Usability verses Accessibility

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I recently learned about Herdict,an on line forum where you can report inaccessible websites.  You can decide if a site and its content are accessible to you, based on your user experience.  They show these reported sites on their page and the data is updated as users add their input.  From the sounds of it, they collect the user data and I’m assuming they submit it to someone, maybe the offending site administrator or company.  I’m not completely clear on the actual process, but I do think it could be a great idea.

So many times, before I knew about Knowbility,when I have encountered an inaccessible site, I would not know what I could do to alert the right person who could do something about it.  Should I email the site administrator?  to whom could I submit the site for repair?  Herdict is attempting to give the every day user somewhere to go for help, or at least a place to make their feelings about their inability to use it known.

While this is a great idea for users, it leads to a very loose definition of accessibility.  From the users perspective, only sites that they are unable to use are reported, but actual accessibility guidelinesare not taken into account.  The site may be usable without meeting basic accessibility guidelines and so are not added to the reports.  Perhaps Herdict should change its strategy, letting us know that they are reporting on usability and access, rather than in terms of actual accessibility.  Maybe they could add to their data and designate an area for reporting on weather the site meets the established accessibility guidelines.

One other piece of advice I would give to Herdict is to work on their own site’s accessibility and usability.  I found parts of the site and the “Herdometer”very difficult to use and understand.  Some of the flash content on their page is not accessible, since a few buttons are untagged.  They also have a couple of links that if pulled up in a links list, just say “here.”  It would not take much for them to correct these issues and more fully meet accessibility guidelines.

Overall, the idea behind this is great!  A few wording changes, as well as some improvements on their site would help to educate more people about the importance of access for all!

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