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Re: Adjusting text size


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Jul 29, 2003 7:39AM

On Tue, 29 Jul 2003, Ruth Stillman wrote:

> A client of
> ours came to us with the request that if a user has set their browser text
> size to "smaller" or "smallest", the text still be legible.

Define "legible". There is no way to guarantee that text will be legible,
especially under the condition "no matter what the user does". In trying
that, accessibility would be seriously endangered.

> In researching
> ways to do this, our developer came up with three possible solutions:

I think we first need to know what the problem really is. Otherwise any
solution might be just a new problem, when no problem existed before we
started creating problems.

If the user has set their browser text size to something, we need to
assume that this is the size the user wants. If the assumption is not
correct, then the problem must be fixed once and for all Web pages for
that user by fixing the setting.

> 1. Keep the application as-is and inform users that they need to change
> their browser settings. This option was ruled out in favor of a more
> technical solution.

Oh my. Technological imperative in action.

> 2. Use <font> tags to handle sizing. This was ruled out due to not
> being in alignment with HTML standards.

"Standards" are irrelevant here.

> 3. Write a function that would a) determine that the text was too small, and
> b) readjust the text size. This was determined to be the best solution,
> even though it involves the use of client-side Javascript.

Does this involve a transcendental interaction with the user's eyes and
brain? How else could a program determine what's "too small" for a user?

You might have some special application in a restricted environment in
your mind. Even then, the font size needs to be set for each user,
preferably via the browser's settings or a user style sheet. It could be
set by the user, or by someone who helps the user.

> What this function does is write a new layer (if supported by the
> browser), checks the size of that layer, looks at its size, and readjusts if
> necessary. Because it changes based on a user setting, users need not
> refresh to see the change, unless they change the setting after coming to
> the page.

Let me guess... it tries to find out the font size setting in the browser.
This will be inevitably browser dependent and will depend on security
settings being wide open (namely client-side scripting allowed).
But worst of all, when it works, it will crush the user's settings.

There is no way your knowing whether some font size is actually the best
for the user. In fact, if the user has a certain (relatively rare) type of
visual disability, "fixing" font size from small to what someone regards
as "normal" will make the situation much worse - the user can see much
less in the restricted scope of vision. (Sorry, I might not be using
exactly the right terms. The point still is that small font size might be
more or a less a necessity, not just convenience, to some users.)

> However, the application is already performing a browser sniffing function,
> and serving up a style sheet with a larger font size for Netscape 4.7x
> users.

There are still Netscape 4 users? If they are disabled people, they should
be helped to switch to much better browsers that have been available for
quite a long time. Or just left undisturbed, since Netscape 4 can actually
be a decent browser, though surely not visually impressive, if client side
scripting is disabled (which disables CSS too, on that odd browser) and
the browser settings are configured properly. It's rather futile to throw
any style sheets at Netscape 4.

> What I want to be sure of is that this solution meets accessibility
> standards.

I think you should worry about accessibility, not standards.

> We are still giving users the ability to resize the text,

Well, luckily it cannot be prevented, though it can made more difficult
(and this in turn may imply practical impossibility to many people).

> so are there any other issues of which we need to be aware?

Certainly. There are enough problems in accessibility. No need to increase
them by solving made-up problems and creating real problems on the way.

Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/

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