Sometimes Little Things Mean a Lot

People who know me in person know that I’m from Wisconsin and a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Fortunes for both the Pack and accessibility have improved since I was a kid watching Packer defeat after defeat and limited to only radio coverage of the post game aftermath.

 

Today there’s a better than 50% chance the Pack will win a game and I can read all the press coverage I want from hundreds of online news sources. One of my favorites is the Packers Blog from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Packer beat reporter Greg A. Bedard is really a standout reporter and illustration of how to use a blog effectively for sports journalism.

 

Bedard recently started rating player performances after each game and a summary of what the team would do to cut the roster down to 53 by the time of the 2010 NFL campaign. The initial blogs for both of these topics featured a graphical chart for the data being discussed, which was obviously not very accessible.

 

I wrote a simple e-mail asking for a text version of the info, making the standard offer to give more details and such as needed. It was a treat then to see Bedard start including tabular versions of the data by publishing Google Docs versions of the spreadsheets I suspect he uses to generate the graphical info.

 

Oh sure, the accessibility isn’t perfect and the industry behind any tool that generates HTML can do more to make accessibility happen automatically. Hint, The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative has an authoring tool working group devoted to this very topic with guidelines out for last call review.

 

It was refreshing to have these tables just show up after one simple request without a lot of back and forth or need to convince someone that accessibility really does matter. So as they chant at Lambeau, Go Pack Go! And thanks to one beat reporter for making his work available to more of his audience.

The Accessibility Disappointment of Web Site Redesign

News stories about web site redesign tend to catch my attention in part because I’m curious to see how accessibility is on the new site. More often than not, I find a disappointing experience.

 

Today an article about Nordstrom’s web site being redesigned appeared in the Seattle Times. I have nothing against this retailer but will say this is not a shopping destination for me personally. That said, I was curious about the web site so took a browse over to http://shop.nordstrom.com/.

 

Coverage in the news story says in part:

 

Three years in the making, the new site promises easier navigation, bigger photos and a prominent place where people can express their thoughts about the latest trends.

 

Amazing, because the main navigation for the highlighted areas would fail any accessibility validation. Web site items to shop by department, brand or explore the conversation options, all use strictly OnClick behavior to expand lists of entries within those areas.

 

This is such a frequent failure in web accessibility that screen readers have worked around this problem and with several I tried you can actually expand the lists and see the entries under each area. But if as an example you are using only a keyboard to browse, you appear to be out of luck.

 

This pattern continues at the product category level and I suspect throughout the web site. As an example, try narrowing by any of the suggested options for men’s jeans.

 

Then there is mystery flash again used on the site. I say mystery because it would appear that the Flash content fails to take advantage of the accessibility options for making Flash accessible from Adobe.

 

Web accessibility has a long journey to go. I’m sure the folks at Nordstrom didn’t set out to build a site with basic accessibility challenges. I don’t know if they attempted to ensure accessibility and as I said at the start, just happened to browse this site because an article caught my attention in the news. We need more education, awareness, application of standards and just an overall sense that accessibility matters or else we’ll continually be stuck in the state of having to advocate on a site by site basis for accessibility.