April 11th, 2003

The Register reports that nearly 80 per cent of government websites must be redesigned in order to meet with new DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) legislation. This legislation makes it illegal not to make reasonable steps to make content accessible to all regardless of disability.

The US are slightly ahead of us and it is thanks to our American counterparts that my team here at The Open University are already building sites that conform to new accessibility standards. There was some concern by certain members of staff that sites wouldn’t ‘look’ the same to users of different browsers. I always used the argument that even though they wouldn’t look the same, the content would be accessible to all. It was a hard battle to win as aesthetics play such a large role in web design.

It is the non-conformance to standards in older browsers that means we have to bodge up code using proprietary tags and other bandwidth wasting junk just to satiate the dying breed of Netscape 4 users. We do this no more. Now, with forthcoming government backing we have an even stronger case. has been fairly accessible to all since last June when I redesigned. Although, not a public service site it does show off some of the things we can do with accessible design whilst still looking pretty good. My new aim is to convince more Open University web designers (there are loads) to employ better standards in their designs.