Segala is a specialist in web accessibility, mobile testing, mobile web testing and certification. Based in Dublin and privately owned, Segala provides a range of services to help you better understand what problems your website and mobile applications might have in terms of accessibility. Let's take a look at their services...

Content Labels and Search Thresher

Segala is at the forefront of promoting Content Labels, which are RDF-based files that contain metadata about trust. Segala developed Search Thresher, a Firefox plug-in for examining Content Labels in search results. It only works on your Google results and only a handful of sites use Content Labels, but Search Thresher is really just a stopgap to demonstrate how Content Labels might actually work if widely adopted. If Content Labels are adopted, Segala hopes to become a major player in verifying these - which would be a very lucrative business. Segala helped to create the original charter and is co-author of the final report with ICRA. 

Content Labels are now moving onto a full recommendation track within the W3C, so it is a promising technology. Content Labels will be proposed as a replacement for PICS, a W3C spec which enables labels (metadata) to be associated with Internet content.

Here is a screenshot of Search Thresher in action:


The image above shows how results from Google look with the SearchThresher plug-in installed. There are only a dozen or so sites out there with content labels at the moment.

Accessibility Testing

In addition to pushing Content Labels and the issue of trust, Segala also provides a range of accessibility services. For US $690 Segala will carry out a benchmark evaluation report, which involves testing your website across different browsers and platforms. They will then advise you on what adjustments you need to make to your site in order to comply with regulations and policies such as the DDA in the UK and Section 508 in the US. You can also get a full compliance audit from Segala, which will help ensure your site conforms to WCAG.

Segala also tests your mobile applications and mobile websites. They will be able to provide you with a W3C mobileOK Trustmark certificate when they become available later in 2007. 

This accessibility testing all revolves around trust. By displaying the Segala-Certified Trustmark on your website, you are giving a clear sign that your site is independently verified for accessibility. According to Segala, browsers and search engines that can detect the trustmark are able to highlight your site in search results - thus improving user trust and potential ranking for your site. However I'm not sure what, if any, major search engines will actually improve your 'site ranking' based on this trustmark - but maybe I'm wrong.

Agencies, developers, usability consultant, and product owners can join Segala's certified partner programme so they can offer their own clients accessibility products and services, including the Segala Accessibility Trustmark.

Conclusion

Web accessibility is an important issue for developers and webmasters to consider. With more and more people accessing the internet through mobiles devices, screen readers and raft of new browsers, websites that are not accessible are losing out on potential users, clients, and customers. 

Last year the UN conducted a survey of 100 regularly used websites across 20 different countries, called 'The United Nations Global Audit of Web Accessibility' - a grand title indeed. They set out to determine how accessible these sites were for people with disabilities. Unfortunately the results were not so grand: only 3 websites out of the 100 chosen were confirmed to have the basic standards of accessibility. 

From a legal point of view, there is also something to consider for larger companies. Take for example the National Federation for the Blind, which last year filed a suit against Target.com, citing several issues - including the fact that the site requires the use of a mouse to make purchases.

Segala is a profitable company with a healthy balance sheet. They provide a very useful service for website owners who have not focused their attention on accessibility in the past, but who want to make up for lost ground. In their drive for Content Label adoption, Segala wants to be the VeriSign of this business and become an authority on site certification. 

As for any developers out there, I would love to hear your comments on how important you think the issue of web accessibility is?