do not address all aspects of web accessibility, it is possible for a site to comply with a set of guidelines, yet remain very inaccessible to some users and potentially discriminatory. This is particularly true with very minimal standards such as Section 508. For these reasons, it is best to get a true understanding of accessibility and how end users access and use the web. Standards and guidelines should be used as tools and measures of accessibility, but the ultimate goal should not merely be compliance, but to provide an efficient, friendly, and accessible user experience regardless of disability.

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