The latest product of Google labs shows Google managing to do the right thing and the wrong thing at the same time: Google Accessible Search. It's kind of spectacular that Google can produce a search specifically for accessible resources and still not make a best-practice search form or results page.

It's a pity to see Google miss such a great opportunity to prove they understand accessibility. The pages are a mass of tables and font tags just like any other Google product (ok, so the FAQ does at least use semantic tags, even if it skips the DOCTYPE). Then to cap it off, they promote "accessibility" but only talk about vision impairment. A trap for young players, perhaps; but Google is not a young player.

The service does at least show that it is possible to rank accessible sites higher than tag soup; perhaps we should by lobbying Google to add this to their general search. Creating a separate search reinforces the perception that disabled users should be segregated; or that accessibility is somehow incompatible with "normal" sites.

doesn't it work anyway?

Now, I know that Google's search page is so simple that effectively it's probably "accessible enough". Similarly, the results pages are probably usable despite being sloppy markup. The problem is that it's only by accident that these pages are still accessible. If you're doing something wrong, getting away with it doesn't turn it into doing something right.

To really compound the problem, people use Google's non-compliance as "evidence" that accessibility doesn't matter. They say If Google doesn't do it, why should I bother? That's about the time when accessibility advocates think briefly of belting them one, then instead smile and do their best to explain their point of view ;)

do no evil

I have no doubt that individuals at Google understand accessibility and web standards. However Google the corporation can only be judged by its actions.

Google's refusal to use web standards or meet accessibility guidelines helps perpetuate bad practice across the web. Regardless of cute slogans that may have been scribbled on a whiteboard at Google once... through inaction on standards and accessibility, Google does a little evil every day.