as the title says, not bad, if rather short and fluffy small article.
a few replies to other comments here:
rich: “Should we let blind people drive cars or trucks?”
why do people always think that accessibility = “catering for the blind” ? to be more precise, your flamebait should have been “Should we let anybody with a disability drive cars or trucks?”. then you’d see that your statement also includes people in wheelchairs, hard of hearing / deaf, colour blinds, dislexics, etc. heck, let’s just ban driving for anybody who’s not a “norm”, shall we? your comparison is also particularly offensive if you consider that it doesn’t take much effort to make a website at least baseline accessible…except for the effort of learning a bit about the issue, rather than taking the “hey, i don’t care about the blind” approach. mark my words, web designers/developers simply opting to stick their head in the sand will be out of business in years to come - and get sued along the way - just the same way that “i only make sites for IE” just doesn’t quite cut it anymore today…
mark rushworth: “does this mean that any company providing a brochure should have to create audio versiona, large type or brail versions?”
actually, under current law, you may well get a request to provide any material in an alternative format. this does not mean that you have to produce everything in any possible format right away, but you DO need to have a plan in place in case you do get a request. example: you produce a certain piece of literature, but also keep the original text and get costings on how much you need to create a braille/large text/audio version. you don’t actually get all these done, but you know what to do when you get a request. there is also a “reasonable” clause, of course. if it ever comes to a court case, you wouldn’t get sued if, say, somebody rang you up and said “i want ALL your literature for the last 10 years as audio tape by next week”, if you can prove that you offered alternatives (e.g. “we can’t produce all that as audio, but we’d be happy to send you all the text on a CD” for instance).
mark rushworth: “sholuld we all provide “text only” versions of sites or do we have to do complete re-designs. If text only is viable then will there be regulations as to the style and format of the linking text?”
again, a common misconception. accessibility does not just mean “the blind people”. text-only versions of a site benefit only a small percentage of the population with disabilities (and even there, a properly coded site - table-driven or completely css, it doesn’t matter - can be just as accessible provided you play by the rules). how about users with hearing impariments ? or mobility impairments ? or dislexia ? heck, particularly with users with dislexia, you should strive to provide visual stimuli to alleviate the heavy reading burden or pure text. or somebody might be perfectly sighted, but only able to operate a keyboard with a stick in their mouth…should they just get a text-only version because you can’t be bothered to ensure basic things like logical tab order and general keyboard access ?
michael: “In the US, only government websites are required to meet the accessibility guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
not just government sites, but any sites fully or partially funded by the government, if i recall correctly…a distinction worth making
ryan: “I believe my sites already comply, but what is the best way to test this? I’ve already validated the XHTML and CSS, plus passed the 508.”
there is no mechanical/automated test that will give you a true answer. validating xhtml/css is easy, as it’s only a case of ensuring that you follow correct syntax. Cynthia, Bobby and co cannot test all aspects of accessibility…they can only check that you meet certain technical requirements (much in the same way that, say, css validators can check that you’re following the correct syntax, but they can’t check if you css actually makes sense and if it will achieve the layout you’re after). in many cases, accessibility is a judgement call: what might be good for one site may not be good for another. the best way to test for accessibility ? learn as much as you (the developer) can about the problems, the potential solutions, and implementation…get other people’s opinions on it…in an ideal world, get users with various disabilities to test the site for you…and, if you can afford it, get a company/organisation involved that does this sort of testing.
as a related note: yes, if it comes to court, WCAG will be the yard-stick by which the inexperienced court will judge a site’s accessibility…but as i said, accessibility extends beyond the mere rote mastery of the secret art of the Wuh-Kag. in many cases it can happen that breaking a certain guideline is necessary to fulfill another (particularly the “until user agents support it” clauses can bring up all sorts of horrible things). WCAG 1.0 is outdated. and even if WCAG 1.0 is to be adhered to, there are often no clear indications on HOW they can be met successfully. there are some examples of good practices, but again it’s all judgement calls for the most part.