Hydro4GE provides custom software, web and interactive
marketing solutions. We also sell and maintain Pario, a tool for developing and maintaining web-based applications.

Building Accessible Web Applications

As many or all of you already know, in the United States there is no governing body that mandates that your website or web-based application must be accessible. The US government as well as the W3C have made recommendations to ensure that a website is accessible, but the reality of the situation is that no one from either of those organizations is going to contact us to ensure that we are meeting all of their proposed guidelines.

For websites, accessibility is a customer-driven initiative. This can mean a few different things:

  • If one of our goals is to get a government contract or sell Pario to government agencies, that particular client will require us to meet Section 508 compliance.
  • Having a non-accessible web-based application may be a deal-breaker for a large organization .
  • A number of other scenarios but the common thread is that accessibility is a feature for our customers that may be viewed as a must-have or nice-to-have from their viewpoint.

As a service provider, I think we all realize that we want to ensure that we are creating accessible products for all of the reasons named above, and even others not named.

There are a number of web professionals who find error with the WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0 guidelines. There is also debate over how realistic the guidelines are as they relate to real-world web development. Last, many say that the guidelines are both vague and specific at the same time. Pario is working to define which guidelines and recommendations we are choosing to use and which ones we are not. The WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) itself recommends using the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

To create a definition of what accessibility is to the Pario team, we will be using a combination of Section 508 standards and WCAG 2.0 guidelines. As indicated above, Section 508 will be a requirement for any US Government contracts, so that is a good place to start. Our initial focus will be for customers in the United States, and additional recommendations can be considered at a later date. Additionally, we need to recognize that Pario can be defined as more than just a website. We should consider some of the recommendations for software applications as well.

It is important to note that in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom have introduced legislation as it relates to discriminating against individuals with disabilities. It is also worth mentioning that many governments in other countries have their own recommendations and guidelines.

If you’d like to see the details of the guidelines we are working to, check out these links below:

Timothy Speicher:
Tim is the Vice President of Marketing for Hydro4GE, Inc. Tim's knack for simplifying the complex and helping to realize the customer's needs led to many successes in his 13+ years as a web professional. Tim is actively involved in AIGA Pittsburgh and is also an adjunct faculty member at Robert Morris University in the Media Arts department.

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