To the Recipient of the Disabled-Friendly Website Award

“It’s not only user friendly; it’s certified accessible.”

This is a statement included in an announcement by the National Computer Center about the Philippine Community eCenter )PhilCeCNet) website, a recipient of the Disabled-Friendly Website Award in 2009.

According to the announcement, the Disabled-Friendly Website Award is given in recognition to websites that are “disabled-friendly” – sites that are accessible to all, including users with physical disabilities. This award is given by the Philippine Web Accessibility Group (P-WAG) in partnership with the National Council on Disability Affairs.

Upon reading the (relatively old) announcement, I became very interested to look at the PhilCeCNet website (http://www.philcecnet.ph/).

What did I see?

Accessibility Features of the PhilCeCNet Site

After spending some time browsing through the site’s pages, I must agree that it does provide a good level of accessibility. Here are a few of the commendable accessibility features which I found in the site:

  1. “Skip to content” links are available in the site’s pages – These are very helpful to screen reader users and persons who cannot use the mouse.
  2. The site provides access keys for a number of its pages – This, according to P-WAG, enables certain user groups to quickly move to a particular page in the site.
  3. A link to the homepage is available in all of the site’s pages – According to P-WAG, this feature simplifies the task of returning to the site’s homepage.
  4. Headings have been properly marked up – This enables screen reader users to quickly navigate from one section of information to another.
  5. Almost all of the page titles describe the content of the pages – This enables persons with visual impairment and screen reader users to easily confirm their location in the site.

Taking a Closer Look at the Site…

Despite of the aforesaid features, I noticed that the website still has a number of accessibility issues.

Text Equivalents of Certain Images Need to Be More Descriptive

On the site’s homepage, there are a number of announcements or updates. Currently, these announcements include titles such as “eSkwela recognizes PhilCeC program…” and “Excellence awards for CeC, knowledge workers on its second run…”.

Under these titles, there are images which I assume are pictures taken from the event. When I used a screen reader to read the text equivalent of the images, the screen reader said “image”.

This made me verify that the images do contain text equivalents (The web developer provided the images with the text equivalent “image”). However, the word “image” really does not describe the contents of the images, and it doesn’t provide a perceivable and understandable form of information.

Basically, through the screen reader application, blind and visually impaired users can already determine that a particular content is an image. All these users are asking for from the web developers is to clearly describe what the content of the image is.

Here is what the Web Design Accessibility Recommendation Checkpoints of the Philippines say about text equivalents for images:

Maturity Stage 1-3 Attach ALT (alternative) text to graphic images so that assistive computer technology such as screen readers can reach the content.

I believe that it’s one thing to follow the accessibility guidelines, and an entirely different thing to ensure that you are indeed providing meaningful information to your site’s visitors.

The Purpose of Certain Text Links Need to be Clearer

Certain text links do not adequately describe their purpose. An example is the “read more” link in the homepage. Screen reader users depend a lot on the information provided by the text links themselves. However, if the text link only includes something as vague as “read more”, it can be quite difficult for these users to understand the purpose of this link.

One solution is to first identify what the user would read more of when he activates the said “read more” link. Then this information can be added to the text link itself.

Here is what the WDAR Checkpoints say about descriptive text links:

Maturity Stage 1-2 Avoid using words such as “This” or “Click Here” in creating links. Use descriptive hyperlinks to support text browsers.

Minor Accessibility Issues

Below are two minor issues which, when corrected, can improve the site’s overall usability and accessibility.

  1. The title of the Register page is “PhilCeCNet.ph :: – Local Products”. This should be “PhilCeCNet.ph :: – Register”.
  2. The “Skip to 3nd column” link should be “Skip to 3rd column”.

My Message to the Web Developer of the PhilCeCNet Website

My goal in writing this article is to encourage you, as well as the other recipients of the Disabled-Friendly Website Awards, to not only maintain the same level of accessibility in your site, but to make it more accessible as new contents are added.

I would be very happy to help you in this endeavor. I am sure the other members of the Philippine Web Accessibility Group are also willing and ready to help.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: