Net-Guide Accessible Directory

May 30, 2006

Topics: Accessibility, Reviews.

I just became aware today, through the Guild of Accessible Web Designers newsletter, of an internet directory featuring exclusively accessible web sites. This is a great way to make the accessible web more usable for individuals with disabilities – although it has its limitations.

My first reaction, of course, is that in an ideal world, this would actually be equivalent to the Open Directory Project – because, of course, eventually all sites will be accessible! But, of course, for now, this is a very meaningful directory purely because there is such a paucity of meaningfully accessible web sites.

The only thing which will make this directory truly useful, however, will be to really start filling it up with great sites. I intend to submit my own accessible sites to the directory to maximize the potential of the site.

Directories are difficult beasts – they’re huge, unwieldy, and frequently just not used that much – search is much easier. However, developing a means to specifically search for accessible sites has a target audience which can really benefit from the difference, so I hope that this directory can take off.

Limitations to the Net Guide

I said limitations, and I did mean it. The directory itself has imperfect accessibility. The search results page itself failes to validate – a minor flaw, but it’s lacking a required attribute on a Javascript block. In addition, there is no <noscript></noscript> tag set to provide information for users without Javascript support. Is this Javascript critical to the functioning of the site? No. In fact, it seems like it’s not even being used in the page – but regardless, for an accessible directory I’d have higher standards.

The design of the site is literally LITTERED with empty table cells. This is, sad to say, a classic example of a highly complex and screen reader-unfriendly table-based layout.

Many links provide only a moderate background color change to indicate that they are active; no links have a useful indication for their :active or :focus states, which is necessary for keyboard navigators to easily locate their cursor.

All in all, the site has great potential; but has not yet realized that potential. I can see that they have a good aim in mind, and I fully support that ideal – but I also hope that they are working hard to improve the usability and accessibility of their own site in order to set a positive example.