Accessible Arabia Part 2 – Putting accessibility on the agenda

The following is a contributor post from Chris Rourke, MD of User Vision.

Accessible Arabia Part 2  – Putting accessibility on the agenda

Accessibility Enter IconIn Part 1 of this article we pointed out that whilst accessibility is important, it is often not part of the conversation between agencies and clients, and as a result it is often not built in to the resulting website.

In this concluding part we will briefly cover

  • Ways to get accessibility on the agenda for your organisation and in the Arab region
  • Some good examples of accessibility being implemented and
  • The best resources to learn more about web accessibility

Getting the accessibility ball rolling

The best way to start a programme to improve your site accessibility is to have a close look at the current state of your site’s accessibility.  Although web accessibility is closely tied in with the coding of your site, you do not need to be a coder or developer to start to detect some of the accessibility problems.

As demonstrated in the Part 1 article, there are some simple and useful tools that can help you assess your site’s accessibility.  My personal favourite is the WAVE tool from WEBAIM but other good ones are the Web accessibility Toolbar from Vision Australia, and there are others.

These can be used to find some of the “low hanging fruit” issues – the accessibility risks that can be picked up by an automatic programme or spider.  This will not find a full and complete set of issues but it will be a good start for finding things such as missing alt text, problems in forms, or poor colour contrast.  These can be presented in a easy, visual style and allow you to drill down to learn more about the nature of each problem and more importantly the steps needed to solve it.

Another good way to find accessibility problems is to test the site with people that have disabilities.  For instance this could include those with visual impairments or alternatively this could be physical or cognitive disabilities.  Although there will be some extra effort to arrange a short usability test with this audience, the benefit will be strong empirical evidence which really makes it clear where the main barriers lie.

Getting accessibility built into sites in the region

A few years ago we conducted a project for the government of Abu Dhabi that gave us a good insight into the state of web accessibility in the UAE and the region as a whole.  It showed that the standard of web accessibility in the Middle East is generally lower than in most other parts of the world, especially when comparing high profile sites such as government departments or large banks.

Why are these otherwise professional and high profile sites so inaccessible?

Are there users with disabilities that want to book their own flight, access eGovernment information or access information online?   Absolutely.

Is there a strong motivation for these organisations to improve the accessibility provisions on their sites?  Not really.

The situation can improve, but it needs more than guidelines in web accessibility which I will outline later.

The underlying problem is that there is no web accessibility “market” in the Middle East.  Areas where web accessibility has made better progress, such as in the UK, have largely benefitted from the push and pull forces of a market.

The web Accessibility “Market forces”

Web accessibility market image showing how people with disabilities can influence companies who then influence supplier agenciesThe market is quite simple and the critical elements of this are listed below, starting with the most important stakeholder – the users.

  • Disabled users need to be aware of their right to e-accessibility and demand it.  The need for digital accessibility and the benefits it brings should be raised by individuals and through disability-related organisations. Government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can support this effort.
  • Companies and organisations with websites need to hear of this demand and at the same time be made aware of the benefit of improving accessibility.  They then need to demand that it is built into the design and maintenance of their sites, whether that happens in-house or through external agencies.   Stipulating compliance with WCAG 2.0 or national guidelines will not solve the problem overnight, but it will focus the minds of supplier agencies.
  • Digital agencies need to see this as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.  They can shout about how they can create accessible sites, but must be sure they can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.  They can build an accessibility competence in house or with specialist partners and raise the accessibility issue to their clients and keep it in the site development and maintenance plan.

These actions by these three key stakeholders will start the ball rolling and ideally create a “virtuous circle” of ever increasing accessibility online.

To a large degree this combination of increased awareness and pressure on other stakeholders in the market has driven the improvements in accessibility within the UK, and there is no reason why it could not occur in the Middle East.

Regional examples of web accessibility

Having pointed out some regional examples of poor accessibility it is only fair to give credit where things are being done right.  Perhaps the highest profile examples are those from the government of Qatar.  Qatar has set up a centre of excellence in web accessibility called MADA that has set itself the goal of making all the eGovernment channels in Qatar as accessible as possible.  As a result there is a high level of accessibility in the Qatar government websites.

For example on the Qatar government eServices Portal Hukoomi it is clear that accessibility has been addressed.  The image below shows the content area of the page assessed through the WAVE tool and there is good structural markup (Headings H1, H2, H3) and accurate alternative test on the images.

 Accessibility of Hukoomi demonstrated through good markup and use of alternative text

The same level of accessibility continues throughout the site, including the transactional areas with forms, a typical trouble spot for web accessibility.

Resources: Learning about web accessibility

One thing that is definitely NOT a reason for overlooking accessibility is a lack of guidance about how to create an accessible site.  There is plenty of great guidance out there, ranging from the official WCAG 2.0 guidelines  to slightly less formal from organisations such as the RNIB in the UK or WEBAIM in the US.

A final thought on web accessibility.  Its helps people use the web as it was intended, regardless of their disabilities.  In the long run, as we age and collect various impairments, every one of us could benefit from this.


About Chris Rourke

Chris Rourke  - CEO UservisionChris Rourke is the Managing Director of User Vision MENA, the Middle East’s leading user experience research and design agency.

With over 20 years’ experience in usability, accessibility and experience design, Chris has worked with leading brands in the region including Emirates Airline, Jumeirah Group, and the Government of Abu Dhabi, as well as many others in the UK and Europe.

He has led projects at all stages of the user-centred design life-cycle  from user needs research through to development of information architecture, usability testing and on-going user experience research.

Chris enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for user experience and provide training on user experience through Twofour54 and Econsultancy as well as in-house training courses.

Top Travel Industry CEOs on Social Media – Skift

For the world’s largest consumer-facing sector, you would think that the travel industry executives would be very social and outward looking. This is, after all, an industry built on hospitality. Think again.

Turns out among the legions of big travel companies across all its subsectors, the CEO and leaders of these companies very rarely go off track from traditional corporate channels of communication. A select few of them are on social media, and even fewer have a meaningful presence — communicating with and responding to customers and peers in travel —  in the various social channels.

Top Travel Industry CEOs on Social Media – Skift.


One Year on – The Top Grossing UAE iPhone Apps

Almost one year ago I published the top UAE iPhone Apps 2012, so I thought I would revisit this post and see how things have changed. Has any App remained in the Top 10 spots?

Apps are arguably a superfluous addition to our lives, with the occasional app truly adding value to our day to day routine (news feeds / social apps / baby feeding reminder apps!!) and most are downloaded and never touched again.

souq.comFREE APPS: What is truly great to see in 2013 is a local App taking the Top Spot of the free apps, followed very closely by two other locals;  Air Arabia and VOX apps.

PAID APPS: Pimp your Screen (“Pimp Your Screen is an award-winning app that helps you customize the look of your device by giving you an exclusive selection of specially designed backgrounds, icon skins, app shelves, neon combos and many other eye candies“) – takes the top spot on paid, with almost all other Apps in the paid sector being games.

GROSSING APPS: Slotomania and Texas Poker remains the only apps throughout that is consistently in the rankings, but slipping down the field.

voxDEVICES: iphone / iPad 

What is truly interesting is the divergence of apps between devices. Granted the apps available a determinant of developers interest (and possible financial gain), but could we also draw some parallels to the divergent type of device purchaser? Are iPad users more interested in games and less interested in social/sharing? Are we doing more connecting  / researching on our smartphones? Are tablets always going to be the 3rd device and unlikely to ever overtake smartphone or laptop?


Another interesting angle to look at is the types of Apps used by geography. The most obvious fact that no country has the same apps in any sector that are the same. This may seem sensible for local language or location based activity, but even games / social / commerce apps vary quite significantly across countries. The top apps in the USA on iPhone are almost all games (Free, Paid, Grossing), while in Italy there is a considerable amount of communication / sharing or functional apps, with few games. While over in China, there is a localised app economy emerging that differs drastically from the rest of the world (like everything else in the China Digital Walled Garden!) and many of the big brands (Sina Weibo, Baidu etc.) are leading the charge. The sheer size, volume of customer base and demand for mobile connected internet in China makes it a very enticing playground, if you know how to really localise.

Download & Discard!

What is evident by the changing APPS in the top 10 is their download then discard nature, as pertinent in the UAE as the rest of the world. What the analytics don’t tell us (yet!), is the actual engagement levels and thus overall value (however in-app purchasing helps to some extent).

Make it local or fail!

The localisation of Apps (language, location services, local information etc.) are vital for long term success and more so due to the local requirements of the mobile device user accessing and utilising content (and also consider the limited available technology to translate application content dynamically, unlike on web browsers). Simply taking an app that worked in New York exceptionally well, will not necessarily cut it in Dubai. Obviously there are outliers to this thought that have solely delivered in English and been a success, but predominantly these are short lived and throw-away or the app functionality does not require local content. Truly long-term and sustainable apps will continuously develop their product to serve the users local needs, no matter where in the world they are.

App developers are in working an exceptionally fast moving, fragmented and competitive sector, but looking at the constant consumer demand for new “gizmo’s” in your pocket and the viral nature if you are luckily get it right, it can certainly be a financially lucrative sector if you get can it right, just ask WhatsApp (WhatsApp valuation $1Bn).

The Tables

Top  iPhone Apps 2013 – United Arab Emirates 

=Souq Deals & FZ LLC =Pimp Your ScreenApalon =Clash of ClansSupercell
▲1Coco VoiceInstanza Inc. =Smart Alarm Clock: sleep cycles & noise recordingPlus Sports =Candy Crush Limited
▼1Air ArabiaAir Arabia ▲18 Ball Pool™ =Top ElevenNordeus
=VOX Cinemas for iPhoneVOX Cinemas ▼1Temple Run: OzDisney =Texas PokerKAMAGAMES LTD
▲1Google EarthGoogle, Inc. ▲4Prince of Persia® The Shadow and the FlameUbisoft =Hay DaySupercell
▲1MBC NOWMBC Group ▲1App IconsMatsvei Tsimashenka =Modern WarFunzio, Inc
▼2Ninja Kid Run by Fun Games For FreeFun Games For Free ▲4Minecraft – Pocket EditionMojang =ممالك الأبطالVekee Games Inc.
▲5Talking SMSOren Avraham =FIFA 13 by EA SPORTSElectronic Arts ▲1Slotomania – Slot MachinesPlaytika LTD
=Despicable Me: Minion RushGameloft ▲1Riptide GP2Vector Unit ▲2Subway SurfersKiloo
▲1Candy Crush Limited ▲2PicfxActiveDevelopment ▲8Online Soccer ManagerGamebasics BV

Top iPad Apps 2013 – United Arab Emirates

▲2Celebrity DentistBear Hug Media =Minecraft – Pocket EditionMojang =Clash of ClansSupercell
▼1Ninja Kid Run by Fun Games For FreeFun Games For Free ▲1FIFA 13 by EA SPORTSElectronic Arts ▲1Candy Crush Limited
▼1Skydiving – Mr. Bean EditionNormand Hackett ▲1Riptide GP2Vector Unit ▲1Hay DaySupercell
▲2Super Dad – Baby Care GameRita Haupert ▲1Toca Tea PartyToca Boca AB ▼2Subway SurfersKiloo
=Design & Dress up BoutiqueUmair Javed ▲2Gangstar: Miami Vindication HDGameloft ▲4Modern WarFunzio, Inc
▼2Banana KongFDG Entertainment ▼4Plants vs. Zombies HDPopCap ▼1Slotomania HD – Slot MachinesPlaytika LTD
▲7Best Friends Forever – Dress Up, Makeup, Card Maker & Photo FunKids Fun Club by TabTale ▼1Prince of Persia® The Shadow and the FlameUbisoft ▲1Smurfs’ VillageBeeline Interactive, Inc.
▼1Despicable Me: Minion RushGameloft ▲1Eden – World BuilderKingly Software Inc ▼2Real Racing 3Electronic Arts
=Dr. DrivingSUD Inc. ▼1Monsters UniversityDisney ▲7GameTwist SlotsFunstage Spielewebseiten Betriebsges.m.b.H.
▼2Nail Makeover – girls gamesGeorge CL ▲10Pimp Your ScreenApalon ▼3Battle Beach

Top iPhone Apps 2013 – United States

Despicable Me: Minion Rush
=djay 2 for iPhonealgoriddim =Candy Crush Limited
=Bus DerbyDimension Technics =Smart Alarm Clock: sleep cycles & noise recordingPlus Sports =Clash of ClansSupercell
=Candy Crush Limited =Where’s My Mickey?Disney =Pandora RadioPandora Media, Inc.
▲1Colormania – Guess the ColorsGenera Mobile =Heads Up!Warner Bros. ▲7Big Fish Casino – Free Slots, Blackjack, Roulette, Poker and More!Big Fish Games, Inc
▼1Celebrity DentistBear Hug Media =Minecraft – Pocket EditionMojang ▼1Hay DaySupercell
=VineVine Labs, Inc. =AfterLightSimon Filip ▲2MARVEL War of HeroesMobage, Inc.
=SnapchatSnapchat, Inc. ▲1Contra: EvolutionPunchBox Studios ▼1Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the NorthKabam
▲13RdioRdio ▲2Free Music Download Pro – Mp3 DownloaderASPS Apps ▼3Modern WarFunzio, Inc
▼1Rivals at War: 2084Hothead Games Inc. ▲5Kick the Buddy: No MercyCrustalli ▼2DoubleDown Casino – FREE Slots, Blackjack & Video PokerDouble Down Interactive
▼ ▼3Grand Theft Auto: Vice CityRockstar Games ▼1The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-iearthKabam

Top iPhone Apps 2013 – Italy

(new)Radio Live! deluxeEric MILLET =Smart Alarm Clock: sleep cycles & noise recordingPlus Sports =Candy Crush Limited
▲1WeChatWeChat ▲1PouPaul Salameh =Clash of ClansSupercell
▼2TuttoCittà MAPSEAT Pagine Gialle S.p.A ▼1djay 2 for iPhonealgoriddim =Top ElevenNordeus
▼2Battery Saver – Improve the Battery LifeKS Mobile, Inc. =InstaWeather Probyss mobile ▲1Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the NorthKabam
=Banana KongFDG Entertainment =Pimp Your ScreenApalon ▼1Hay DaySupercell
(new)PhotoVivaLamina Design =FoxTube – YouTube Playermix1009 =Pet Rescue Limited
=Red Bull Urban FutbolRed Bull ▲1Running for Weight Loss PRO: training plan, GPS, how-to-lose-weight tips by Red Rock AppsGRINASYS CORP. ▲8MegapolisSocial Quantum
▼2InstaWeatherbyss mobile ▼1FIFA 13 by EA SPORTSElectronic Arts ▲2Online Soccer ManagerGamebasics BV
▲1Significato dei Nomi – NomixNomix s.a.s. =Akinator the GenieElokence ▼1The Simpsons™: Tapped OutElectronic Arts
▼2Monsters University: Catch ArchieDisney =iTheme – Themes for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touchnovitap GmbH ▼1Skype for iPhoneSkype Communications S.a.r.l

Top iPhone Apps 2013 – China

=Despicable Me: Minion RushGameloft =AA Ringtone Maker ProLI SI MIN =我叫MT OnlineLOCOJOY.,LTD
=Sango FightLogic Ball =画个火柴人, Inc. =Clash of ClansSupercell
=WiFi免费通747 =暖暖环游世界:搭配研习生RUNHAO YAO =扩散性百万亚瑟王Meiyu Information and Technology Co.,ltd
=看图猜成语Bin Wang =Phone Numbers Reverse Search LocationQIU CHAO =大掌门Air&Mud Studio
=Banana KongFDG Entertainment =植物大战僵尸PopCap =陌陌Beijing Momo Technology Co., Ltd.
▲2百度视频(影音版)Beijing Baidu Netcom Science & Technology Co.,Ltd =Color Message Text ProsLi Pu ▲2神仙道PinIdea Co., Ltd.
▲3Who Calls Me?Tinnientec Inc. =Temple Run: OzDisney ▲4王者之剑LineKong Entertainment Technology Co.,Ltd
▲1Tiny PopCom2uS USA, Inc. =Contra: EvolutionPunchBox Studios ▼1萌江湖:Q版武侠Shanghai Youzu Information Technology Corporation Limited
▲2美图秀秀Xiamen Meitu Technology Co., Ltd. =Asphalt 7: HeatGameloft ▼3我叫MT Online (國際版)LOCOJOY.,LTD
▲3WeChatWeChat =Riptide GP2Vector Unit ▼1龙之力量com.digitalcloud

Source: App Annie. Data accessed July 31 2013. Paid – refers to both App and in-App purchases. App Annie reports on rankings dynamically, meaning that App rankings can change frequently. 

Recruiting successfully in the digital era

This excellent insight by recruitment professional Ariana Shahbazi looks at the opportunities for finding the right candidates for roles online, the candidates expectations of your brand and online experience and ultimately how to pull it all together in some very simple steps. It takes onboard some key digital principles and strategies (applied to recruitment specifically) and leveraging data and analytics to show you the opportunities and the risks. The following content is unedited and published as received.

Maybe Ariana, the next post could be from a candidates perspective? What makes individuals stand out in a highly competitive and increasingly noisy online space? What part does good old, first hand relationships play? What should we expect online profiles to achieve?


Recruiting successfully in the digital era, by Ariana Shahbazi

I want you!Although we do see employers who still advertise jobs in regional newspapers, the majority realise that online is where the candidates are. After all, almost anyone under the age of 50 has at some point posted or applied to a job via a job board or LinkedIn.

Many companies we meet have tried to leverage the web for recruitment, but few succeed and finding quality employees remains one of the region’s biggest challenges. What are they doing wrong?

The recruitment mix

There is no silver bullet for finding and hiring the right people. Rather, it’s a mix of a few key elements: recruitment know-how, flexible technology and astute marketing.

Yes, marketing. It is actually one of the most overlooked aspects of recruitment.
You can have a great team of recruiters, powerful talent acquisition software and still get a lot of poor quality CVs. Maybe it’s because nobody knows you exist and even less people know you are hiring. Or maybe it’s because you are not sending out the right message to the individuals you are looking for. Either way, you need to examine this component of the mix more closely.

The online shopping analogy

In this digital age, it’s easy to reach a lot of different people in one go: marketing departments do it all the time. The key is to have a strategy and the tools to set it in motion. Think of recruitment as online shopping: you need to generate awareness of your product, engage potential customers on your website with compelling content, provide a good user experience and make sure they convert.

“Come out, wherever you are”

Look at all the places where potential applicants could be looking and advertise there. Get the attention of the right audience.

So if you are looking for an experienced individual who already has a job with the competitor, posting on a job board or participating in a career fair will probably not give you a very high return. However, targeted advertising on Linkedin and your own career site, posting on a professional forum where he/she might be looking or activating your employees’ networks will. Some employers do SEO and Adwords, others will use Facebook, it all depends on the target. Once you know who you are looking for and where to look for them, you roll out your candidate marketing plan and drive these people to your website.

Avoid the Bounce

What happens when candidates land on your website?

Simple, there are 4 things that a potential applicant can do:

  • Leave (the dreaded “Bounce”)
  • Apply (now or later)
  • Tell someone about a job
  • Subscribe to a job alert for future jobs

Here are some important tips to ensure the right people don’t bounce off your website:

Don’t send them to a website that says “send your CVs to”. That would be like doing an Adwords campaign and sending leads to a poorly designed website. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of the type of person you are looking for. Why would a top candidate send their valuable CV to a generic email address?

If you are thinking “We post vacancies on our website and have a little form with a CV-upload button, that should work,” think again. If Amazon had a list of books in alphabetical order and an “input your credit card number” form, what would happen? They would get a lot of “junk” transactions and discourage real buyers to complete their transaction. When applied to recruitment, this means you are making it far too easy for everyone to apply and you’re not making the process very relevant to the good candidates. And when you have too many applications, unless you have a sophisticated recruitment system, you will not be able to identify the good ones.

If you are serious about attracting top talent, show it. Get a proper career site where you actually promote what it’s like to be employed by your company. Use employee testimonials, talk about all the corporate events, show photos or a video of your company, talk about the benefits, show them what a great workplace your company is, and present a stream of job opportunities that are relevant to them. Remember, it’s like a shopping website: deliver compelling content. This is what ALL successful employers do.

Have a job alert functionality on your website. If you are an employed and experienced professional, you may go to the competitor’s career site once a year to check out opportunities. If you see no appropriate positions, you leave…unless you are encouraged to subscribe to a job alert. Ensure that all your vacancies pages are easy to share via email and social media.

Keep them engaged

Finally, when good individuals do apply, keep them engaged. Ask skill questions they can relate to, send an email when their application has been submitted, give them status updates, don’t make them feel like their CV has gone into an abyss. This and things like scheduling and conducting interviews are so easy to do online nowadays. There are so many good web-based solutions, employers really have no excuse. An organisation that masters all these digital tools will deliver a superior candidate experience and give top candidates a positive image of the company before they even walk through the door.

In a nutshell

The web is the best way to find candidates and build a talent database, regardless the geography and sector. However, it requires a very structured approach and the right tools, just like marketing and sales.

Unfortunately, most recruitment departments don’t have marketing expertise, nor do they have the time, because many still don’t have the proper tools to automatically screen and manage CVs – but that’s another problem. As for marketing departments, most don’t have recruitment on top of their priority list because they are too busy selling products and services. Add technology to the equation and you bring on further complexity because IT probably has a lot of other projects to handle.

Bringing these 3 functions together and making them work in tandem seems too challenging for the majority of organisations…yet digital recruitment cannot be successful without this. In the end, this is probably why so many companies still struggle to find the right people.

About the author:

ArianaAriana Shahbazi is the Marketing Communications Director at Cazar, the leading recruitment marketing and talent acquisition technology provider in the Middle East and Asia. She has 12 years of experience in the online space. At Cazar, she has the opportunity to see the impact digital marketing has on recruitment amongst top employers in the region. The company works with some of the biggest organisations in the Middle East, including Al Futtaim, Jumeirah Group, DP World and Alshaya. It helps organisations leverage technology and the web so they can autonomously recruit top talent when they need it. If you’d like to speak to her about how digital strategies and the right technology can help your recruitment function, email ( or connect  with her.

Editors Note: DigitalArabia provides the platform for any digital expert to have a go at creating original content, to share knowledge  and take part in the conversation. DigitalArabia (or associated parties) do not endorse any products or services supplied by the digital experts. If you would like to take part and share your expertise, please get in touch.


In line with the data theme of the previous post, I came across the below from a good friend and previous colleague, Kevin Coleman. Kevin, along with Apo Demirtas have created a company that provides Big Data solutions, making it easy for hospitality companies maximise their data potential without the technical know-how in-house. Kevin’s post looks at the pro’s and cons of build or buy to data management. Enjoy!

By Kevin Coleman, Partner & COO of Intelligent Hospitality:

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 8.21.39 PMAs business intelligence begins to permeate the hospitality sector, one thing is certain: You can take a “buy” approach, implementing a BI module from a hotel systems provider (for instance, as part of your PMS, CRS or Sales & Catering system) or from a third-party solutions provider.  You can take a “build” approach, securing the funding and setting out with your IT team to implement something from scratch.  In either case, the certainty is that hotel business intelligence begins with data.  Data are the lifeblood of the hotel reporting, analytics and dashboards that are the output of any such BI initiative.  And while high-quality data (complete, accurate and uniform) won’t alone ensure the success of your hotel BI initiative, low-quality data (full of holes, errors and inconsistencies) will certainly ensure the failure of your initiative if not addressed

To read the full article on Business Intelligence, check out: Business Intelligence Begins with Data; Data Management Begins with BI

A Data Scientist’s Real Job

Great HBR post and case study on the role of data scientists today and some key tips into implementing into your current organisation without #analaysisparalysis

EnjoyA Data Scientist’s Real Job: Storytelling – Jeff Bladt and Bob Filbin – Harvard Business Review.

Accessible Arabia? Why accessibility matters online – Part 1

The following is a contributor post from Chris Rourke, MD of User Vision.

 “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

— Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

W3C Keys

Courtesy of

Well, that was the intention at least.

The reality is very different, especially for most sites representing companies and organisations in the Arab world.  Every day thousands of people with disabilities are unable to take full advantage of the incredible information and services available on the web.

They find their online goals, whether for work or personal use, are difficult or impossible to perform.

Why? Because sites have not been developed with accessibility in mind and this problem is especially common in the Middle East.  Web accessibility is typically not high on the agenda for businesses online or the digital agencies they commission and the result is frustration and failure for thousands of people with disabilities.

Web accessibility is about enabling people who may need to use your site slightly differently than you might expect.  Some visitors might want to increase the text size with browser controls or navigate by tabbing rather than use a mouse.  Others may use assistive technology to navigate through voice commands, magnify the screen or hear the site content through a screen reader.  All of these will benefit from a site designed to allow these adaptations to be made so they can control their view and use of the site.    Essentially the site needs to meet the user half way by being coded in a way that allows user adaptations or assistive technologies to be used to improve the experience.

Why does accessibility matter? First of all it’s the right thing to do – the web has been incredibly empowering to all of us, and the intention is that a person’s disability should not prevent them from enjoying the benefits.  It also make good business sense, especially if you are in B2C or B2B commerce, it really does not make sense to exclude some of your target audience. Making your site accessible will help you avoid certain PR or legal risks and the fact that accessible sites display the best coding and mark-up means there is a strong correlation between good accessibility and search results.  Google likes accessible sites and rewards them for that fact in their search algorithm

Some examples of inaccessibility in action

What does an inaccessible site look like?  It depends since the degree of inaccessibility depends on the type of disability that the person has.  For instance poor colour contrast will affect a person with low vision but it would not affect someone that is completely blind and using a screen reader.

Fortunately there are several tools that can help you identify some, but not all, web accessibility issues on a site. They apply technical scans of a site, and therefore can help to identify only about half of the issues, but they are a good first step.

My personal favourite tool for such quick checks is the WAVE tool from WEBAIM since it clearly identifies the accessibility issues on a page and uses colour coding (and more accessible means!) to classify them.  It is easy to drill down into the issues and recommended solutions for each one too, making it a great educational tool.

In this image the WAVE tool has identified the quintessential accessibility issue – missing alternative text on images – on a large central government department website.

Alt=navigation icons with missing Alternative text

The impact of this is on a screen reader user who will be unable to hear what the button is for – and therefore cannot use the site.

Here for a regional airline it shows another common problem of form labels not being specifically associated with their form controls. This can affect those with visual or other disabilities since it will be unclear which label is associated with each form field.

Alt=form fields labels not associated to form controls

Searching through various sites in the Middle East region shows that problems such as these are common.

Causes of poor accessibility

Of course no one sets out to intentionally create inaccessible websites, so accessibility is much more an error of omission than commission.  It is often a side effect of a fundamental issue that is often forgotten by clients and the agencies developing websites:

It is not your website and not all site users are like you.

Accessibility is often not put on the design agenda at all in web design projects.  Broadly speaking there are three main stakeholders with a part to play in this:

  • Site owners who may not require web accessibility provisions in their web projects, for instance in their design brief to their agencies
  • Agencies who may not have in-house knowledge to build in accessibility to their sites; they may not have prioritised it during the design, or they fail to maintain focus on the site accessibility in the cut and thrust and compromise of site development.
  • Those that would benefit from better web accessibility who may not be aware of the potential for better web accessibility or they may not notify site owners of issues they encounter

There are additional factors as well such as whether web accessibility is in some way built into the national legal structures (such as the Equality Act in the UK, or the Section 508 guidelines in the US, which help to provide a legal basis for the web accessibility.

So we have identified a problem – what can we do about it?

In Part 2 of this Article, later this month, will cover

  • Ways to get accessibility on the agenda for your organisation and in the Arab region
  • Some good examples of accessibility being implemented and
  • The best resources to learn more about web accessibility



In the meantime, you may wish to learn more about web accessibility at the UX breakfast briefing provided by User Vision on March 26th in Dubai Media City, where web accessibility will be the featured presentation.



About Chris Rourke

Chris Rourke  - CEO UservisionChris Rourke is the Managing Director of User Vision MENA, the Middle East’s leading user experience research and design agency.

With over 20 years’ experience in usability, accessibility and experience design, Chris has worked with leading brands in the region including Emirates Airline, Jumeirah Group, and the Government of Abu Dhabi, as well as many others in the UK and Europe.

He has led projects at all stages of the user-centred design life-cycle  from user needs research through to development of information architecture, usability testing and on-going user experience research.

Chris enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for user experience and provide training on user experience through Twofour54 and Econsultancy as well as in-house training courses.