Don’t Provide an Accessibility Statement

When I surf the web I see more and more sites providing an accessibility statement. Googling for “accessibility statement” returns over twelve million pages. What do these statements contain? Why would you want one? Who reads them? This article will try to make two points: 1. accessibility statements are often pointless and 2. you are better off with a “site help” if you think your target audience need it.

A recent study by Digital Media Access Group, Evaluating the Usability of Online Accessibility Information, came to the conclusion that accessibility statements often are difficult to comprehend for users. In fact, naming them “Accessibility statement” meant that many users did not look at them at all. This, of course, isn’t strange. The meaning of the word “accessibility” isn’t clear to everyone.

The Current State of Statements

Looking through some of the accessiblity statements you find on the web I can’t help noticing the amount of technical jargon. Many of them contain information about the accessibility testing procedures used when building the website. Why would a user want to know about that? My guess is that companies are trying to promote the image of themselves as being good net citizens. Looking through some of the pages returned from the Google search reveals some similarities. Sample fragments:

  • “All pages on this site are Bobby AAA approved.”
  • “WCAG AAA approved.”
  • “Valid HTML 4.01 Strict”

For the average user this means absolutely nothing. A page filled with technical jargon is likely to be skipped by many users. These types of accesibility statements are pointless.

Providing a site help instead

The report Evaluating the Usability of Online Accessibility Information shows that a “site help” is much more efficient compared to an “accessibility statement” provided you don’t fill it with technical crap. This, of course, is nothing new.

As with all other information you should start by defining your target audience. Depending on your audience and the functionality of your site you may come to the conclusion that there is no need for even a site help. If you know your target audience you can establish a baseline of technical knowledge. This baseline will aid you in making decisions on what should go into the site help.

This blog, for example, assumes that the reader knows that underlined text can be clicked and how to use the search field, hence the lack of an accessibility statement.

So, get rid of your “Accessibility statement” today and provide some useful information instead. Different opinion? Post your comments below.

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Peter Krantz, (remove giraffe).