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Re: Accessibility

From: Suzan Dolloff <averil@concentric.net>
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 1998 08:43:54 -0600
Message-Id: <3.0.1.32.19980323084354.008009a0@pop3.concentric.net>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Dear Ms. Taylor:

re: http://www.csinet.net/taymade

You've undertaken a noble endeavor and lots of work in retrofitting your
web site for accessibility. Congratulations and thank you! Yet one more
site on the web I and other disabled people will continue being able to
access. Because you've asked for feedback, however, I thought I'd take the
opportunity you provided to publicly address some issues from which others
might benefit as well.

First, let's take this whole "accessible web page" proposition. Just as
current web pages don't proclaim themselves to be accessible to the
physically abled, it's not necessary to trumpet their accessibility to
disabled people. If it IS accessible to disabled web surfers, they'll know
it when they reach the site. I'm confident you meant no offense to anyone
and probably just wanted to raise awareness to the need for accessibility,
but as a disabled person myself, I felt as if I was being singled out in an
unnecessary manner while you, basically, patted yourself on the back for
being compassionate and sensitive to my and others' needs. I hope I haven't
offended YOU with MY comments either. I only mention it to indicate how
even the most helpful people can sometimes go too far in their eagerness.
<gentle smile> 

Use of the Bobby-approved icon with a link to CAST's site can enlighten
people who are curious by its presence. In your coding, you've changed the
ALT attribute on that graphic (which doesn't even appear on your page but
is commented in your source-code -- for whose benefit?) to read "Bobby
Logo" or something like that, instead of CAST's recommended
"Bobby-approved." Please don't alter that, as it rather defeats the purpose
intended.

In running your page through Bobby, I noted the site rated four stars, but
it DID raise three very important issues for you to consider, most
especially the image map (boo! hiss!) and your background (even though that
was listed last). I don't have a permanent screen reader yet, but I suspect
your background would cause some confusion for those who use them, as it
will keep trying to read the text on the background in addition to the
foreground text. The fact that you used bold or larger text on the page
makes me think it may have been difficult for you to read it against that
background, so apply that same thinking when considering the needs of
people who can't enlarge or emphasize the text in their browser of choice
or necessity. Tables, in and of themselves, are not anathema to
accessibility, provided certain steps are taken to make them gracefully
degrade in text-based browsers like Lynx or when being interpreted by
screen readers. For some hints about writing tables as well as some
techniques for listing links, please refer to 

http://www.concentric.net/~Averil/speech.html 

This is a little tutorial I put together on creating text- and
speech-friendly web sites, not because I think I'm the WWW's answer to
accessibility issues, you understand, but because I had to learn these
things when I realized *I* could no longer access pages I'd designed! 

I'd also like all of us to broaden our thinking about "accessibility." This
isn't just some catch-phrase we're using to include people who must use
adaptive technology, it means, quite literally, accessibility to EVERY
person who reaches a web site. That means taking factors like monitor size
(resolution) and computer platform or operating system into account as well
as browser types. In your HTML source code, for instance, you specify a
font face called Comic Sans MS. This particular font is not generally
included in Win 3.* or for people using Macs, so you might want to expand
your font face attribute to include fonts typically included in those
platforms, such as FONT FACE="Comic Sans MS, Arial, Geneva." They CAN see
your page, but it will be in their browsers' default font which may affect
the way the page renders to them.  Be aware, too, that animated GIFs can
cause sometimes browsers to crash, particularly if they're being viewed by
someone using a computer whose resources are already being taxed to the
limit. As someone with a seizure disorder, I'm often bothered by animation
on web sites since things like bandwidth traffic and even my modem's
throughput can sometimes affect the speed or consistency of the viewing
loop and cause an uncomfortable flickering.

I notice you include the HTML Writers Guild

http://www.hwg.org/

icon on your site and mention being a member. I highly recommend
participation in the HWG email lists, particulary hwg-basics and
hwg-critique, as those two lists are where web designers learn common-sense
techniques which lend themselves to validation and accessibility. (BTW, in
the HWG lists, you'll also learn why you shouldn't use header tags (<H1>
through <H6>) to enlarge your text.) Since you included the HTML 4.0
Transitional DTD in your coding, it makes sense to run your page through
the W3C validator located at 

http://validator.w3.org/ 

and correct any errors it picks up. Validation is VITAL to accessibility,
as validation provides the standardization from which adaptive and
assistive hardware and software can be created to work for everyone who
needs it.

Finally, may I suggest you familiarize yourself with META tags and their
proper use? There are any number of places on the Web where you can learn
about them (including HWG's resources, I believe), but I found it
particularly useful to see what the people who run search engines had to
say about them, so followed one of Infoseek's links to the site below:

http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/meta.html

Again, please don't feel as if you're being singled out for criticism. It
was, in fact, quite brave of you to publicly ask for reviews. I, myself, am
still retrofitting some of my web sites, so I can fully appreciate the work
involved and how it sometimes seems you're never done because someone
reminds you about something else. I also know how GOOD I feel after I've
completed the site, though, so I anticipate that for you as well.

Best regards,

Ree' Dolloff
mailto:averil@concentric.net
http://www.concentric.net/~Averil/
Received on Monday, 23 March 1998 09:43:18 GMT

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