Accessibility or Help links?


You see a lot of links on sites which are for “Accessibility”, to provide both help for those with accessibility issues, and state what levels of accessibility the site is aiming for. However, I believe that this content should be split up between two different pages.

Whenever a client asks for help with an accessibility statement, we would either provide a draft for them to use, or (if they wanted to learn more) provide links through to the mother of all accessibility statements, good information for writing an accessibility policy, and how to think about empowering your users.

(Side note: I always appreciate the fact that I can rely on Joe Clark to add an ID to every heading and list, and I can then link to the exact part I want to. I’d love to know if there’s an automatic way of doing that. If he does it by hand I am humbled, and slightly scared.)

Self Categorisation

Something I’ve noticed in testing is that the intended audience don’t necessarily see a link to ‘accessibility’ as useful. A few do, they tend to be those that know the internet well, the type of people who spend time setting up their own computing environment – i.e. a minority.

It comes down to a general usability principle: People do not self-categorise well.

For example, if you have a web site with ‘topical’ navigation (e.g. computers, monitors, mice etc.) and with user-type navigation (e.g. old, young, parents) people will go for the more concrete option, the product.

The Dell home page using business / home users is a classic example of this. It not only confuses me (both a home and business user), it makes me suspicious of why they are splitting things up.

People simply don’t categorise themselves when looking for information, partly because any arbitrary grouping of users will have overlaps. For example, do you consider yourself young? I just hit 30, so I’m feeling old at the moment, but I’ll probably recover later!

It’s the same for using the term ‘accessibility’ to point to information to help those with accessibility issues. When asked what might be behind link called accessibility, the answers varied so wildly it quickly became obvious people wouldn’t go there for help.

Split help and policy

So what to do? Well, and obvious solution is to use the term ‘help’ for information to help people, and put the policy/compliance information behind ‘accessibility statement’.

Help would hopefully be an obvoius link visible at the top of the page, and would start with help for those with accessibility issues, probably with links through to the BBC as well as site specific information.

The accesibility statement need not be an obvious links, and could perhaps be in the footer, with things like the privacy statement and copyright information.

The exception to that might be that information for people who cannot access content and need to contact the site owners should probably be in both.

5 contributions to “Accessibility or Help links?

  1. Ah, makes sense, I wonder if I can get jEdit to do that. I’ve been adding IDs in for headings manually, that seems enough for the cost/benefit ratio.

    I do find it useful, I hope you don’t give up completely.

  2. I built a site a while ago now (ILS York) that didn’t have an accessibility statement at all, as such. We opted for an “easy access” section about accessibility features and contacting someone for further help, as well as a more generic “help” page.

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