Obama groks technology, but what about accessibility

Jim Thatcher runs accessibility tests on Recovery.gov.

A while back I linked to an article at Jim Thatcher’s site that showed his accessibility test results on whitehouse.gov. He recently ran some checks on Accessibility of Recovery.gov and got quite a few accessibility errors at that site, too. As he explains in A Postscript on Recovery.gov the official response to his article was a bit “disappointing.”

Since Section 508 Accessibility Standards requires government web sites to comply with accessibility standards, it’s surprising that the results are so blatantly bad. They include missing alt text and lack of proper heading semantics.

The surprising thing about this story and the response to it is that we have watched this administration use technology so well and show an understanding of technology issues. This business of getting it wrong in terms of accessibility is a bit odd.

I, for one, expect this administration to get it right.

There’s a draft version of an article at the W3C about Contacting Organizations with Inaccessible Websites. Here are some ideas from the section on how to approach such organizations.

There are several ways you can let an organization know that there are accessibility problems with their website, including:

  • Contacting them directly
  • Seeking assistance from a local or national disability or older peoples’ organization
  • Taking a more public approach via the press or through online platforms after contacting the organization without resolution

Regardless of the approach you take, you will need to clearly describe the problem being experienced:

  • Which page; which part of the site
  • What the problem is; what you were trying to do
  • If possible, tell them about your computer and software

My approach is obviously to take the public route. I hopeĀ  people using the technology to access the site who can list the problems error by error will take some time to contact them with specific errors.

It isn’t enough to expect them to get it right. We need to insist it be done right.

2 thoughts on “Obama groks technology, but what about accessibility”

  1. “Contacting them directly” is dificult. I have been on a two year effort (entirely private until now) with the goal that first the Obama campaign and now the Obama administration web sites should be not only accessible, but models of accessibility. Up until now I have made very little progress. I have recently heard from whitehouse.gov, and a test page was very good, but only minor changes are live. I have heard nothing from recovery.gov and I do have a direct contact.

    I am going to keep trying. makinghomeaffordable.gov is my next target.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jim. I hope my little bit of publicity will inspire others to contact them directly as you have. More raised voices can’t hurt.

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