How hard is web accessibility?

Pretty hard, apparently.

I’ve been trying to improve upon the Unified Template, an example of a static page that anyone can copy and reuse, as part of a continuing experiment. My primary goal is to get the main layout and stylesheet validated for XHTML 1.1 and accessibility (508 and WCAG Priority 3). There are two other variants of the theme, but I did those mostly for fun. You can tell just by looking at those that they weren’t meant to pass any accessibility guidelines at all.

The real trouble comes down to fixing little things that you didn’t even consider.

E.G. I needed description and keyword meta tags. I didn’t even think this was important, but apparently certain validators fail pages just on that. Also, the form inputs needed some dummy text inside because some “older browsers will not focus” on them if they’re empty. This is the first time I’ve heard of this.

Of course you can validate XHTML all you want, but no automated validation tool will ever be 100% certain the page is indeed accessible. That really comes down to someone actually using the page.

I followed all these pointers as best I could and came to one inevitable conclusion…
100% Validation is impossible if you want to be stylish. I know you should never say never, but I just can’t make the final layout work in these validators.

It will pass in some, fail in others or produce warnings (none were consistent). You just can’t win. What’s worse is that most of them claim to validate against the same standards.

Here’s a list of validators I used…

  • WAVE
  • OCAW (you only get a limited number of tests per month)
  • Truwex (this one was brutal!)
  • WDG
  • CSE
  • LinkScan (threw a warning due to a missing trailing slash after “.com”)
  • Dr. Watson (kept getting redirected. Needs work)
  • Accessibility Valet (this one gave me a “Probable pass”)
  • Color Contrast (still have warnings)
  • W3C for CSS (23 warnings!)
  • And, of course … W3C for XHTML

The validators are listed under various stages of completion and it would be easy to simply dump the page into the W3C validator for XHTML and Cynthia for accessibility and just walk away, but I know I’ll get a few angry emails regardless of any effort put into this.

I know for a fact, people will be wailing at the dropdown menues even if they don’t use JavaScript. After tweaking as much as I could, I think I’m done! Not that the layout is any more accessible, I mean I’m done trying to make it more accessible.

After some point it just gets ridiculous trying to make everyone happy.

Update

Here’s the original for comparison. Apparently it was all but unusable for anyone with special needs.  I’m starting to think that, even though there are plenty of sites that could be vastly improved from the state they’re in, the zealous persuit of accessibility perfection in new designs is starting to impare otherwise able web designers.

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5 thoughts on “How hard is web accessibility?

  1. I wish it was all simple and easy for an innocent soul like me.
    Html? Shtml? Javascript?

    Bring back simplicity.

    You seem to know/understand what your talking about but I don’t!

  2. Thanks! :)
    I still feel like I’m a kid being yelled at when I use some of these validation tools.

    “It’s not good enough! Do it better!!!”

    Site owners want the nicest looking pages and visitors want the most accessible. Well fancy and accessible don’t always go together.

    I know I have to cater to people with special needs and I can’t be taking the easy way (BTW… The shoe temple may need a wheelchair ramp). But I feel like it’s never going to be considered acceptable.

  3. “I know I have to cater to people with special needs and I can’t be taking the easy way (BTW… The shoe temple may need a wheelchair ramp).”

    No need. The cripples are cured at the door to the place.
    Well, thats the general idea I had anyways.

    I’ve a question for you, Eksith, seeing as you know a lot about such things:
    How come my name in all postings doesn’t feature a link to my site?
    It’s the same on every site.
    What did I do wrong?
    Where did it all go wrong?

  4. Were you logged into WordPress when you made that comment?
    If so, it should have included the blog URL from your profile info.

    If it didn’t include it even if you’re logged in, it could have been a WP glitch.

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