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Don't be a slave to the machines

I was validating some code at the W3Cs validator the other day and it occurred to me to share this pearl of wisdom with you.

I seems commonplace to me that web developers will crow over the accessibility of their sites after running it through the "Cynthia says" website. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Those automated accessibility tools are useful - but more to show you where something it definitely gong wrong than where everything's going right. So make sure you do run your sites through it, and correct and issues that are clearly impinging on the accessibility. But once you've ironed out all the issues thrown up, don't then just assume you've got a perfectly accessible site.

The best way to test would be to get a group of people all with problems accessing the web - for example someone partially sighted, or someone unable to control a mouse, or someone colour blind. But I know it's unlikely that you keep a community of people with those kinds of problems in a filing cupboard somewhere just waiting to test your latest website. Instead, think! Use your head. Make sure that everything you can do you have done.

Even the simplest things will make a difference to someone. For example, if you use Firefox to browse, you know that you can enlarge text on screen by using "View -> text size -> increase". But not everyone can do that. If you have declared your font sizes in pixels, and someone looks at your website using IE (as the majority will), then they can't change the font size that easily. So, instead, just use this simple declaration in the "body" rules of your stylesheet. "font-size: 62.5%;" That will make the default font size 10px, from which you can scale all the other fonts in ems. Now, IE will be able to change font size using a similar menu.

That's just one little helping-hand. Basically, think about accessibility rather than devolving your responsibility to a one-minute check on an automated website. It can highlight some things that are wrong with your site, but not everything.

It's better to have a really accessible site fail the automated accessibility check than have a site that passes it, but is really inaccessible because you haven't thought about it.

Jason posted this on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 at 10:30 am. Leave comment.

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