Weblogs: Web Accessibility

Amazon and the NFB working together

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bruce Lawson notes that the National Federation of the Blind and Amazon have released a joint statement that they will work together to improve the accessibility of the online book giant's website. This is welcome news.

Remembering Target

The Target lawsuit lead by the National Federation of the Blind directly accuses Target's website of being inaccessible. This came after a year of stalled and derailed attempts at constructively helping Target to alleviate the accessibility barriers of its site. Target were willing to defend the case, and up to now, this is a highly anticipated legal battle over whether websites of businesses are required to be accessible.

The Target website is 'powered by Amazon', meaning the actual code behind the site is Amazon's. This extraordinary press release is perhaps the first major sign of a settlement of the Target court case.

But, if Amazon play their cards right, the fixes and improvements they implement can benefit not only themselves, but all their customers running Amazon-powered online stores.

Muted reactions

The Web Standards Project's Accessibility Task Force's reaction is a little muted - so far Amazon have agreed to make their sites accessible to blind people (since the pressure is coming from the National Federation of the Blind, the bias is quite obvious), the ATF are asking Amazon to consider catering for a broader range of disabilities, and of course, use web standards as the basis of their improvements.

I agree with the ATF's call, Amazon have a chance of demonstrating the value of an ethical and social approach to building their website, and they can be in a position to reaffirm that there's indeed a very positive business benefit to creating an accessible online environment.

Winning the battle of the minds

Amazon have come a long way to have been party to a press release of this magnitude. One of the biggest challenges of creating an accessible website is not the technical challenge, its the winning the battle of minds with the business organisation as a whole. Winning the battle of why making their store accessible is a necessary step.

Seeing this press release means that someone at Amazon has already done an exemplary job convincing his peers inside Amazon that not only are these steps necessary, but to acknowledge as such on a public stage. Whoever you are, thank you and great job!

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