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Misrepresenting accessibility / confusion with usability

From: Christophe Strobbe <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.ac.be>
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2004 14:24:22 +0100
Message-Id: <5.0.2.1.2.20031109191253.028cf948@mailserv.esat.kuleuven.ac.be>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Hi,

A while ago I came across issue 36 of the British magazine Web Pages Made 
Easy, which contained an anonymous article on "Building Accessible Web 
Sites" (pages 16-21). The first page is filled with a wheelchair symbol, so 
I hoped that, at last, mainstream computer magazines were beginning to 
devote some attention to web accessibility. However, the article discusses 
only usability and hardly mentions any guidelines or techniques for making 
web sites accessible for people with disabilities. Here's an summary of the 
guidelines in the article:
* Keep it simple; don't cram too much in your home page.
* Keep pages small (less than 50k; speed of download).
* Ban splash pages and intros.
* Stick to standards (e.g. blue underlined text for hyperlinks and nothing 
else):
   - visitors should not be required to learn new ways of working every 
time they visit a Web site
   - no text in images (resizing does not work)
* Keep URLs short; avoid tildes, dashes and underscores in URLs.
* Chop large texts into small sections (max. 300-400 per page).
* Implement site search.
* Don't assume that visitors are experts (novice users may panic when asked 
to install a plug in).
* Combat link rot.
* Test your site. 4 testers will find 75% of all usability problems.
Two out of thirteen links in the links section are about accessibility.

Issue 37 of the same magazine contains an article on "Make an accessible 
site", which also contains the wheelchair symbol.
The anonymous author states that: "Site accessibility is all about building 
pages that are clearly organised and easy to navigate. The principle behind 
building an accessible site actually relies on sticking to some fairly 
simple rules. You'll need to keep a keen eye on creating a fairly 
minimalist page layout and aim for Web pages that load in a flash." The 
bulk of the article is a series of screen shots with comments that show how 
you can use Fireworks and Dreamweaver to create an "accessible" page.
The article also contains the following tip: "If you are creating pages 
where you need to include graphical content, it is always a good idea to 
create a 'text only' version of the same document, with a link to it from 
your main site. This at least then gives the visitor an option to view this 
more accessible page."

I think this kind of articles doesn't do a good service to web 
accessibility. What do you think?


--
Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Departement of Electrical Engineering - Research Group 
on  Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 - 3001 Leuven-Heverlee - BELGIUM
tel: +32 16 32 85 51
http://www.docarch.be/
Received on Thursday, 18 March 2004 08:25:04 UTC

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