The importance of accessibility

Raymond Chen on why accessibility is not just for disabled people. It’s also of huge benefit to automation, for testing and integration purposes (including such diverse uses as screen scraping and speech recognition).

You bet. It’s the lack of consideration for this kind of thing that gives me my pathological hatred for web sites developed entirely in Flash, or some other mutant horror of leading-edge technologies. Too often you’ll find some whiz-bang heavy commercial ad-merchant has somehow got in control of the site design for some company that should know better, and rendered the whole site unusable…

  • with the keyboard
  • by the blind
  • let alone the blind using keyboards
  • by anybody without IE6
  • or who has a popup blocker
  • or likes to use the web in silence
  • or is trying to get around the fact that the site has no RSS or web services or any other hooks, and is trying to screen-scrape/parse the HTML

Of course I can’t stop these idiots putting pages up. And they take no notice of anything anybody says about them. But in most cases I don’t have to do business with them.

One of the side-effects of sticking to accessibility and restraint in the technologies you use is that the designs tend to be more future-proof. While some web sites are breaking under Firefox, I reckon a lot more will break under IE7 when it gets pushed out to millions of XP users.