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Thread: WebAIM Discussion List Digest 14.08.2004.


Number of posts in this thread: 1 (In chronological order)

From: Terence de Giere
Date: Sun, Aug 15 2004 1:49PM
Subject: Re: WebAIM Discussion List Digest 14.08.2004.
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<> I have posted before to this list the dangers of text versions for
accessibility. Those who have seen this before, please excuse the
repeat. I feel compelled to send it again as the issue keeps coming
up...text-only versions are rarely totally equivalent in content to the
graphic ("real") version ...


This is often true. The text only versions like those from Lift are
intermediate measures designed to help large sites get some kind of
accessibility compliance within a reasonable time frame and cost. I was
told that eventually such systems will include images. They can provide
routines that convert some of the structures in an inaccessible page to
something more accessible.

I once worked on a split site constructed with a content management
system. Both sites were generated from the same data so the content was
always the same; a better heading structure was implemented in the
accessible version and all non data tables removed. Each version of the
site was generated as hard HTML pages to the Web server, so there was no
on-the-fly conversion of pages. Usability specialists working on the
project wanted the split design because visual usability was a big part
of the project, and CSS was not implemented well enough in browsers then
to create a single site that had all the features wanted.

All the essential content and interaction needs to be in any site that
has a split design. There is no reason why a site cannot have slight
differences in visual appearance, navigation, and structure for
different browsers and devices as long as there is a way to make sure
the content is and function is available to all. But it is simpler now
to design a single site than it was, say, five years ago. The problem is
it often is not done and the "text-only" version is short changed on
content. Text-only conversion such as the Lift Transcoder can help an
accessibility ignorant development teams at least improve output for
users of screen readers and other devices until they can get their
finances and act together better. Even with a fully accessible site, a
text transcoder version might be able to be used to provide a variant of
the site that works better for, say, a text only PDA, working as
something between a fully hard-coded HTML site and a sophisticated,
full-blown content management system.

Clearly designing for accessibility at the beginning of a project is
better than retrofitting it to a purely graphical design. With large
sites, changes often have to be incremental, so we should applaud if
there is only some improvement even if it falls short of what is really
needed. A text transcoder can be considered as part of the solution even
if it is not the final solution. As long as the organization has the
goal of real accessibility for their web site and continues to pursue
that goal, a text version as an intermediate part of the process can be

Terence de Giere