Accessible E-commerce: Does it work or doesn't it?

In the space of a single week, we found conflicting accounts of the accessibility of E-commerce content.

  1. The New York Times reports that online grocery shopping benefits many disabled New Yorkers, particularly the blind. However, the writer insists on using the term "voice recognition" to describe the adaptive technology blind surfers use. In reality, screen readers provide voice output.
  2. Yet the Royal National Institute for the Blind surveyed banks, grocers, clothing retailers, and the like and found that all their sites were inaccessible to a significant degree. The RNIB refuses to post the actual survey details on its site, insisting on £5 for a copy of the report (a small enough fee to be annoying, but not big enough to give you the impression you're buying something of value; if the RNIB wants to recoup its survey costs, it should charge £100).

We grow ever more tired of E-commerce sites that exclude disabled users (or anyone not blessed with, say, Windows, IE 5, or a high-speed connection). We grow tired of this because, were it technically possible to build a Web site that excluded Jews, no one this side of the Aryan Nation would ever consider it.

Posted on 2000-09-10