WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: Content Management Systems


From: Christian Heilmann
Date: Jan 27, 2006 11:30AM

> Thank you Tim and Daniel.
> Not to be nasty, but you if you run Drupal through the W3C HTML validity, it
> does not pass. There are several coding errors.
> Thinkology passed the validation test.
> I did not test either home page for accessibility.
> This is exactly what I am referring to. CMS that are designed to make
> accessible and valid code - and something a user does, makes the code
> invalid.
> Maybe I am hoping for a perfect world, but are there programs out there that
> are "foolproof" - no offense. I'll take a better look at Thinkology.
> Any comprehensive reviews out there of multiple products? Sounds like a good
> research project/article for the WebAIM News!!! Hint-hint.

Accessibility is not a technical problem, it involves content and user
interaction as much as clean code. Therefore even well-intended CMS
can only pay lip service to accessibility guidelines.
True, some CMS will make it impossible for you to create accessible
content as they mess with your code and don't actually offer any real
separation of content and presentation/structure (Contribute for

In general, every CMS is as good and accessible as its users are
trained on the subject. What most CMS that claim accessibility do is
force alt attributes and maybe do an XHTML validity check.
I have worked with immediacy (http://www.immediacy.co.uk) before who
scream about accessibility guidelines compliance and was amazed how
many myths and outright errors were sold as best practice in the
training. However, the training for content editors was quite OK, as
it did explain the problems with layout in word vs. adding content
that fits a pattern in the templates. The CMS also has something like
Bobby included which tells you about the biggest technical boo-boos.
The issue is that CMS users expect bullet proof layouts and
fancyschmancy drag and drop interfaces and inline WYSIWYG editing,
which leads to table layouts (of the really bad kind) and generated
code that reads like the chinese translated instructions to your alarm
WYSIWYG will lead to non-trained editors writing text for the current
theme and not for end users - which is understandable as it _is_
tempting to write for the looks of the site.

Next week - so the editors will - I will publish a double feature on
Digital Web about symptoms projects showed that eventually failed to
deliver accessibility - and one of them is believing in a product like
a CMS without realising its problems or properly training anyone using
it how to use it sensibly. Technology can only get us so far.

As for the subject of validating web sites with the w3c validator and
considering them accessible dependent on the outcome: Validation is a
means to an end. You can create perfectly valid XHTML that is totally
inaccessible, bloated and semantic nonsense. At the same time a great,
semantically correct web site with one unencoded ampersand fails
validation - which one should we prefer?


Chris Heilmann
Blog: http://www.wait-till-i.com
Writing: http://icant.co.uk/
Binaries: http://www.onlinetools.org/