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Thread: Why WAI-AAA and W3 code validation don't equal accessibility

  1. #1
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    Arrow Why WAI-AAA and W3 code validation don't equal accessibility

    Despite the best efforts of the W3, HTML/XHTML validation and their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines only go so far as to technically assist accessibility devices grab a websites content and make it usable. Your website can validate, pass the highly critical Bobby test and still be of no use to someone facing geniune accessibility problems.

    If following the W3 isn't enough, what more can you do?

    Take a look at the often overlooked subjects below.

    Semantics
    This is improving of late as designers move over to CSS but it is still very common to see incorrectly nested header <H*> tags being used. Headers are very important document elements and a well structured web page should consist of one primary header <H1>, then subsequent (and correctly nested) subheaders <H2-6> as required. Aside from paragraphs, the use of lists is the most commonly addressed markup structure due to the abundance of examples on how to deliver navigation which is good news as this was probably the single biggest semantic mistake going.

    Why <P> instead of <BR>? There aren't that many reasons why something should include a break. Designers use <BR> because <P> adds huge margins to things and puts the look of things out. Every time a new line is needed, use <P> and apply appropriate CSS. The best example of why <P> works over <BR> is a tool for dyslexics called Read-E. As you mouseover a particular block of text, the lovely Microsoft Sam (if using Windows of course) starts to speak out the contents for you. If you create paragraphs using <BR> then the entire page gets read out, not the selected block of text. This is extremely fustrating if you need to know a phrase within a block of text very far down a page.

    If you need to emphasise a phrase, use <EM> or <STRONG> as they are logical tags. Using CSS to make them appear emphasised will not convey the correct tone or message to someone screen reading, or even a search engine for that matter.

    Links should also be descriptive. If anchor text can summarise the page it points to, it makes it easier for a screen reader user to make the decision to view the page or not. You can rely on attributes within elements but always try and focus on the core value of an element first.

    Document structure also extends to websites common sidebars. Sidebars usually contain links to external sites and other useful resources but should always follow content and not precede it. The only thing that precedes content is navigation. Using CSS you can make this appear as you wish but if you disable styles make sure users, screen readers and search engines don't have to wade through "get FireFox" links before getting at your content.

    Colours
    Contrast is the main issue. Some colours should not sit together as they just don't work. Try screen grabbing and putting the shot into Photoshop before turning it to greyscale. Is it still readable? Ask someone else what they think. Remember, colour blindness commonly causes reds and greens to be misinterpreted so always run the greyscale check to see how things fare.

    Context
    We all do it. How many websites bleat on about the W3 standards. Ask yourself, who is your market? Does a business know or care about the W3? As an EU contracted consultant, I see many small companies and all they care about is whether it complies with the law, will the search engines like it and how much does it all cost. Tell your market what they want to hear in their language, not yours. If you have to use buzzwords or shorthand, use the associated <ABBR> and <ACRONYM> markup correctly or if you have to, include a glossary and link to it when required.

    Mobility
    Leave your mouse alone and see if you can navigate your website. Use tab, space and enter while forgetting access keys. Is your site accessible this way? If not, it should be. In theory, access keys aren't needed as a properly structured site should render them redundant. The big one here is those fancy 'so-called' accessible dropdown or DHTML menus. They aren't, so leave them out if you can help it. Just because someone has no arms or cannot use a mouse for whatever reason and relies on other devices to access the web, why should they be forced to run the site without styles and script enabled? Again, a website must be keyboard controlled as accessibility devices are far better conversed with a keyboard than a mouse.

    Layout
    Who says accessibility is about disability? I have intermediate to expert knowledge of Windows XP, Ubuntu Linux and Mac OSX, know several application and web programming languages and have been in I.T. for 10 years and I still struggle to use some websites. Keep layouts consistent. With your website, keep logo/header at the top, follow with navigation, either on top or to the left, provide the content in the middle then offer users other resources and information on the right or bottom. Consistency is the key. Familiarity means I, even my mother, can navigate your website and find what we're after without having to 'learn' your layout.

    Conclusion
    All the above are highly argumentative and come from my point of view and from my experience. Every website is inaccessible by someone, there is nothing you can do about it but by taking on board the W3's accessibility initiative and being aware of what practical usability consists of, your website can become far more effective.

    I'm new to these forums so I'm interested in what peoples thoughts and comments are on this matter.

  2. #2
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    I have some useful tools in my dmoz category for online accessibility testing.
    Online accessibility testing tools
    In my opinion, if it works easily in Lynx, (http://www.delorie.com/web/lynxview.html), and if it's legible through the colorblindness filter (http://colorfilter.wickline.org/) then it's pretty accessible.
    In a world without walls and fences - who needs Windows and Gates?! - Unknown Author
    "And there's Bill Gates, the...most...famous...man in the...ah...Microsoft." -- A TV commentator for the 2000 Olympics.


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  3. #3
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    Although of course, the validators don't garuntee accessability they are a good start and don't do any harm. The Bobby Checker can aprove an entirely inaccessable page but that doesn't make it worthless, it's still a useful reminder of some of the basic things that we all forget from time to time.

    Sematics
    The <p> tag isn't always the ideal replacement for <br />, the <p> tag is to represent paragraphs, just as the <li> tag is meant to represent list items and sometimes no structural markup should be used, instead display: block is the more apropriate solution, such as if you just want for elements to appear on seperate line.
    About emphasis, aren't headings are form of emphasis that don't use the <em> or <strong> elements? You seem to be over simplifying.

    Colours
    I suppose I agree with all of that, although providing that there is sufficient contrast (128 IIRC) and you don't use colours to portray infomation, I'd think you'd be o.k.

    Context
    The web standards awards showcase plenty of websites that are coded well, mostly accessable and rarely have anything in particular to do with web design.
    Accessability and good marketing, whilst deeply intertwined are entirely different things.

    Mobility
    To be honest, most sites are navigateable using the tab key, even this one. It's not all that hard to achive, in fact .EXEs are significantly behind with this, oh and drop down menu's are accessable without mice, promise.

    Layout
    You seem to be confusing accessability with useability, although what you are saying does make sense.

    Conclusion
    Of coure every website is inaccessable to someone, particuarly those who don't have computers or internet access, a website should be inclusive in nature to anyone who is likely to visit it otherwise you loose buisness and could potentialy be breaking the law.
    As such, the guidelines (and they are but that) are extreemly useful.
    Disclaimer. (1) Whilst I will help you sometimes, if I feel like it, and my advice in relation to your actual question will be of good quality: my posts are to be taken with a pinch of salt. I will be sarcastic, deploy irony and include obscure cultural references for my own amusement without warning.
    (2) You will gain nothing from complaining, and if you try to argue with me then you will not win. No matter how noble your battle seems, I am still better than you, don't be an hero.

  4. #4
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    Semantics: "Guideline 3. Use markup and style sheets and do so properly."

    Colours: "2.2 Ensure that foreground and background color combinations provide sufficient contrast when viewed by someone having color deficits or when viewed on a black and white screen. [Priority 2 for images, Priority 3 for text]."

    Context: "14.1 Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site's content."

    Mobility: "9.4 Create a logical tab order through links, form controls, and objects."

    Layout: "13.3 Provide information about the general layout of a site (e.g., a site map or table of contents). 13.4 Use navigation mechanisms in a consistent manner."

    Conclusion: You haven't bothered to read the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.
    “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
    —Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    Conclusion: You haven't bothered to read the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.
    That is a good point Charley. But who else does? The basics of WCAG are still very much overlooked and very few sites implement them. The key focus is X/HTML validation and Cynthia/Bobby compliance. What is almost always forgotten is that the WAI should ideally be manually checked. Software tools can't do the whole job on their own.

    My point is, take greater care during construction and don't rely on the 'good boy' stickers that validators offer web designers.

  6. #6
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    I always put it this way: read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the HTML 4.01 Spec and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.
    “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
    —Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by the tree
    Sematics
    The <p> tag isn't always the ideal replacement for <br />, the <p> tag is to represent paragraphs, just as the <li> tag is meant to represent list items and sometimes no structural markup should be used, instead display: block is the more apropriate solution, such as if you just want for elements to appear on seperate line.
    About emphasis, aren't headings are form of emphasis that don't use the <em> or <strong> elements? You seem to be over simplifying.
    You're right I am. The gist of my message is, if it's a header, don't just make it look like one, mark it up as one. The same applies across the board.

    Quote Originally Posted by the tree
    Context
    The web standards awards showcase plenty of websites that are coded well, mostly accessable and rarely have anything in particular to do with web design.
    Accessability and good marketing, whilst deeply intertwined are entirely different things.
    It was really just a subjective example but the main thing is to be aware of the target audience. Half the time, it's a salesperson or marketeer that needs to write the copy and an SEO to position and amend accordingly.

    Quote Originally Posted by the tree
    Mobility
    To be honest, most sites are navigateable using the tab key, even this one. It's not all that hard to achive, in fact .EXEs are significantly behind with this, oh and drop down menu's are accessable without mice, promise.
    My background is applications and I completely agree, accessibility is a major problem, worse than the internet. Regarding the menus, Alistaparts example I find hard to activate using the keyboard. If I find it hard, so will others. Whether it's possible or not is another matter. People with screen readers can still be as impatient as the rest of us.

    Quote Originally Posted by the tree
    Layout
    As such, the guidelines (and they are but that)
    Spot on.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    I always put it this way: read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the HTML 4.01 Spec and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.
    The problem with that is it's very open to interpretation. The WCAG is a great set of guidelines that does most of the work but accessibility covers so many angles that in the end the very medium is the problem and it cannot be dealt with.

    I know my post may be stating the obvious to you, but your statement, "you haven't bothered", isn't the case. Either I have read it and I'm spinning or I haven't and great minds think alike.

    The highlights of your post are probably the most omitted elements of the majority of websites, even those claiming standards.

    I can see this post has caused a stir which is great. I'm really interested in finding peoples opinions on this matter and hopefully it serves as a resource for others.

    Edit/ forgive the spelling as I've had nearly two bottles of red wine.
    Last edited by <Eddie>; 04-02-2005 at 03:00 PM.

  9. #9
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    Just a quick note. I had an ulterior motive for this post and that was to gather thoughts and opinions on usability and accessbility, more specifically, the differences and conflicts.

    Shortly I have a meeting with ESDA (East Sussex Disability Association) and we are discussing the web and disabilities. We all know the WAI but the practicalities are somewhat different. The major subject of the event we are planning is based on people with learning difficulties. The requirement is mostly visual based and in some cases Flash serves very well, however inaccessible that may be to others.

    There are so many possible angles involved that if anyone has a constructive article to write about a particular part of usability/accessibility, no matter how vague or technical, if appropriate, it will be seen by the representative of ESDA, alongside my presentation.

    I don't claim to be an authority on the matter and I'm a student of the internet as we all are due to it's rapid evolution but any points to raise are welcome as it provides a resource for this forum as well as my report. I will of course, reward any information with the respective credit in the form of links either to this post or the authors website.
    Last edited by <Eddie>; 04-02-2005 at 03:47 PM.

  10. #10
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    I guess the key point to your original post was that automated verification cannot check the things you've listed.

    I do have a very general article on accessibility in the stickies here and mirrored/improved on my website Accessibility article

    When you say specific, how about that article somewhere on whether or not accesskeys are accessible?

    http://www.wats.ca/articles/accesskeyconflicts/37
    Last edited by DaveSW; 04-04-2005 at 03:54 AM. Reason: added a link to the accesskey article
    In a world without walls and fences - who needs Windows and Gates?! - Unknown Author
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  11. #11
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    I was in Sheffield last Saturday in a very important Web Accessibility meeting with around another 6 of the UK Leading Accessibly advocating webmasters and we concluded "Accessibility is Good™".

    Though really you should always aim to test with real users and at least two of us had disabilities.

    Technically there is no reason why a document could have above 10 h1 headings and be accessible though its not normal.

    The context and the abbreviations glossary is debateable depending upon how you link them.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveSW
    I guess the key point to your original post was that automated verification cannot check the things you've listed.

    I do have a very general article on accessibility in the stickies here and mirrored/improved on my website Accessibility article

    When you say specific, how about that article somewhere on whether or not accesskeys are accessible?

    http://www.wats.ca/articles/accesskeyconflicts/37
    That's all great stuff.

    The event will be hosted in our newly built University and involve spokespersons from ESDA, DRC and the W3. The idea is to address two markets. The first is to raise awareness in industry. A local valve manufacturing company (turnover £2.6m) we know didn't have a clue about standards and accessibility and I ripped their quote from a local company to produce a website, for £6500, to pieces. They relied on the expert advice of the design agency. This is another sore point. Local developers don't have the skills to produce good CSS, standards compliant websites. Even now, a major local firm always uses frames within tables to enhance the visitor experience so the second target is the designers and developers.

    Clearly there is work to be done.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wellock
    I was in Sheffield last Saturday in a very important Web Accessibility meeting with around another 6 of the UK Leading Accessibly advocating webmasters and we concluded "Accessibility is Good™".
    I could have told you that for 50p.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wellock
    Technically there is no reason why a document could have above 10 h1 headings and be accessible though its not normal.
    It's an 'understanding' thing. Too much of a variety on a page and it loses its focus. Search engines typically agree with this too.

  13. #13
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    could have told you that for 50p.
    You are too expensive.

    Though obviously you've probably realised that was the in-joke we kept mentioning along with Bobby T-Shirts (Robot Accessibility Validation) and people who claim - mainly marketing and web consultancy firms - Conformance Level "Triple-A" when they'd be lucky to reach [Priority 1].

    Let alone the morons who misquote the DDA and try and tell people new laws for websites came into practice last October.

    Though unfortunately most businesses buy into the paper-thin myths hence why we coined the mock phrase "Accessibility is Good™".

    Everyone knows that but though many don't really deep-down know why.
    Last edited by Robert Wellock; 04-06-2005 at 07:08 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wellock
    Let alone the morons who misquote the DDA and try and tell people new laws for websites came into practice last October.
    There is an awful lot of confusion about the DDA. The reason for the misinterpretation about Oct 2004 is because Part3 (access to goods and services) of the act was amended then.

    Disability Discrimination Act Part III - Access to Goods and Services


    • Part III of the DDA gives disabled people important rights of access to everyday services that others take for granted.
    • Duties under Part III are coming into force in three stages.
      - Treating a disabled person less favourably because they are disabled has been unlawful since December 1996.
      - Since October 1999, service providers have had to consider making reasonable adjustments to the way they deliver their services so that disabled people can use them.
      - The final stage of the duties, which means service providers may have to consider making permanent physical adjustments to their premises, comes into force in 2004.


    The main thing is the Act doesn't actually state what makes a website accessible so it's open to interpretation and if you take the above points (taken from the disability.gov.uk site), make of that what you will.

  15. #15
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    Precisely though quite a lot of web designers tried to take advantage of the change and market nonsense material as if it - web accessibility - were a brand-new legal requirement "starting" last quarter.

    Anyway, assuming nobody gets publicly and legally shamed in court soon things won't change.

    Though I don't thing anyone will be stupid enough not to make "reasonable adjustments" if the heavies come down.
    Last edited by Robert Wellock; 04-06-2005 at 07:50 AM.

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