Web Blind Spots
The disabled community is potentially a big market. So why is it ignored?Put a Web developer up against a wall and demand why his or her site isnt accessible to the disabled. Youre likely to get a response something like this recent anonymous posting to online techie news site slashdot.org: "Im sorry, the burden is on the user," the correspondent sniffed. "Im not going to dumb down the graphics on my site for anyone!" Obviously, theres more than one way to be blind. Like the anonymous e-mailer, many Web developers either have written off online disabled users or are unaware of how to go about making their sites accessible to the disabled. Between 95 percent and 99 percent of sites are inaccessible to the visually, hearing- and/or mobility-impaired, according to studies. Problems are so common that analysts attempting to evaluate sites for disabled access have been overwhelmed. "The way weve been looking at evaluating sites is a triage approach," said Harley Manning, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. "Weve been so overcome with errors."
But, say analysts, ignoring the issue of disabled accessibility is not only unnecessary, its bad business. For one thing, the disabled community represents a large-and largely untapped-online market. For another, companies that fail to make their sites accessible to the disabled may soon face legal and regulatory challenges. The good news is that making it possible for disabled consumers to access your site doesnt necessarily require large expenditures of time or money-nor does it mean making the site unattractive to non-disabled users.