Future proofing technologies and Accessibility

CSS provides many of the strategies that are needed to make your pages accessible.

Making pages accessible is important for Future-proofing your Web site because at some point, the law may require that you do. This is already a requirement for the U.S. Government and for some European countries.

Here are the ways that CSS is used to make sites more accessible:

  • Separate style sheets can be developed for screen readers, TTTD devices, etc.
  • Pages can be made “bulletproof” so that when people increase the font size so that they can see the text, the design doesn't “break.”
  • The HTML can be semantically correct, so that page contents make sense to screen readers
  • CSS corrects the problems with designs created with nested tables that become impossible to decode with screen readers
  • CSS makes it easier for people that are color blind to change the screen to colors that they can see/ read

Designing for Disabilities

Designing for any person, any equipment is really “back to basics” in Web design. The original Web was accessible, but all sorts of “enhancements” were added in the browser “feature wars” to move away from the democratic principles of access for everyone.

The W3C has guidelines to make your site accessible. The guidelines have three levels:

  • Must do
  • Should do
  • Nice to do

There is also a rating scale of from one to three “As”, depending upon how many of the priorities your site conforms to.

It is an urban legend that Web designers have to compromise the look and feel, interactivity or any other creative aspect of their site to comply with accessibility standards.

(Note: Dumping “over-the-top” gimicks that aggrevate visitors, or changing a design under CSS so that it is compatible with more browsers is not an accessibility issue.)

Accessibility Design Tips

There are a few things that you can do immediately:

  • Fill all the <alt> tags
  • Label items such as horizontal rules, logos
  • Items that have no value can be marked with an astrisk
  • Use relative font sizes so that users can adjust these to their own comfort

Link to a description of what is required to retrofit your site to make it accessible.

Site Test Tools

Starting from scratch is much easier than retrofitting a site.

However, a product like Dreamweaver MX 2004 (or later) can check each page for accessibility.

Another step might be to use the W3C's Quality Assurance Tools. Sites that are validated are well on their way to meeting accessibility guidelines.Link to W3C's Quality Assurance Tools

Want to Test your Site?

Here is a link to a free portal that will test your site (One page at a time.).

Bobby™ at Watchfire.com