W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > April 2014

Reasonable default styles and visual accessibility

From: Simo Sutela <qurnelius@netscape.net>
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2014 14:32:48 -0400 (EDT)
To: public-html@w3.org
Message-Id: <8D11B26BF677F96-12C0-F783@webmail-d143.sysops.aol.com>

My understanding is that even though the support for CSS and other 
styling is optional for user agents, they should still present HTML 
documents to users in a readable, comprehensible, accessible and usable 
way. Now, consider a document without any styling information, rendered 
on a full-screen visual browser.

I'm not aware of any mechanism to limit the width of text passages in 
this scenario, except user-created custom CSS styles or browser add-ons 
(which may be hard or impossible for many) or making the browser window 
narrower (which is not supported on several devices and environments, 
and is unwieldy at best). The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 
suggest the latter and that authors should design to accommodate it. 
The reasoning is that excessively long lines can make reading difficult 
for many. I would add that most people would likely find screen-wide 
lines of text unappealing and burdensome on large displays.

I find it strange that even blind web authors have to add or link basic 
visual CSS styles to their documents to make them accessible – not only 
to handicapped people but to the general audience as well. This is in 
part a browser issue because nothing stops the browser makers from 
adding reasonable default CSS rules or accessibility features, but 
HTML5 and related specifications do little to address the issue. 
Instead, the default rendering suggestions seem to enforce the current 
user agent behaviour that dates from WWW antiquity. HTML seems to be 
"married" to CSS in this regard – HTML can't exist separately in 

I would like to know if you have some suggestions for best practices.

With kind regards,
Simo Sutela
Received on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 07:18:34 UTC

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