A colleague pointed me to the new whitehouse.gov site on the day of the inauguration. I was proud that he had already noticed that the site wasn’t particularly accessible – that means my a11y message is getting through! With all of the talk on the news about the new administration embracing the internet I expected a more accessible site. However, I was disappointed. That first day, I found an accessibility statement on the site that stated that folks has tried to make it as accessible as possible and the work was on going. I visited the site on Jan. 28, and I can’t find that statement, even via search. Updated, February 2: It seems that the search will not work in Firefox 3.0.5 when images are turned off. Normally when I search I am taken to a new page with the results. In Firefox with images turned off a new page does not load. It works ok with images on and in IE8 with images turned off. Thus, I was eventually able to find the accessibility statement.
While the site is usable with the keyboard and probably with a screen reader with a bit of coaching, the low vision support is pretty dismal. While the images seem to have alt text, there are CSS background images used for the main navigation bullets on the first page and the contrast is pretty low. I guess a low vision person could find the links at the bottom of the page but the site is very hard to use with images turned off.
I will admit that I never tested the whitehouse.gov site under the old administration – it may have been equally as bad. However, for an administration that used the internet during the campaign and that touts the inclusion of all in government provided by the internet, not providing an accessible site is very disappointing. I hope the developers and designers make a concentrated effort on accessibility. After all, they should have to adhere to US Section 508, too!