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Re: Using em or percent for properties that need to change

From: Andy Budd <andy@message.uk.com>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 16:57:40 +0100
Message-Id: <2AEA095A-F066-11D8-888E-003065480AC6@message.uk.com>
To: W <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Tina Holmboe wrote:

>> But is that an accessibility issue, a usability issue, or a personal
>> preference?
>   The desire to change it is a personal preference, the ability to do 
> so
>   an accessibility issue.

Is the ability to resize the width of a layout an accessibility issue, 
a usability issue or just *ones* personal preference (not user 

Personally I think your answer is a little trite. Are you saying that 
anything that gets in the way of ones personal preferences is, by 
definition, an accessibility issue! Personally I see accessibility 
being about accessing the content, not customising it in any way you 
personally see fit.

Pretty much all the arguments I've heard so far are based on peoples 
personal 'preferences'. Sure it's a nice idea that layouts expand if 
the text is expanded. It's true that when lines of text get very short 
they can get more difficult to read.

However, is this an accessibility issue? If so, surly the techniques 
need to say that all units need to be em's as % don't give you this 
ability? If you use % rather than em's, the converse can happen. i.e. 
you can get very long lines of text that can also be difficult to read 
when text sizes are small. When text sizes are large, lines of text can 
still become bunched up and less than optimal reading length.

If you base your layout on em's, at very large text sizes, you can 
cause horizontal scroll bars. Do you feel that this is less of an 
'accessibility' issue than narrow lines of text?

Anyway, if a user wishes to up the size of their text, who is to say 
that they want the layout to change as well. It sounds to me that you 
are just imposing your own personal preferences on the user, without 
thinking about their wishes.

I've discussed this issue on various accessibility, usability and web 
design forums/mailing lists and all I get is personal bias. What I'm 
interested in is hearing what the official WAI line is.

Andy Budd

Received on Tuesday, 17 August 2004 15:57:43 UTC

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