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Articles > Website Development


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How Accessible Is Your Site?
by Bernard Howe
-- June 9, 2004

You spend days; week's maybe even months building your perfect web site. You submit it to all the popular search engines. You add a guestbook or a message board so you may get some feed back from your guests.

How accessible is your web design really?

Have you checked to see just how your site looks in all the different browsers?


Bernard Howe

Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera, and Lynx to name just a few of the common browsers we encounter. Each browser has its own way of interpreting how your page looks, and sometimes it can look much different than what you think or how you made it.

Have you ever thought about how many people with poor to very poor eye sight that surf the internet?


Many of them set their browsers to the largest font size they can get so they can read your information. While there is some other's who do the opposite they set the fonts on the lowest setting possible. If you use a fixed font size they may not be able to adjust your pages and therefore making your site inaccessible. A good rule of thumb is to not set your fonts to a fixed size px or pt. you should set them as % or em. This way your whole site will be able to adjust with the settings your guest use. Using xhtml and css makes this very easy and your whole site will look uniform. I like to use css and use the attributes from xx-small to xx large and set the weight of the font also.

When you add graphics to a page do you add an alt tag? This helps those who cannot see graphics or have graphics disabled to follow your text along and not have a stopping point that does not make sense. The alt tag should be replacement text for the graphic and not a description. If you need to describe the graphic use the long description or a (D) link. If you would like to see how your site would read just use a text browser like Lynx This will give you an idea also of how a screen reader would read your page to a blind person also.

Another good practice to get into is putting something instead of just white space between your links. By this I mean you need to have a break of some sort that is not part of a link. Examples of this is a list or any entity like - or * or any of the other entities available. A good resource for this is at the W3C schools web site located at Ok is you have to use a filler or spacer clear gif or other you still need an alt tag but you can leave it blank like so alt=" " this will make the page accessible and not have text that means nothing.

The standards of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) are changing all the time as technology is growing so fast. xhtml can be done in the Basic or Traditional version or Frameset version. Or the ultimate strict version and now the advanced xhtml l.1. All these new standards are made to go hand in hand with css (Cascading Style Sheets). Using css you control the look of your site with just this one page and once it is loaded all your other pages that is linked to this does not need to reload the information that is on this sheet and your pages will open much faster as your pages will be much smaller in size or weight kb's.

Color is another item to consider as there are many people who are color blind. Also people with poor vision may have a hard time distinguishing the difference between some colors. There are some sites that will test your color schemes one of which is...

As we get older and our vision gets a little weaker color sometimes runs together. I have to wear glasses now and even with them it gets hard to see at times.

One other group of people who use the internet is those with physical disabilities. Some of which can not use a mouse or a standard key board. Brian disorders and many other things can also cause problems for your guest. The list goes on and on but the main point is, Design your web site accessible for a much larger audience. A lot of the standard accessible site validators only check for the mechanical parts of a web design, a manual check must be done for the remaining sections that machines can not.

In closing I just want to say that I have been building websites accessible for some time now and if I can help anyone please just ask. There are 3 levels of accessibility to achieve and anyone you would care to reach is a HUGE step in the right direction.

Copyright © 2004
All Rights Reserved
Bernard Howe

About the Author
I am the owner / designer of Keepsake Awards . . . and have been an advocate of accessibility for many years. I have been helping people to become valid and compliant for some time, I volunteered for 4 years as an instructor teaching html beginning and advanced classes.

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