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Reader Comments on Aardvark Daily 12 Feb 2001

Note: the comments below are the unedited submissions of readers and do
not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher.


From: James Laycock
For : Right Of Reply (for publication)
Subj: Web access for the disabled

I thoroughly agree with everything you wrote about web designers producing
a "simple" version for the visually or intellectually impaired. I myself
am blessed with full normal sight and other capacities, but will ALWAYS
look for the "print this story" icon/link on a news page, click it and
then start reading. I find that it's worth taking up to 15 seconds looking
for it. I favour the sites which provide this feature: it's a sort of spam
filter. It lets me read what I came to read, without being distracted by
the other rubbish surrounding it. (Your own site is laid out simply and
neatly so I can read it without doing this, for which much thanks.) I also
like sites for the bandwidth impaired, and would like to see a choice
available so that the website could query my browser for my preference
(just as it does for my browser make and model). Just an idea.

From: Graham Oliver
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Web Accessibility

Hi Bruce
Thanks for the article on web accessibility.
A few responses.....

There are 3 levels of accessibility specified by the W3C.
Priority 1,2 and 3 (defined below). Certainly the W3C would
regard Priority 1 as a minimal standard of accessibility
but certainly not the only standard.

[Priority 1]
A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint.
Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to
access information in the document. Satisfying this
checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be
able to use Web documents.

[Priority 2]
A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint.
Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to
access information in the document. Satisfying this
checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing
Web documents.

[Priority 3]
A Web content developer may address this checkpoint.
Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat
difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying
this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.

The special tag for defining menu elements already exists
its called the 'accesskey' tag, defined as part of the HTML
4.01 spec
This tag is arguably as important to those with agility
problems who may find it very hard to select links with the
mouse (or tab through a whole lot of links using the
keyboard, or other device)

The issue of creating more straightforward text is
addressed here:

There are a couple of key points I would raise in respect
of this :-

1. Disabled doesn't only include the blind and visually
For example, a deaf person who uses sign language as their
main means of communication may have difficuly
comprehending complex text, thus making text simple and
straightforward will benefit them.

2. Designing for Accessibility can also benefit those who
are not disabled.
For example, by making text clear and simple you benefit
foreign language speakers who don't use English as their
first language.

I could go on..... :-)

If you, or anyone else has any other questions on web
accessibility let me know.

Thanks again Bruce

From: Jamie Mackay
For : Right Of Reply (for publication)
Subj: Accessible websites

I was interested in your article on making websites
accessible. I disagree with your comment that the W3C
guidelines for web accessiblity are designed to provide
only a minimal level of access to the disabled. In fact
they provide a comprehensive set of protocols which, if
followed completely (almost impossible in my experience)
can make a website as accessible as it possibly can be,
given the retraints of html and current browsers.

In regards to having special tags for defining menu items,
this ability already exists in that you can define keys
that correspond to links on a site, this is a good practice
for often repeated navigation links, not so much for blind
users as for those who cannot use a mouse.

I am not sure that there is any advantage to having alt
text that is only accessible to the visually impaired - for
a start this is not a single group and there are as many
variations in screen reader interpretation as there are in
browsers! Also, Alt text should only be brief (no more than
a hundred characters) - if more is required use a 'D' link.
I think what you are suggesting is an automatic description
link that only those using screen readers will pick up -
this is exactly what the 'Longdesc' tag is for (though
currently only a few screen readers can interpret it).
Finally Alt-text is useful for anyone who has chosen to
turn off image downloads or who use browsers that do not
support images.

The guidelines are divided into three levels of priority,
and your statement is only true if a designer is only
complying with the priority one requirements. However
anyone interested in designing accessible websites should
be looking to make their site at least priority 2

None of this is as daunting as it may sound. If you know
how to design properly structured pages and are prepared to
learn HTML4(or better still XHTML Strict)and how to use
Cascading Style Sheets properly then most of the battle is

These are techniques that web designers should be using
anyway, the main additional requirement for accessible
sites is that complex and/or significant images need to be
described separately (via a 'D' link or 'Longdesc' tag),
links need to be meaningful out of context and be separated
by more that white space and any information in sound or
video files needs to be adequately represented in other
forms. You can see an example of how all this can work on
some priority 2 accessible  pages I have been working on
recently which include both photographs and sound files:

I am happy to discuss any of this further with anyone who
is interested.

Jamie Mackay
Web Editor
Ministry for Culture and Heritage

From: Robyn
For : Right Of Reply (for publication)
Subj: Accessible web sites

I agree with what Jamie and Graham have said. As a person
with partial sight web pages can drive me nuts. As a
principle I do not want something separate - I want access
to the same info as everyone else. Also accessibility
features are also useful for people with physical
disabilities who can't use kyboards. And if this has
mistakes its because the text in this box is so small I can
barely read it! Not all partially sighted people use screen
readers so design, colour contrast, size and type of font
are also important.

Now Have Your Say

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