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Originally posted March 25 2004 at 21:03 under Web. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled.

Accessibility-Some Thoughts

Web accessibility is the big subject of the moment. We have to make our sites accessible. Design something nice and the cry goes up-what if the user is blind? what if they have images turned off? Small screen devices? The whole idea that everything we put online should be accessible to everyone has even been enshrined in laws.
Some questions must be asked about this. For a start, everyone is an impossable dream. Nothing is accessible to everyone. That’s not the way the world works. No one makes similar demands of other media. No one expects advertisment posters to be printed with a brail version alongside in case the consumer can’t see. That’s possably not a good example. Lot’s of publications offer large print versions (but not newspapers etc, yet online versions should?). But they don’t offer versions without pictures. They don’t offer versions in case your peering at them through a tiny window.
In some cases, it shouldn’t really be a problem with websites. The idea that user is everything leads to browsers allowing users to change everything. And the power of css allows many different stylesheets to be available. Hopefully the separation of style and content should allow the page to gracefully degrade in devices not supporting those styles. But we can’t do everything. Every trick in the book has problems, from screen readers not acting consistently to image replacement techniques being repleet with problems (see A List Apart’s Accessibility Section). And again why should we be expected to do everything? I don’t know. Yet I agree with it. The user is all. If we can make something accessible we should (and this site could do more, if I had time. No one ever mentions the cost in extra work to do this). However, I think my point is not everything can be accessible. And we shouldn’t be punished for that.

One further point. Almost every website works very hard at accessibility. They make things work for the vast majority of users, those using IE. Write a page using those lovely standards that are supposed to help make things accessible and you break the site for most of the users. Perhaps someone should force MS to make IE follow standards properly, for accessibility’s sake.

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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