Yelp Accessibility Leaves a Sour Taste

Yelp is one of the more popular web sites for restaurant reviews. I’ve recently started using it as one of my research tools when deciding where to dine.

 

I’m also a big fan of giving back to the information community on the web. My philosophy is that if you find the info on sites like Yelp of value, you should contribute by sharing your experiences.

 

Recently I wanted to write a review for a restaurant and started by trying to select the star rating. Sadly web site construction here leaves these rating selections very inaccessible to keyboard and screen reader users. Hint, most things that say “roll your mouse over” are a good sign that there’s likely to be an accessibility challenge unless more effort is made to make such a construction accessible. Yelp doesn’t appear to have made this effort.

 

I recognize that even today the vast majority of folks creating web sites do not know about accessibility. I’ve left the folks at Yelp feedback about the issue and suggestions on how to correct it. I’ll consider my first attempt to write a review the appetizer for using the web site and hope with feedback and action from Yelp the sour taste I have today can be replaced with something more palatable and accessible.

 

For those so inclined, feedback for the folks at Yelp can be left on their contact page.

Some Accessibility Progress but Work Still Needed in CBS Sports All Access Site and use of Silverlight

I’ve blogged several times about my desire to see improved accessibility with the All Access site from CBS Sports used by the University of Wisconsin to stream audio and video for Badger athletic events. Wisconsin is just one of dozens, if not hundreds, of universities that use this service.

 

Earlier today, contacts at the University of Wisconsin informed me that CBS indicated the accessibility issues with the All Access site were fixed with an update last week. While I have not had an opportunity to do extensive testing, I can say my preliminary explorations have yielded mixed results. I tried the site with a range of screen readers including JAWS, Window-Eyes, NVDA and System Access. I also tried accessibility verification tools such as Inspect and UI Spy that verify exposure of accessibility info, independent of a screen reader.

 

Perhaps the biggest issue thus far is that I was not able to successfully register for an account using any combination of the aforementioned tools. Some of the controls required to complete registration seem to either be missing necessary accessibility information or not read reliably by the various screen readers. Most notably were some combo boxes needed to complete details around birth date.

 

After further exploration, the real issue with the controls in question seems to be that for accessibility purposes the controls are reported as combo boxes. Traditionally alt+down arrow should expand such controls. However in this case it would seem that one must use space to expand the combo boxes. I am not certain if this is a limitation of the site or the control used at this point.

 

It is clear that CBS has done some work here. Many of the controls now provide names for accessibility. I am also able to launch content that does not require an account, that is the free content.

 

Although it is less than efficient, keyboard access also seems to have been addressed to at least provide some level of access. Still I found myself having to tab numerous times, sometimes 15 or 20, to reach a control after making a selection. And according to a sited colleague, visual focus when I was tabbing wasn’t obvious and at times appeared as if I was tabbing to items that were not visible.

 

Thus far my results seem mixed at best. Over the next few days I’ll try the site further and report here with more comprehensive and concrete details. From Twitter and e-mail comments I know others have tried to use All Access. You may want to try it again and see what mileage you have. If you do give it a try, leave a reply in the comments here so we can gather some collective experiences.

The Web More Accessible, Really?

Obviously one web site does not an accessibility statement make but an experience I had this morning still to me sums up the real state of web accessibility in 2010.

 

I kicked off the day reading an article from SFGate, the San Francisco Chronicle’s online site claiming the web was more accessible to people with disabilities. In my opinion this is both a poor article and a very misleading headline. There’s a world of difference between the utility offered by the web and the accessibility of that utility.

 

Articles like the one I’m talking about here always trot out people with disabilities and site how things like online shopping, recreation and the dozens of other things one can do on the web are such a boon to the population of people with disabilities. I won’t disagree with the benefits of an online world. I know firsthand that I do things online today that were at best tedious and in some circumstances all but impossible before introduction of various online offerings.

 

Still it is a mistake to equate this with real web accessibility. I think half the reason people with disabilities tolerate such a pathetic state of true accessibility is because the alternative to doing things online is that much more of a challenge.

 

Back to my experiences of today. I read an article from the Seattle Times talking about an interesting burger joint. I’m someone who enjoys a good burger from time to time so decided to check out the menu for the restaurant.

 

So I surfed on over to The Counter’s web site. I chose to view the online menu and selected the city of Seattle. I was perplexed when I still couldn’t find any meaningful menu and only alt text for a graphic that read, “Build Your Own Burger Menu”. It turns out the menu is just a graphical representation of the menu. There’s no real text to be read by a screen reader.

 

Again I recognize that one web site can hardly be used to measure the state of web accessibility at the debut of 2010. Still in my experience my experience with the burger joint is far more common than any improvements in web accessibility and in general I think the web is really not getting more accessible. How about you? What are your experiences?