Accessibility guideline #1: Don’t claim it if you’re not

Saturday, July 14th, 2007 at 4:01 am

The Google Blog has a recent post entitled ‘Overview of our Accessible Services‘. Last time I looked at Google’s search code (which was only last week actually) I remember it being a particularly messy mix of invalid HTML and table soup (but this is Google: who for some reason are exempt from producing structureless mark-up on their main website in the 21st century, unlike almost everyone else on the planet).

While Google have obviously been working to increase accessibility of their services, this post is a classic example of the biggest faux pas in accessibility: claiming you are, no matter how hard you’ve tried to be (and in Google’s case, to be honest, they haven’t even tried that hard). Accessibility is science: claiming you’re accessible is a hypothesis, and therefore, always the chance that such a claim can be falsifiable. Google, I’m falsifying you now!

According to Google’s TV Raman, their top two ‘accessible’ services are their main web search and the new Google labs accessible search. The rationale?

Web search: Result pages include headers to delineate logical sections

Right, that’s good and all, but it doesn’t really excuse the dozens of tables that have no summaries does it? And headers really don’t magically make a page accessible.

And as for the new Accessible search:

Accessible Search: Promotes results that are accessible.

I haven’t played with this search enough to see if it does promote accessible results (I’m sure it’s a good service), but again, Google’s own code is a mess. It’s better than the main Google search, but still has huge amounts of inaccessible code.

You should never claim your site is accessible. Code for it as much as you can, test it as much as you can and show you conform to WCAG, but never claim it’s ‘accessible’. And even if you do, at least make sure it passes some automated tests: unlike Google, who barely scrape in at Priority 1.

One Response to “Accessibility guideline #1: Don’t claim it if you’re not”

  1. Even more disturbing is that I’ve received a report from a blind person who experienced a CAPTCHA he had to solve in order to perform a simple search at In contrast with all the other CAPTCHAs, which are indeed now available with audio playback alternatives, this one did not feature such an accomodation!

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