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Accessibility and Stylesheets

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1998 12:18:20 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
I'm increasingly concerned with the high technical level of
stylesheet proficiency that we seem to be requiring for 
people to create accessible web pages.

The problem is that the way the guidelines are written (and
this is improved on current rewrites -- but not necessarily
enough to solve the problem!), you need to have detailed 
knowledge of HTML and some CSS experience in order to make
an accessible web page.

Sad to say, this cuts out over half of the people currently
designing web pages!  Stylesheets alone are a confusing new
concept to anyone who hasn't tried them -- and that may be
enough for them to decide, "accessibility is too hard -- I
can't do stylesheets, I don't know what an <OBJECT> is or
even what the difference between a 'tag' and an 'element' is
-- so I won't even bother to try to make accessible pages!"

I'm currently teaching an accessibility course for the HTML
Writers Guild's online classes, and that was one of the
comments from a student.  In addition, the Guild's AGI
project found that 38% of the respondents thought there was
too much HTML 4.0 technical knowledge necessary to understand
the guidelines (April 14 version), and 54% -- over half --
were turned off by the emphasis on stylesheets!

Now, as someone who knows HTML 4.0 pretty well himself, and is
decent with stylesheets, I can understand entirely why those
need to be part of guidelines, and why they're good and useful
features to use when designing web pages.  But I'm also an
expert at this, and do this for a living -- and not everyone
falls into that category.

However, those people still need to make accessible pages! 
Web accessibility is not only for the advanced authors, it
something _everyone_ should know!

But, of course, there's the problem -- how to communicate _only_
what the beginner needs to know, without making them think
that's all they'll _ever_ have to understand about accessibility.

Has anyone dealt with this problem before?  Do you have a nicely
written, "stable", newbie-friendly document that touches on the
basics of accessible web design, without overwhelming the casual
author with LONGDESC and CSS2 and other unfamiliar concepts?

If so, can I have a URL? :)  If not, am I volunteering myself
for more work?

Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>             http://www.idyllmtn.com/~kynn/
Chief Technologist & Co-Owner, Idyll Mountain Internet; Fullerton, California
For your user-defined stylesheet: .GeoBranding { display: none ! important; }
Received on Tuesday, 1 September 1998 15:08:29 UTC

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