The CA.gov Web Site Accessibility Page

The accessibility page of the State of California web site lists many claims on what makes their web site accessible. Frankly, I’m pretty embarrassed for this state is which I live; nearly all of the bulleted items have major web accessibility mistakes and flaws. Let’s take a look. (All of the assessments were made from referencing only the one accessibility page.)

Clean, Simple and Consistent
This is true. Although it’s consistently inaccessible, as we’ll see.
“Skip To:” Menu
Skip nav is good, but it’s not visually displayed, not even when tabbed upon. This is a major issue for sighted keyboard users. Also, the skip link lands the user before the breadcrumbs; it should go past the breadcrumbs since the object is to pass over all the navigation to the main content.
The Navigation
The main menu requires a mouse to access the second level of items, therefore, it’s not keyboard accessible. What’s worse is that the second level links are not listed on the main page of parent menu item! In other words, there’s no fallback.
Breadcrumb Navigation
Breadcrumbs are a good idea, but first of all, they require JavaScript [on this site's implementation which is unnecessary; a server-side solution is ideal]. And, there is no semantic markup or a heading denoting what this section is. Also, it’s better practice to markup the breadcrumb links in an unordered list.
Images With Alternative Text
Wow, I didn’t know that alt text is “visible when the mouse is placed over the image”! LOL, that’s just silly IE. (It’s the title attribute which is rendered as a tooltip in most browsers.) Also, say no to alt=”bullet”, yuck!
Relative Font Sizing
This doesn’t work when the text is a graphic! A graphic doesn’t increase when text size increased. See “Popular Pages”. Note that graphic text will increase in size with page zoom, but then may be very pixelated and unreadable.
Style Sheets
What? The second paragraph is instructing the user to install a developer toolbar!
Fluid Sizing Display
Says “viewed best at a minimum of 800 x 600 pixels” but the web page doesn’t fit in that screen resolution! There’s a nasty horizontal scrollbar. So I took a better look and there is no fluid sizing. The CSS is clearly static: width:972px;
Accessible Via Mouse or Keyboard
Uh, no, see reasons above.
Access Keys
Implementing access keys is an outdated practice and get in the way of assistive technology. But the site has implemented only 1 anyway. Just silly. Draw your own conclusions here.
No Sound, No Images, No Problem
Lies I tell you!
Improved Search Engine
This is more of a usability issue.

Although there’s clearly a lot of effect here, it’s almost worse off than no effort at all. Sticking with semantic markup and unobtrusive JavaScript in itself may have been a better start.

10 comments

  1. Clear Helper

    Hi Web Axe,

    Nice article. I agree with all the points you made.

    What makes you say that breadcrumbs require JavaScript?

    I ask because, for years, I have used an accessible, server-side implementation of breadcrumbs.

  2. Dennis at Web Axe

    Thanks for the comment. I was unclear and have added clarification. I meant to say that this particular site has used JS to implement breadcrumbs, which is unnecessary; server-side implementation, as you mention, is ideal.

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