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


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.


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