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Re: Styling for high-contrast mode


From: Dean Hamack
Date: Oct 17, 2008 3:05PM

First of all, thanks for bringing this issue up. The reason I asked if
anyone had statistics is because I'd never even heard of high-contrast mode
(hereafter referred to simply as "HCM") before yesterday.

I did a couple hours of research last night. Here are my observations and

1. Apparently, enough people are using it to make it an issue. And since
millions of websites use background images for headers, it's a big one.

2. I can tell you from experience that major companies are not going to stop
using background images for headers and other essential elements for the
reasons I mentioned before. I just finished a contract for a large social
networking site where I had to go in and strip out dozens of hardcoded
images because they wanted to change the look and feel of the site. Had the
images been in the stylesheets instead of the html, it would have taken
hours instead of months. That translates to a savings of tens of thousands
of dollars.

3. HCM is not part of 508 specs. 508 specs say simply that pages must
function properly with styles turned off. My example complies with that
rule, as does every site I build.

4. A much better way to achieve the results Microsoft was aiming for would
have been to make it so that when HCM was activated, it turned off the
default stylesheet, made the text white and the background black, and scaled
the fonts up. It would take me two minutes to write a stylesheet like that,
so I'm not sure why MS can't figure it out.

5. There is no way to detect HCM through media types. I haven't found a way
to do it through Javascript either. It appears the only way to accommodate
HCM users is by offering them a manual stylesheet switcher. If I find
another way (which I'm committed to doing), I will post it here.

This is another well-intentioned, yet poorly executed plan by Microsoft and
it irritates the hell out of me. It's bad enough developers have to spend
50% of their time trying to hack sites to make them work properly on IE6.
Now we have to deal with this as well.

I think the best solution is user education. Many sites like Yahoo have
stopped pandering to Microsoft because it's simply too costly. That's why
when you go to Yahoo's site on IE you see a big warning at the top telling
you it looks like crap on IE and you should use Firefox instead. In the
short term, I will probably start putting an accessibility link on my sites
explaining this. I'll also be talking to some friends that work for MS (I'm
in Seattle) and seeing if we can't get this information to someone there who
cares. Not that they'll do anything about it, but it's worth a shot.

Gotta love Microsoft.