IM this article to a friend!

February 21, 2005

RNID Sets New Standards For Accessible Websites

From: Creativematch (press release), UK - Feb 21, 2005

New website demonstrates accessibility can be combined with design

RNID, the UK's leading organisation representing the needs of the 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people, will shortly be launching its new 'user-centred' website. Following extensive user-testing, RNID has created a powerful new site combining a high level of accessibility and strong design. The new website has been completely redeveloped based on extensive research with website users.

"We set out to create a web-experience which was equivalent for all users. Not just a site that was a 'best effort' in accessibility. And we've demonstrated that it is possible to achieve accessibility without compromising on the design or the quality of the site," said Carol Monoyios, RNID's Director of Marketing and Membership.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act all websites are now required to be accessible, but there remains considerable confusion about how to achieve a truly accessible and easy to use site.

RNID has paid particular attention to ensuring that the new site is written in Plain English, which is essential to make the site accessible to deaf people whose first language is British Sign Language. The use of Plain English is often overlooked in developing accessible sites, where the focus has more often been on page structure to achieve accessibility for groups such as blind users. Yet any site written in Plain English will be accessible to a wider audience.

The site has been extensively tested on users, from conception and throughout construction. User-testing gives much greater information on accessibility. Automated testing tools, which are available, have their place but are not enough to ensure both accessibility and usability.

"Too often sites are designed first and tested afterwards. If you leave user-testing until the site is built, it's too late and often too expensive to make any substantive changes. RNID tested prototypes of the site with people with a wide range of disabilities - including hearing and sight loss, dyslexia, colour blindness, wheelchair users and people with limited dexterity - to ensure the site reflected how people intuitively search for information," continued Carol Monoyios.

The new site includes a vastly improved shop, equivalent to other online shops, which sells assistive technology products from RNID Sound Advantage. With the economic power of disabled people estimated at £50 billion, this online shop is likely to be hugely successful and will enable RNID to sell these products to a wider audience.

The site will include a new media centre for journalists and broadcasters, with press releases, media briefings, direct access to photographic images. RNID will launch its new website on 17th March, 2005.