Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Of Ajax, Accessibility and Web 2.0

Earlier this week was granted some grace from a lawsuit being posed against them by the advocates for the blind. The lawsuit charges that Target refused to make their e-commerce website accessible to the software that allows those with vision impairments to engage with websites. And the Courts have delayed any injunctions. According to the National Federation for the Blind, all the site would require would be alt-tags on the images of the site, whereas Target claims that the site is fine, and is accessible to the average blind person.

Now, this seems like a simple fix in this case, surely a few hours labor from Target's IT team, a couple of database tweaks and all should be well, but it does bring up a good point. With everyone focused on the future, as commendable as that is, and all the advancements we have seen during this fascinating transition to the world of Web 2.0, including the world of social networking, Second Life and MySpace, we have to make sure that everyone can come along for the ride. W3C has worked dillgently to try to enforce accessibility, and in some cases this has been upheld, but for every case that is successful, there are many that aren't. The Judge in the Target case stated that the "Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires all commercial locations to be accessible to citizens with disabilities, extends to Web sites as well as physical retail locations", which makes it pretty clear that accessibility will not be overlooked, at least for ecommerce sites.

The thing is, the Target site isn't even using any fancy new technology like AJAX to liquify the checkout process, so as we move forward, and the larger ecommerce and B2B sites with a mass appeal begin to adopt the 2.0 technologies, consider the Target scenario and the web guidelines that are the sole reason for W3C's existence. If we get it right from the beginning, the future could look a lot brighter for us all, even for those with vision impairments.

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