Accessibility on the web is important. That’s been said before. A lot. Even I’ve said it before. But I haven’t devoted an entire blog entry to it yet, and I feel it deserves one. Let me start by saying that I have recently altered the some pages on this site considerably. Except you won’t notice unless you’re using a text-only browser or a screen-reading program. The reason for this is simple: this HTML document has nothing in it specifying layout or color or any other such style issues. If you’re using Mozilla, you can see the basic page, without style, by selecting
View > Use Style > Basic Page Style. The style is added by use of a stylesheet, which tells visual browsers (like Internet Explorer and Netscape) how to display the page content. As it was before today, the navigation links appeared in the HTML document before the content, and the stylesheet put them on the left of the screen in visual browsers. In non-visual browsers, or in CSS-unaware browsers the links were presented first, because they were first in the HTML. You can imagine that this was annoying for the blind person who had to listen to a list of links before reaching the content, and the person with an old browser who had to scroll through the link list on every page. Now it’s different. With no change to the appearance on mainstream browsers, I’ve shifted the navigation to the bottom of the page.
There are, of course, more issues than this regarding accessibility on the web. Another that I have plans to address more fully is the issue of colour. That is colour-blindness and low- or mono-colour displays. Prompted by an occasion on which I was forced to use one of the older computers here in UCD, the issue of contrast became apparent (ironically…) The computer in question had a faulty monitor that made it virtually, and indeed in some cases actually, impossible to distinguish my link-text colour from the black background on the navigation bar. I promptly threw together a high-contrast stylesheet to offer as an alternative. Mozilla users can see it in action be selecting
View > Use Style > High Contrast. I plan to research the area further, as there is no guarantee that the alternative stylesheet is sufficient for all colour-related accessibility issues to be resolved.
More information on the importance and implementation of accessibility aids is readily available. To begin with try: