“I couldn’t quite believe what I saw,” said Nicolas Steenhout, leader of the web accessibility consulting firm Accessibility NZ. “The entire site is one big Flash object. You don’t get much LESS accessible than that.”
“We are dedicated to providing information and services that enable families, health care professionals, and the community to understand and meet the unique needs of infants and children who are blind or visually impaired,” the foundation claims in its public mission statement.
Lori Moroz-White, the foundation’s executive director, defends the inaccessible web site. “Thank you for being the ‘accessibility police’. I have been aware that our website is inaccessible, and have been concerned, and when funding becomes available to change this, it will be changed,” said Moroz-White. “For now, in my opinion it is better to have an inaccessible website, than not to have one at all.”
Moroz-White adds “We offer blind specific technology access, blind specific programs and maintain a Braille, electronic and game library.” But the inaccessible web site may call into question the goals of the foundation’s programs.
“I think it’s a lot more symptomatic of a culture of dependence,” said Steenhout. “Here’s an organisation who is there to assist people with disabilities becoming more independent, yet they miss the boat completely with their website. The message here is ‘we’ll teach someone else to take care of you’.”
Some in the connected online blind community are deeply concerned about the poor example shown to the world. They believe the site should be temporarily shut down until such time as it can be made accessible. “Inaccessible sites that are ran by agencies that work for the blind should be taken offline”, said Michael McCarty on Twitter.
“One might say that a website should be an expression, a representation, of an organisation. And if that’s the case, then either the website fails the Foundation, or the Foundation fails their ultimate ‘clients’ – children with vision impairments,” Steenhout said. “One might also wonder if the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation receives federal funding, and if so, should they be meeting §508 of the United States Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.”