Although all 2021 candidates for Manhattan District Attorney profess a commitment to uphold the law and protect human rights, their own campaign websites contain accessibility defects, violating industry and legal standards that protect individuals, especially those with disabilities, when they browse the web.
How do the candidate web pages stack up?
In the following ratings, based on a method employed by Johns Hopkins University, the candidates’ home pages are ordered from most (at the top) to least (at the bottom) accessible. Details on the methodology are described in a companion article on mayoral candidates.
|144||Tali Farhadian Weinstein||https://www.taliforda.com/|
By this rating method, Liz Crotty has the most accessible, and Tali Farhadian Weinstein has the least accessible, home page.
What’s the matter?
The rating method uses two programs, Axe and WAVE. They both inspect a web page, report some accessibility problems, and rate their severity. Combined, they give a quick preliminary estimate of how accessible or inaccessible a web page is. These are free testing tools that any web developer can use. A web developer who eliminates all the errors they reveal would make pages earn a deficit score of 0. None of the developers hired by these candidates did that.
So, some persons, especially those with disabilities, will have trouble on all of the campaign websites.
All the candidate home pages exhibit a mixture of accessible and inaccessible features. Some of the accessible features:
- Diana Florence and Lucy Lang’s home pages contain
Skip to Contentlinks that speed navigation for people who don’t use a mouse (because of blindness, paralysis, etc.).
- Dan Quart, Alvin Bragg, and Tahanie Aboushi have home pages where the labels for name and contact inputs remain visible after you start to fill in your information. This benefits people with memory or attention limitations.
- Tali Farhadian Weinstein and Liz Crotty have home pages with video players, but the videos do not autoplay; they wait until you ask them to play. This protects visitors with some sensory and cognitive disabilities, who otherwise might suffer disorientation or even seizures.
But all the home pages, even those with the best scores, also have accessibility flaws. Among them:
- Liz Crotty may have won the contest, but that is partly because the testing tools are not sophisticated. They require photos, drawings and other images to be accompanied by text that can be automatically read out loud to blind or low-vision users. Crotty shows images of badges representing her endorsers and provides texts for them, but the texts are uninformative. One text, for example, says
SBA.png. To be understood, that text should at least contain
Sergeants Benevolent Association. Even better, it should be visibly displayed on the page, since many users would not know what an
- When you use your Tab key to navigate on Tahanie Aboushi’s home page, you cannot see where you are. The site’s developer has suppressed the usual outline that acts as a
- When you do the same on the home page of Tali Farhadian Weinstein, you can see your focus, but after you press Tab once you are near the bottom of the page, on a Facebook link. That complicates navigation.
- Eliza Orlins has a home page where a video autoplays and you cannot stop it. The audio is off until you turn it on, and the video is captioned, but it would be even more accessible if it waited for you to ask it to play.
- There is hard-to-read text on the home pages of Thomas Kenniff and Lucy Lang. They put white text on top of white or off-white backgrounds. The result, as shown in these examples, is a foreground-background contrast much poorer than the standard requires. The Lang text says
Share, but it is nearly impossible to read.
- When you move your mouse toward one of the
campaign ideason Thomas Kenniff’s home page, the words and graphics disappear and something else replaces them. For example,
Keeping our City Safevanishes and is replaced by
View More. If you need to magnify the page, the original phrase may disappear even before you see it. If you are easily distracted, you may forget what
View Moreis about.
Moral of the story
Whoever is elected Manhattan District Attorney will be required by state law to make his or her official website accessible. By selecting qualified employees or contractors to create an accessible campaign website, a candidate could demonstrate both competence in procurement and a respect for legal rights. The results so far are a mixed bag. Most of the pages show some effort at accessibility, but none of the candidates has procured a completely accessible website, or even one that can pass the tests run by free tools.
This work was inspired by the Johns Hopkins University Vaccine Website Accessibility Dashboard and by colleagues who examined 2020 presidential candidate websites. This work is entirely my own and does not represent my employer, CVS Health.
I thank Jared Smith of WebAIM for details on the Vaccine Accessibility Dashboard method.