WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

RE: Accessibility Observations


From: John Foliot - bytown internet
Date: Feb 26, 2002 11:22AM

Accessibility Observations<opinion>
You are right of course, linear structure will always be easier to navigate,
especially when you cannot rely on visual cues to get around. But consider
that consistant navigation also goes a long way. Providing a "skip nav"
mechanism on every page is a simple and effective way of providing a better
user experience for the visually impaired... it's not perfect but it helps.

Once we can rely on consistant and predictable CSS placement support, we can
and should use this mechanism to "layout" the GUI of our site, but still
maintain the linear structure of the documents. However, even in this
scenario, wouldn't you want the principle and secondary navigation "front
and center" (ie first) on each document, akin to a table of contents? How
else will the user know how to get around?

I'm not really sure than what you are trying to say. The majority of
today's sites ARE structured in a linear fashion, even when they are laid
out in tables. Frames have for the most part fallen from favor (although
you still run into them), and while not a given, most navigation schemes
today rely on top and left hand navigation "blocks". So it's not so much
the "visual" layout, but rather the structural and navigational layout which
is most important.


-----Original Message-----
From: Raleigh Way [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
Sent: February 26, 2002 7:25 AM
Subject: Accessibility Observations

Hello everyone,

I have been monitoring dialogue about accessibility issues on several
lists for the past few months. I am relatively new to accessibility and Web
page design, but not quite an amateur; I know what is required to make a
page accessible, I know the limitations of the browsers, CSS, screen reading
software, Web page layout (usability), etc. Here is my observation:

Think for a minute about the many browsers and screen reading software in
use. We must assume there is every possible combination in use out there.
In my opinion, it is impossible to accommodate every situation. It is
unrealistic to assume that every combination of browser/screen reader can
access every "accessible" web page no matter how well it was constructed.
Ok, then, what does work? What is the common denominator? The answer I
keep coming back to is linearity. I've surfed a lot of sites designed for
people with disabilities, e.g., schools for the blind, and the one thing
that I notice is that the sites are linear. By linear design, I mean
left-to-right layout of text to accommodate older screen readers.

Imagine going into a site (blind) and having to figure out the page layout
and jump from one column to another before you could focus on content.
Section 508 says that you can only use a text-only version of a site if all
else fails. After speaking to several blind people about this, they said
they prefer the text-only version because they don't have to puddle-jump
through a site designed for the sited/retrofitted for the blind because it
is more linear. They prefer a smooth ride to jumping around, so I'm
starting to disagree with the "You can't use a text-only version". Hmmm...
Why not just design the main site linearly? Why not just design a site that
is visually appealing, but linear? I realize designers (especially
corporate designers) don't want to sacrifice visual appeal and layout for
the sighted just because they have to also make it accessible. Don't get me
wrong, I'm not criticizing anyone; it's just that we find ourselves in a
situation that does not have any easy answer, and I'm grappling with trying
to find something that works.

Assistive Technology still has a way to go before it is up to speed.
Right now, most of us are trying to do the best we can to make existing
technology work with AT, but it doesn't work for all AT