To: Indecision2000 <>
Accessible Web Sites Still Three To Six
    Times More Difficult
Accessible Society E-Letter 10/30/2001
A new study has confirmed what accessibility experts
continue to point out: the Worldwide Web remains
pretty un-usable for anyone who cannot see a
conventional computer screen and use a mouse with
"Web usability is three to six times better for
non-disabled people than for people with low vision,
no vision or motor impairment," says Jakob Nielsen,
who the New York Times calls "the guru of web page
usability." His firm, the Nielsen Normal group,
recently released a study that shows this pretty
Their 104 subjects included users with low vision, no
vision, or motor impairment and a control group of
people without disabilities, who were assigned 4
tasks: Find the average temperature in Dallas in
January; buy Janet Jackson's CD "All for You" from
Target's website; find a bus departing O'Hare airport
to a specific address in Chicago using the Chicago
Transit Authority website, and find the best mutual
fund satisfying certain criteria on Schwab's website.
The control group of people without disabilities were
able to complete the 4 tasks 78% of the time; screen
reader users only
12.5% of the time.
While the control group spent only a little over 7
minutes "on task," the others took over twice as long.
The control group's error rate was only .06; screen
reader users' error rate was 2.0; screen magnifier
users', 4.5.
"Beyond ALT Text: Making the Web Easy to Use for Users
with Disabilities" was released last week at the
Nielsen Norman Group's Usability conference in
Washington, DC. An overview of the 148-page report is
online at
there's a link there for downloading the report
($190). "Bad design kills Websites," runs the headline
of Washington Post internet columnist Leslie Walker's
Oct. 25 story about Nielsen's conference (online at
Walker's column refers to economics; but Chapman
University's Art Blaser says discussions based only on
economic reasons to provide access miss the point.
"When we pass legislation ensuring rights, we make a
statement: those rights are too important to be
guaranteed only when they're cost-effective." Chapman
says most "distance learning" courses today remain
inaccessible as well, despite software that provides
access if used correctly. Read Blaser's article online
Read more about the legal requirements for web access
For the Center's overview of web access issues, visit
Visit Jakob Nielsen's website at
Please visit the website of The Center for An
Accessible Society at, with more links to