WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: Microsoft Word question


From: Christian Heilmann
Date: Apr 20, 2005 11:20AM

I agree with everything you say wholeheartedly and dare you to go to a
client right now and make them do it.

My bad solution is the first step to what is the right thing to to.
Take for example the project I am working on:
A council site with 20000 badly authored web pages and around 4000
documents authored in various states on confusion.

For years bad development and document management has been sold for a
lot of money and we will not make that go away by talking about the
perfect solutions. It is a gradual process and we need to tackle it
one step at a time.

One mistake I did was give that solution with my example in mind, it
might be that we do really have a chance to do the right thing here.

I am working on an article right now "10 reasons why our clients don't
care about accessibility" which encompasses a lot of the things you
mention - including the misbelief that a 508 of WAI compliance makes
your site accessible.

>>>> > > http://outer-court.com/tech/top-10-errors-in-web-design.html
>> ["Top 10 Errors in Web Design", with
>> item 9 being "PDF, DOC, and Other Non-HTML Formats"]
>>> > That applies in teletubbyland, but in the real world you will have
>>> > loads of documents that are maintained in Word and automatic
>>> > conversion creates useless HTML.
>> The real world is hostile to many people with disabilities,
>> and quite often, insult is added to injury by hypocritical actions like
>> a) issuing declarations on accessibility without trying to actually
>> change anything (especially if it would cost something),

It will _always_ cost something. Especially redesigns. This is the
first hurdle when clients ask you to "make something bobby complient"

>> b) making accessibility statements and showing off WCAG or 508 icons
>> on pages that cannot be accessed by disabled people (and could
>> be rather below the average in this respect)

My favourite there is the button the WAI offers:
<a href="http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG1AA-Conformance"
title="Explanation of Level Double-A Conformance"><img height="32" width="88"
border="0" src="http://www.w3.org/WAI/wcag1AA"
alt="Level Double-A conformance icon, W3C-WAI Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines 1.0"></a>

The alternative text and title is something I really want to listen
to, and the border attribute is also a nice touch.

>> c) telling people to download this or that program, like Adobe
>> Acrobat Reader or Word Viewer, as if such statements and
>> associated links would help the least - except silence
>> someone's conscience

That is just not true. It is a matter of wording. "The following
documents are in PDF format, and you need a tool like Acrobat Reader
to read them" tells a non-webbie user that there might be a problem
with these document and tells those "in the know" that it simply is
PDF we are talking about.

Let's not forget that a good site has to be accessible and usable, and
a lot of documents are better to be downloaded or printed than read

>> d) giving them "alternate versions", which are usually second-class
>> versions for second-class citizens

That is a heritage problem of badly done "text only" or "accessible"
versions. For example I never see a problem following a link to a
"print version" and I do know users of assistive technology who do the
same as the print versions normally are less cluttered.

>> e) throwing away all concerns and complaints and observations
>> once one can claim conformance to some "accessibility standard".
>> (Claims to 508 conformance can be true, but that would not make the
>> page accessible. Claims to WCAG 1.0 conformance are always false,
>> sometimes consciously false.)

100% ACK, the problem is that clients don't want to learn about
accessibility, they want a "standard" to follow. There is none
(probably there can't be any), and THAT is the main issue. Nobody has
a "usable AA" on their web sites, as there isn't any quasi-standard
for usability (there is an ISO one though)

>>> > I have no idea about the 508 compliance of word tables, but IMHO the
>>> > most usable ideais to link to PDFs and explain that you'd need acrobat
>>> > reader to read them.
>> That would add a factually false statement. I don't need Adobe Acrobat
>> Reader to read PDF documents.

Yes, you could word it like "you'd need a program to allow you to read
PDF documents, like acrobat reader".

>> In general, Word format is less inaccessible that PDF, so if you aren't
>> going to be accessible, Word is a better format. Making both Word and PDF
>> available is of course better than either of them alone.

That is all a matter of what version and how the document is authored.
I don't believe you can generalise that either word or PDF are more

>> As mentioned in this discussion, any links to Word or PDF documents should
>> be clearly described as such, using normal text, preferably before the
>> link. I think in this context, we need to treat a small, widely recognized
>> icon with an adequate alt text as corresponding to normal text.
>>> > Offer a way to contact you should the need for a text-only (whatever
>>> > that will be) version occur. That way you have done most you can and
>>> > offered an alternative way, and this is a practical solution.
>> You would have done approximately nothing in the direction of
>> accessibility. It would be a little more than nothing, but not much.
>> It's harmless as such, as long as you don't think you've done most you
>> can, or something useful, or even sufficient.

Again think of my example of the council site. The budget is to
redesign the complete web site and the infrastructure. No, they will
not spend another