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Accessibility on the web has been an issue for over a decade, and it remains a crucial--but often overlooked--element of web design. Instructor Zoe Gillenwater explains the concept of accessibility as it applies to the web, and describes how it affects the audience. She also covers how to set up accessibility testing, and how to apply accessibility principles to new and existing sites using standards-compliant markup and CSS. Exercise files accompany the tutorials.
>> There are some accessibility techniques that while good intentioned have proven to be ineffectual or have even harmed accessibility in their implementation. In this chapter we'll discuss three of those techniques and the problems that they pose. The first is the practice of creating text only pages. This is an alternate version of a webpage with all images, multimedia and formatting stripped out. The idea is to create a second version of every page on the site. Every page on the web site would then link to its text only version and that would be the one with the intention that people with disabilities would access the text only version.
Providing a text only page is mentioned in the section 508 rules as a technique to follow when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. Alternative pages are also mentioned in WCAG 1.0, although this guideline does not specifically state that the page must be text only, but simply that it be an alternative that has equivalent information and is updated as often as the original page. But text only page present many accessibility problems.
The issue that has probably led, more than any other, to text only pages being abandoned as an accessibility technique was the fact that alternative pages were usually not kept up to date. There are programming methods that can be used to automate the creation of a text only page very time the original page is created. But even when automated and thus kept up to date, the text on the text only page may need to be rewritten manually because it may refer to things that have now been stripped out of the page. Because text only pages were rarely kept up to date, most screen reader users grew not to trust them and stopped using them.
Also, text only pages do not address all disabilities. As we've seen throughout this title, accessibility is not just about making your pages usable to blind people. A text only page may be a good alternative for screen reader users, but it doesn't address the needs of other people with disabilities. In fact, a text only version may actually be more difficult for some people to use. Another issue is that the text may not convey all of the information that was shown on the original page. For example, images can convey information.
And earlier, we talked about ways to make this information known to screen reader users and other devices. Stripping out everything but text, you may be removing content that could be useful to people with disabilities if you just added the accessibility features that it requires. Also, in order to get to the text only page, the user must first go through the inaccessible page, so if an organization is using a text only page so that they don't have to make the rest of their site accessible, users may never be able to find their way to the text only page to begin with.
Added on to all of these accessibility disadvantages is also the disadvantage to you and your organization that text only pages are very difficult and costly to make. Again, even when automated having to make two versions of every page and make sure that each is updated at the same time as well as making sure that each is linked properly from the other, can require a great deal of time and money. All of the techniques that we have gone over in this title should negate the need for a text only page. So creating them is not a task that you need to or should take on.
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