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Corporate Websites and the Lack of Accessibility 216

Posted by Cliff
from the properly-constructing-websites-for-the-disabled dept.
Mighty E asks: "It seems that Corporate America (and Corporate The World) has not yet come to the realization that the Internet is no longer limited to techies. I am a techie working for a global pharmaceutical, which is about to go through a merger to make it into the largest pharmaceutical in the world, Aventis Pharmaceuticals. The new Web site depends solely on images for navigation, and there is not a single alt= tag on the site. Therefore, blind users cannot use the site." This practice bothers me. Not only does it make browsing difficult for the disabled, but it also interferes with text-only browsers and text-to-speech engines. Not a smart practice. (More)

"Since I work for the company, I have complained about this problem to the powers that be, and they have replied that they do not believe that this is that big of a problem. How many blind people could be using the site anyway? Well, although I'm not blind, I feel for them. Discriminating against them like this is like discriminating against any other minority.

As absurd as it sounds, if there were a page that required you to validate what race or gender you were before you could visit the site, and denied access to certain groups, there would be huge moral outrage at this. This is essentially what is going on here.

I have seen it happen again and again with smaller companies' Web sites, but there can be some excuse there. For example, smaller companies may not be aware of the full implications of doing things this way, or have the money to support it properly.

But when it is a major pharmaceutical like this, the largest in the world, in fact, there ceases to be an excuse of any sort. Really, there is little effort to making a site blind enabled, and in fact most are. Ironically, it is those sites on which the most money was probably spent, that are usually not the ones that can be accessed by the blind.

I think that it is time, as morally responsible individuals, that we make it known to these corporate beasts that we will not tolerate discrimination like this.

We have a responsibility, as conscious-wielding individuals to make our technologies reach out to each and every person, just as those technologies reached out to us."

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Corporate Websites and the Lack of Accessibility

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  • ppl may be interested in http://www.useit.com Jakob Nielson makes several similar points in his alertbox pages. You may also be interested in http://www.alistapart.com for several interesting pieces on how it will soon be illegal in the states to have a web site that descriminates against the disabled, the site uses frames so definate links are hard but the main story of interest is "the clock is ticking" and it's follow ups. sparkes

    *** www.linuxuk.co.uk relaunches 1 Mar 2000 ***
  • This sort of thing might hit a bit closer to home for those of you who, like me, have wrist problems that may make mouse and keyboard more and more painful to use. The latest dragon speech recognition software allows you to simply "speak" a link to click on it (of course you have to be using IE...) But as more sites move from text to images for navigation... you see the problem.
  • by fremen (33537) on Monday February 07, 2000 @08:20AM (#1297866)
    It's not as easy as it sounds. A certain Texas university recently upgraded their homepage in a similar manner. There is no attempt at being accesible, despite pleas from both students and faculty. In this case, marketing took the front seat to common sense.

    With that in mind, I would like to recommend Bobby. Bobby is a program that will scour a webpage and point out where there are flaws with its accesibility. You can find it at http://www.cast.org/bobby/ [cast.org].

    For example, Slashdot does not receive a Bobby approved rating, meaning that it could improve its accesibility.
  • ... make your opinions known!

    (It is a horrible site, not only because it discriminates against the visually impaired, but also because it uses Java and image-navigation which make it difficult to be viewed by folks with older computers, slow connections, etc.)

    If this company will not listen to their employees, they may pay attention to outside opinions. Of course, if we could convince them that they are losing potential clients, that would be the most effective strategy, though I am not sure how many of us here could cconvince them of that ... ;-)

    Has anyone notified some of the associations involved in rights for the blind (National Federation of the Blind)? Certainly, the Aventis site will not be Bobby approved [cast.org]!

    YS
  • by Error 404 (50896) on Monday February 07, 2000 @08:21AM (#1297868)
    There are other reasons why ALT tags are a good idea.

    One major one is that the net is sometimes slow. Even with the very fat pipes I use at work, there are times when I click navigation buttons before the graphics appear. Without ALT tags, that isn't a reasonable alternative.

    Corporate sites tend to concentrate entirely on glitz. Many of them are stuck in a TV commercial mode.

    I expect that to go away within the next five years, as the glamour of the web fades and Dot Com ceases to sound cool.

    Our secret is gamma-irradiated cow manure
    Mitsubishi ad
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now we're being overrun with britney spears, jocks, preppies, football and all the other stupid pop culture crap that the techies came here to avoid. I'm all for starting a whole new frontier to get away from all these people. Anyone else?
  • And what Url?
  • by hub (78021) on Monday February 07, 2000 @08:27AM (#1297872) Homepage
    One of the things that makes me sad about the WWW today is that:
    1. Lot of webmasters target web site to specific system: they are optimized for IE or Netscape, for a specific screen size making them unusable on smaller screen
    2. They also requires Javascript, which despite the fact that it is available only in Netscape or IE, make also webas dangerous as walking on mines (see recente CERT advisory)
    3. Does not even consider respecting HTML. This is also software vendor fault as the make pseudo-WYSIWYG page generator that generates HTML that does not pass thru the W3C validator.
    4. Some of them even require proprietary technology like Flash.
    I really miss the time were browsing was doable with NCSA Mosaic.
  • This article seems rather timely to me; I took a few minutes last night/this morning to bring my personal web page "up to code" as they say. It's not hard to do at all.

    I found a cool automated website checker that looks for things that will hinder a site's accessibility. Go to www.cast.org/bobby [cast.org] and run your site through it. If you've written valid HTML 4.0, you won't have much work to do. If not.... heh.

  • Pretty==good. (functional == too much work)

    I did/do some consulting for a company. They had a couple of people doing the company web server.

    They made new internal web page that was hide the information, eg move mouse over colored dot to find out what dot did. I told them that it was not a good interface, and their response was hit the go to old site button.

    In another incident, a person was looking up a resume, and got back too many poor responses. I said walk down the hallway and tell the web database designer what you want to find. If he can't do it then he needs to redesign the front-end. They said it was not possible.

    They ignore the input, and don't knwo what thier audience wants. And these web designers left for new jobs that paid 80 and 120k.

    For one of my clinets wants a spinning logo, just like another site. That's number one on the client list. He has not given me half of the content for pages to complete the site, but wants a rotating logo.
  • by gregbaker (22648) on Monday February 07, 2000 @08:28AM (#1297875) Homepage
    Not only does it make browsing difficult for the disabled, but it also interferes with text-only browsers and text-to-speech engines.

    Not to mention those of us who don't load images. The recent poll here [slashdot.org] says that even being the geeks that we are, a good chunk are still using modems. Probably a lot don't load images by default.

    If you need a good argument for the corporate-types for sites without a lot of useless images, try talking about search engines. Want your corporate site found? Do you think search engines run every image they find throught OCR? No, they need text. No text=no search hits.

    Greg

  • ..And the military, who first put this stuff together. You techies are just second generation unix shell users who settled here and pushed the creators of the net off to MIL-net.

    So don't be whining when someone else comes and settles with ya.
  • Wasnt there some noise on AOL and their page with much about the same thing?
  • Try going to www.jwz.org [jwz.org] and viewing the source code to the homepage. Although to be fair, he has removed the ALT tags in protest of 4.x browsers rendering them as tooltips or something.

  • The alistapart site is actually about it being
    illegal on *federal* sites, but with so much
    clout its bound to have an impact.


    Here in the UK the 1995 Disability Discrimination [hmso.gov.uk]
    Act makes very similar provisions, the accepted
    implication being that an unusable *intranet* site which (say) presented a tool which was
    an essential part of your job would be discriminatory, if there was a reasonable
    alternative
    which was not used.


    Under the terms of section 19 of the Act,
    its very likely that internet sites for web-only
    banks (for instance) fall foul of this too.


    No test cases launched on this front yet,
    but its only a matter of time.


    -Baz

  • I've never really thought of accesibility on the internet till now, I had thought that for the most part it was pretty disability neutral but now I realize that its not true. That this isn't true is a failure on the part of the web site designers.

    A web site should be all about exchanging information just like an advertising brochure should be. Sure, the information is obviously biased but the goal is to feed that information to the holder of the brochure. The best brochures I've seen, such as some of the better car brochures, have layers of information. There are usually attractive graphics and with each graphic there is at least a bullet of text describing what you see. You could argue that its redundant, if you can't see the luxurious leather interior you're probably not going to buy a car, but its still there. The text is carefully crafted and you could read the brochure without looking at the pictures and get an idea of what the manufacturer is trying to get across. I've seen early mock ups of these brochures with crude sketches in place of the real eye candy and it is true.

    Many web designers are guilty of propogating the eye candy without disemminating any information. They're more concerned with the overall look of the site (ooh, pretty buttons with dazzling roll overs that light up when you click!) than providing any content. It's like a 30 second prime time commercial for beer rather than an actual advertisement. If you're with the 90% of the population who is sighted, runs Internet Explorer and uses Windows you're fine. Pick any random change in variable from here and you don't get any message at all.

    So not only are they making things hard for users with vision problems, users with alternate operating systems or browsers, but they're actually violating what should be the basic tenet of advertising: get the message out.

    I'm not saying get rid of the eye candy, I like it personally. Just make sure that anybody and everybody can read your clients message.
  • Couple months ago AOL was sued under the Americans with Disabilities act. I'd find that case, point the corprate lawyers to it and let them at it. BTW, keep notes so you can prive you warned the lawyers - if they ignore you and the company is sued you are holding a smoking gun. You can then show the lawyers were negligant, and anything to get the lawyers is good. And if they fight the battle like to keep the company legal, so much the better. Anyone else see the irony of a medical website that is not accessable? The elderly after all are the ones who need drugs the most, and the elderly typically have worse eyesite then younger people.
  • because web pages load in just a few seconds when there are no graphics but I stopped doing that because too many sites were using frames with no alt tags on their graphic links or worse, server side image maps, which provide no information to the client whatsoever. I would go to some sites with lynx and see nothing.

    When I write a webpage every graphic has an alt tag, I use tables, not frames, I never use image maps. I always browse the page with several different browsers to make sure that the page is equally viewable whether it is text or graphics. Oh, and I use a few optimized jpg's for my very sparce graphics.

    I hate sights that say "best when viewed with ___ browser" Because I know that most of these sites are going to look like a graphics design artist threw up all over the screen. Let the font fest begin!

    Please people, remember that fonts are graphics too. Please don't send me a picture of text. I get annoyed when I am sent twenty buttons with text embedded in the buttons. A menu like the one that slashdot has in the upper left side of the page is great. Please, don't change this!

    And how about those sights where all the fonts are jammed together. Aren't those sites just lovely. Web designers need to stop trying to control the placement of every letter on the screen and just let the text flow where it will. Concentrate on the overall view, let the idividual web browsers worry about the exact placement of text.

    I just wonder if XML is going to help or hurt the cause of putting more info in the tags?
  • Actually, I think the idea of rendering them as tooltips isn't such a bad idea. I mean, what do you usually put in the alt tag anyway? Usually you don't want to describe what the picture is in an alt tag, you want to tell them what would happen if they clicked on that picture. If it is a non-hyperlinked image, then a description is fine, and the tooltip is quite handy.

    I'm not sure why JWZ is so against the concept, I'd really like to hear why this is a bad thing. I personally think it was a natural progression in browser technology.

    --

  • Hello,

    There is a very simple solution to the problems of handicap access, multi-nationalization, national language support, alternative displays, etc. Its over fifteen years old too.

    Do it the way Apple does with resource forks to files or the way its done in the Microsoft & Unix world (when its done at all) with resource files.

    Instead we have literals hard-coded right into the delivery medium (web pages, applets, ASPs, PERL and Java scripts,) which means that the medium is a bitch to retrofit and always suffer from a lack of understanding of any disabilities the programmer doesn't have.

    (Also from other QA problems like testing for input that overflows buffers, is inconsistent or plain incorrect because the person that programs things always tests to make things work instead of make things break. That's why they think they hate QA :-)

    If you have to start off right with resource forks or files and don't have the opportunity to screw up the literal handling right from the beginning, that kind of thing can be addressed after the programmers have got the delivery mechanisms working properly.

    But we have got to get literals out of the programmer's hands.
  • by scrutty (24640) on Monday February 07, 2000 @08:49AM (#1297889) Homepage
    Vaguely following your thread, I only found out very recently that you can use av.com/?text=Y [av.com] to use the portalized version of altavista in a text only version that is extemely modem friendly.

  • A friend recently asked me to visit the URL for her new company and comment on how cool the page was.

    Totally Shockwave dependent. No text navigation, no image navigation, no "navigation" at all if you don't have the plug-in.

    "Well, it's really cool. Our web developer is really proud of it. Can't you just get the plug-in?"

    That's not really the point, it it? YOUR company is trying to sell something TO ME. Why should I have to go through a hassle just to view what amounts to a sales brochure?

    Don't even get me started on someone who can't/won't provide a "dumb-browser" alternative calling himself a "web developer". Grrr....

    What's really funny about this (to me, at least) is that the cutting-edge, latest-stuff web companies tend to be the WORST offenders. In their haste to prove they know stuff and have all sorts of flash (pun intended) they leave out all those boring INFORMATIVE parts.
  • What I don't understand is the comment at the start of the story about "no longer just for techies". Traditionally, "we techies" have been unable to write coherently let alone presentably, and yet ... look who's come up with SGML and the <a href="http://www.w3.org/DOM/">DOM</a>!

    (Compare and contrast the way that on Usenet, it's "us die-hard hackers" who are "insistent" on compliance with Usenet formatting (plaintext or die, roughly) and yet the non-geeks who persist in posting in HTML and MIME and everything.)

    Me, I think web sites should be designed with accessibility in *all* browsers in mind - not just <a href="http://lynx.browser.org/">lynx</a> and <a href="http://ei5nazha.yz.yamagata-u.ac.jp/~aito/w3 m/eng/">w3m</a>, of course, but anything the future will throw at us in the way of browsers for the blind / otherwise-impaired, as well. That means ALT modifiers in your IMG tags, or else, amongst other things, and probably stopping the reliance on graphical fuzz.
    I wonder what'd happen if we had linguists designing websites instead of "graphic artists"...
  • by wheezy (54319) on Monday February 07, 2000 @08:52AM (#1297893)
    On 5 May 1999 the W3C issued a recommendation (i.e. an official specification on par with HTML and other standards) for web content accessibility guidelines, containing different tiers of potential conformance:

    http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT
  • For example, Slashdot does not receive a Bobby approved rating, meaning that it could improve its accesibility.

    The only reason I could see that http://slashdot.org fails the Bobby test is that there is no alternate text for the 1-pixel-big background white image. That should be easy enough to fix!

    Bravery, Kindness, Clarity, Honesty, Compassion, Generosity

  • I expect that to go away within the next five years, as the glamour of the web fades and Dot Com ceases to sound cool.

    While I am all for making a medium accessable to the blind/other disabled people (or whatever the politically correct term of the week is for diabled people), we must not forget the the web is a MULTI-MEDIA medium. With out graphics, the web is nothing more than color, glorified Gopher.

    You remember Gopher, don't you (-;


  • If you really want to get their attention on accessibility,
    show them what their site looks like on the web-browsing cell phones that all the stock traders carry.

    micco

  • Agreed, it isn't easy, but it is possible. Text-only versions of sites are must, not only for the visually impaired, but also for slower connections.

    The more people you can appeal to, the more people will be interested in your product, plain and simple.

    That kind of a page can get a good Bobby rating.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 07, 2000 @09:00AM (#1297898)

    There are some excelent resources available for those who wish to incorporate accessibility into their web design.

    The Trace Research And Development Center [tracecenter.org] has a set of guidelines [tracecenter.org] for designers of all types, including web-designers [tracecenter.org] and software developers [tracecenter.org].

    The WWW Consortium (www.w3c.org) [w3c.org] has a set of guidelines [w3.org] as well.

  • I know my workplace's Web site (I am a QA analyst) is not accessible and pretty under LYNX. That means it is not accessible to blind people or simple Web browsers.

    What sucks is that I tried to tell the management about this issue (I even sent this /. and CNET links to them). They just don't care! I would like to know what's the percentage of commercial real estate people who are blind and use the Internet? Are there sources to find this type of information? I'd like to know what type of job roles that disabled people have when using the Internet. Maybe this information would convince the management to think about this issue.

    I also have physical disabilities and partially deaf. It can be frustrating not being to access Web sites. I can feel their pain.

    I even tried to do my best to make my personal Web site (The Ant Farm) friendly to LYNX. It is NOT easy!

    Thank you in advance for replies. :)

  • Right now, I believe the current situation is a result of two things. First, a snobbery going on within the tech industry of "Well, sheesh, if they don't have a browser that supports Java and CSS and Flash, then they need to get themselves a real browser" (and, let's face it, engineers can be just as guilty of this as marketing folks).

    And second, we just simply forget about people who have older browsers or are otherwise lacking in their ability to view all the bells and whistles. For people who develop web sites and preview them on IE5 through our DSL lines, we're just not going to remember about things like alt tags or dealing with people who don't support frames. I have no idea how my web site looks for people who are viewing it through Netscape 2. I deleted it from my hard drive years ago.

    So what will save us? I think it's the next generation of browsers -- not IE or Netscape, but the little browsers you're going to have on your handhelds and cell phones. Ones that don't support Flash or Java or, heck, MouseOver events. As companies start bulding sites for these smaller browsers, they're going to remember, "Hey! That's right! I should add alt tags to my images!" That attitude will eventually carry over to their "real" sites.

    That is, until IE8 for the PalmPilot comes around. :-)

  • Indeed, this is a must-read for anyone who gets paid to do websites [w3.org].

    What angers me most, is that I consider all these points to be a side-effect of good design. I'd like to know exactly who gets paid to make sites that don't work.

    My rule of thumb is that if it works and looks good in a lynx, it'll work anywhere.
  • How many websites (corporate or otherwise) still have a complete "text-only" version of their site? I don't really see that too much anymore. I understand it's a lot of work to duplicate the whole site, but I seem to recall back in the old days (about 1995 or so) when the web was really starting to get popular with the general public, it seemed normal for websites to have the "text-only version" link right on the home page. Maybe that's just because back then there were more people using text browsers than there are now. Any web designers out there still doing this for their clients? Just curious.

    -------
  • *Sigh*

    I know just the type of site you are describing. Always makes me shudder. (OT, but speaking of shuddering, has anyone seen the site for "Fight Club" [foxmovies.com]? )

    Unfortunately, a lot of people do seem very impressed with the fancy Shockwave/Java stuff available that won't work for all users. We've had clients who couldn't understand why we'd want to include HTML-only versions of the pages for users who couldn't (or didn't want to) access the Shockwave pages. Some of them even said that it was a "waste of time and money", or that we didn't want to cater to people who wouldn't upgrade their software(!!!). Perhaps it is a form of "browser-snobbery", or maybe just ignorance. (Or possibly they've seen too many of those "cutting-edge" web developer sites!)

    It can be difficult to argue with some of the more stubborn clients, and I am guessing that some web developers don't make the effort to stand up to them.

    YS

  • Touch screen is also an option.

    Using a touch screen will slow down your typing, but it will give your wrists a break, since you have to use different muscles to touch the screen. The only problem is you lose the fine resolution of a mouse.

    I found that using the IBM trackpoint helps. It may reduce the pain a little, which may not be a good thing as lets you work longer. The best thing for an RSI is rest and treatment.

    Another reason for text based navigation, loading images take too much time for us speed addicts when stuck on a 28.8k modem.

  • I am by profession a web page design/developer and there are times when you need to draw the line for accessability. Trying to make your site work on every browser in every language while maintaing a decent look and feel is imposible, but the ALT tag is one of the eaisiest and important things that needs to go into a page. How long or how much intelegence does it take to say ALT="... ...". What is the rational for this company not including these tags? It would probably take one person with minimal knowledge of HTML a day, if that to put some good ALT tags in.

    I always go by the following rules when designing a site. Of course it sometimes depends on who you are developing for and the function of the site but these are my basic guidlines.
    1. Always include the ALT HEIGHT and WIDTH tags for images.
    2. Never use javascript for navigation of the site or its functionalitly.
    3. Try not to use frames.
    4. Unless absolutly nessiscary do not make your pages bigger than 40k.
    5. Do not assume that your visitors have their monitors set to 640x480 or 1600x1200 or ... Too many sites are designed for the monitor size that it is being developed on.
    6. ....
    The 2 reasons for doing the previous things are for faster load times and accessability. The list could go on forever but these are the important ones. Please reply and add if I have missed any.

    I wish slashdot had a speell checker ;)
  • With out graphics, the web is nothing more than color, glorified Gopher.

    Whoa, no-one is talking about taking graphics out. That's why we have ALT and LONGDESC attributes for IMG tags. If you use these attributes, and make sure that your site degrades linearly, there should not be ANYONE who has a problem viewing your site. You could also re-direct to a "simple" version of your site, but thats a bit unnecessary considering the above, if you ask me.

    No, I don't spell check...
  • Exactly! When I am at home with a 26400 modem connection (56K modem with crappy phone lines -- no DSL and cable modem service in my home area, and can't afford T1s!), I usually surf the Web without images 95% of my session. I can live without the graphics. If I need them, I will hit the image buttons to load them! For other stuff, like reading newsgroups, I use tin (text-based). I don't need GUI =).

    What bugs me the most is that Netscape Communicator has a nasty bug where it will leak memory due to poor rendering with a lot of tables. Usually, this doesn't happen if I auto-load graphics. Anyone noticed this? I noticed this on a few computers I use.

    Who else surf without graphics most of the times?
  • You remember Gopher, don't you (-;

    Yes. Fondly.

    I wouldn't be upset by a text-only web.

    (-;

  • As I mentioned in another message, a lot of our clients see no reason for text-only versions ... The web developers here do push for text-only versions for any Shockwave-heavy websites, excepting those that use Shockwave to deliver interactive components that cannot be done any other way (we work on educational projects, and use Shockwave for exercises in some of them - in those classes, students are expected to use 4.x browsers with the Flash/Director Shockwave plugin, but campus has many computer labs that have suitably-equipped computers).

    YS
  • Did you try the regular version of slashot, or slashdot light? The reduced HTML version of slashdot for use with Lynx and other text mode browswers might be more accessible. I actually use it instead of the heavy version even in Netscape if my connection is slow, less extra stuff to transfer.
  • I agree that Corp sites are often too complex and flashy to the point where they become usless to inet novices as well.
    When I used to do some small sites for some little businesses back home I always used what I call the "Mom Factor". I always had my mom test it (an internet novice to the extreme). If my mom could use it, it was good, if she had trouble, I needed to do some more work. It kept the sites functional.
  • by hey! (33014) on Monday February 07, 2000 @09:25AM (#1297912) Homepage Journal
    Not to change the subject, but I think that the accessibility issue is really a special case of a larger web design narcissism issue.

    Too many people are convinced that they can create a kick-ass web site all on their own and then go on to make fetid piles of stinking net-garbage. I know this from personal experience having stunk up the Internet with several crappy web sites of my own.

    Very few people have the total package of skills that it takes to make a very ambitious web site successful. A website that accomplishes many things or has complex operational requirements is going to be an interdisciplinary effort requiring marketing skills (to determine what people want to do), software UI design skills (to determine how to make the dynamic behavior of the site comprehensible and to address access issues), graphic arts (to create a functional design program), writing and editing, database and system administration etc.

    Of course, real world web sites aren't built with all of these skills. The best can finesse the issue (e.g. slashdot is really ugly from a design standpoint but works pretty from a UI standpoint. The content provided by paid Andover staff is OK but not brilliant, but the interaction of the respondents is what matters). The worst sites are testaments to hubris of marketing people who think they are graphic artists, or graphic artists who think they are UI experts.

    I'm gradually learning on websites that I create; slowly, they're getting simpler and less ambitious in areas that I'm not good at (e.g. graphic design), and better in areas I am good at (programming).

  • by latro (292)
    There's nothing worse than having to wait through a silly twenty second Flash animation just to get to the actual information I am looking for on a corporate web site. Is it too much to ask for a "skip animation" option? But I guess that would work against the whole "image" the company is trying to get across by creating the animation in the first place.

    -------
  • by Shin Dig (27213) on Monday February 07, 2000 @09:27AM (#1297914) Homepage

    I am hearing a lot of complaints that making a web site accessible is not easy. IMVHO that is a total cop out. If you use strict HTML 4.0 and CSS 1.0 you will find that your sites:

    • Look really good in multiple browsers
    • Load faster cause you don't have silly font tags all over the place
    • way easier to maintain and modify in the future

    CSS is really the ultimate solution to all of this, as it seperates layout and display from content, which is the way it really should be. w3.org highly pushes the use of CSS because of this. (CSS has different media types, so in theory a text or voice browser could request a different style sheet then the one you are going to pass to 4.x or 5.x visual browsers)

    Go thee now to w3.org and read the w3 web accessibility guidelines [w3.org]. They aren't that hard, and if you take them into consideration from the start, you will find that making web pages takes way less time. And if nothing else AT LEAST go and get HTML Tidy [w3.org] and let it mangle your HTML back into something that is near standards compliant. If people at least used it, the web would be significantly more multi-browser friendly than it is now. (Note: HTML tidy currently picks up 364 errors/warnings on the slashdot front page.)

    P.S. To add a bit of flamebait here, any thoughts about a CSS version of slashdot, as it would be nice to get out of the nested table jail.

  • That's a very good point. I've seen pages that use more than a dozen shim/spacer images just to line things up. If I have to wade through hundreds of "spacer" alts while using Lynx, I'll stab someone.
  • "Well, it's really cool. Our web developer is really proud of it. Can't you just get the plug-in?"

    Sure.. Where do I download the version for Newton?

    (yes, I know you were quoting ;) ;)
    Your Working Boy,
  • You bring up a very good issue, one which I have been involved before. Accessibility is very overlooked. I do contracting for a government agency, and by law they cannot do business with my company if we are not ADA compliant. From what I have seen, this isn't enforced 100%, but it is a powerful tool to pursuade organizations to get their act together.

    If your company has any contracts with the government at all, they should get compliant immediately. I looked for the article and evidence for this, but couldn't relocate it. If you can't find info on it, contact me directly and I'll help you.

    On a side note, I would encourage any organization to not use html tools like Frontpage or Hotmetal Pro. Both of these tools populate the ALT tag with frivolous data, simply telling the image name and dimensions. The only things worse than failing compliance is to obfuscate the meaning of the page and make a blind person to listen to enumerable image names.

  • Some of them even require proprietary technology like Flash.

    check out www.ccsni.co.uk [ccsni.co.uk]

    if you don't have Flash you just get a blue screen - and i don't mean BSOD :-) . It also employs Java and other rubbish

    It belongs to some people i know that are trying to advertise themselves as Web-design people too!

    I had a big argument with the webmaster about this but he wasn't having any of it. A few navigational links instead of the flash would have been useful. In fact, I'm convinced I could do the Flashy stuff he was doing with simple HTML and a small bit of Javascript getting the best of both worlds

  • Recently I have been working with XML and XSL to see how the relavent content of any site can be presented to a hetergenous group of browsers. For the technical stuff check out Apache's [apache.org] website and in particular their XML [apache.org] stuff. A friend of mine is nearly blind so he and I spend quite a good deal of time talking about issues surrounding accessibility and what new technologies can do to enable him to take advantage of the internet. Often he and I share the same frustration of visiting a web site and being assaulted by all of these graphical images, fixed size small fonts, and general clutter. Sometimes it is a real pain to search through data to find what we are interested in. I think if sites can start using XML and XSL a lot of these problems could be solved. XML allows a content developer to tag the data they are presenting for what content it represents (i.e. on a music site with a track list from an album you might see tags for artist name, album title, track title, etc). XSL allows these site developers to specify how to present that data to the end viewer's particular browser. So you could make a style sheet for MSIE/Netscape, lynx, WAP, an audio browser, a palm pilot, etc. I have already requested that my webmaster install support for XML so that I can redo my pages to be more friendly for text based browsers, audio browsers, PDA based browsers, etc.

    A simple thing, aside from websites, is unified messaging. I have been using JFax [jfax.com] just as a place to get voice mail and faxes, since I don't have a home telephone number. You can also use JFAX to get and send your e-mail from any account that is POP-3 accessible. For my friend, this might be the easiest way to communicate via the internet. And yes that JFax link I provided is for the affiliate program so that I get a commission if you sign up.

    Given that companies are trying to make their websites as accessible as possible in the hopes of being able to sell more and more products, I don't think we have much to worry about in terms of the future. Just think about what has happened with WAP [wapforum.org] in the last year or so. Certainly on a small cell phone screen one cannot use the images and annoying fonts that are used in a graphical browser. I think the future is looking bright for all those who suffer some form of visual impairment. Think of how much harder it would be for them to interact with the rest of the world, if there were no internet.


    Stuart Eichert
  • Please reply and add if I have missed any.
    Make sure your tables degrade linearly. If you actually read through it as written, does it make sense? Browsers that don't display tables will just read straight through it, ignoring the formatting code you've written. It should appear as:

    Name of site
    menu - menu - menu - menu - menu

    title of page content
    page content


    or something similar (simple, functional). I have to say, your topic line fooled me. This is certainly NOT the place to draw the line. ALT is practically mandatory for this very reason! I'd like to know who got paid to make a site that doesn't work. </angry>
    On a somewhat related note, this is one of the problems presented by Flash, movies, or audio content: make sure it's not critical to navigation (or anything else) on your site.
  • If the company does any kind of business with the US government--for instance, selling pharmaceuticals to state hospitals--then the company's facilities (including the web site) has to be ADA-compliant. This means that the site has to be accessible to all viewers, blind or otherwise.

    --Dave

  • "It seems that Corporate America (and Corporate The World) has not yet come to the realization that the Internet is no longer limited to techies. . . The new Web site depends solely on images for navigation, and there is not a single alt= tag on the site. Therefore, blind users cannot use the site.

    Several fallicies here. First, there is the implicit assumption that there are no blind techies - which seems potentially very offensive. Second, that techies use a graphics-enabled browser. Also there is an assumption that techies would be interested in the corporate propaganda that this pharmacutical conglomerate wants to spew. It seems what they really don't realize is that Internet is not limited to ignorant mass-market consumers with full eyesight .
    --

  • and for more reasons than just accesibility. Using lots of images, flash, javascript, etc . . . does nothing but slow down pages and make them a pain in the ass to view for people without IE 5/Netscape 4. Take a look at Jakob Nielsen's site [useit.com] for lots of info on web usability in general.

    On my own personal site [militaryaviation.com], I use primarily static HTML with some frames. All of my navigational/title graphics have alt tags, and I refuse to use platform specific plugins like flash. I also preview each new page at 640x480 in both IE & navigator on win and linux before I post them to make sure everything is readable. While this layout may not be very flashy or modern (layout has not changed drastically since I started the site in 95), it is functional and fast.

    As a counter example, I recently helped my sister (a graphic design major) put a site on line. She used dreamweaver to build her site. Dreamweaver created the entire site in images and flash! Even the text was created as images! Unbelievably slow and inefficient.

  • I have developed several web sites for government clients and accessibility is a big issue for them. I am not aware of any current regulation or directive but it is definitely on it's way for Government sites [zdnet.com]. And if they have to do it, you can bet that commercial sites will have to make "reasonable accommodation" under the a new attachment to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Attitudes like those exhibited by this company are a guarantee of regulation. We solved it by implementing new coding standards that required ALT tags, set new templates with the graphic designers, and made a Bobby scan part of the QA process. Not every one is going to be this structured in their approach but to deny the problem will bring pain for us all. So go to CAST [cast.org] and get going.

    We solved it by implimenting new coding standards that required ALT tags, set new templates with the graphic designers, and made a Bobby scan part of the QA process. Not every one is going to be this structured in thier approach but to deny the problem will bring pain for us all.
  • As a web designer (albeit very hobbyist) myself, I'm wondering why some of "us" never learn. In fact, it's a rather huge percentage that never get's it. By "getting it", I mean that they realize that making their sites accessible should be one of their biggest priorities.

    I think the main reason for this is that most web designers are focused on layout and not the other parts, the "boring" stuff.

    In bigger web site developments, the work is often divided into "design" (as in layout and overall graphics) and actual "coding" (as in splitting images up, reducing image sizes, and most important, implementing everything in HTML), and done by different persons.
    But everything starts with the site design and a good HTML coder can not always compensate for a bad design, from the accessability viewpoint, at the beginning. If the project manager, the customer and the designer have agreed on "we want a site in Flash", you may have a tough job explaining to them why you should implement an alternative design for those without Flash or even without graphics at all. The customer is often a non-techie, and won't even understand the problem at all, the designer won't be your friend if you critisize his flashy layout and point out accessability errors, and will always argue "Why won't everybody run IE 5.0? In a matter of months, everybody will, and should, and our problem is solved", and finally, your boss will argue that it's a minor problem (that what the customer does not care about or is not interested in will always be a minor problem) and that you have a deadline.

    So it's not that easy to convince people. These arguments are far too common.

    But personally, I'm convinced that it's really simple to do a good site design, given that you have it in mind from the very start of the designing process. As many slashdotters know, a simple tool as lynx is often good enough to measure accessabilty. To make a site viewable in lynx, you should:

    • Avoid frames. If you don't, you should make sure that you provide means for easy navigation. Also, of course, make sure that no information gets lost in the no-frames version and that it's always up-to-date with the frames version. This of course speaks for some kind of database solution. But you can avoid this problem completely by avoiding frames. Granted, most bigger sites today have to use frames, but they also often use databases for storage of content, so it should be no problem.
    • Apply ALT= attributes. Everybody reading this on Slashdot should know that by now. However, don't do it on every darn image, but where it has to be. By that I mean that spacer images should preferably have ALT="", so that they don't mess up the readability in lynx, but all other images that contain some sort of information in text should have. And use some sense when you set the ALT= attributes. Some bad examples are "company logo" and "horisontal ruler", use "Company, Inc." and "" instead, ie. use someting that makes sense in a text-only browser, and avoid the graphical information that really isn't needed in those.
    • If you use style sheets, beware that browsers render the paragraph tags differently. If you put something in a "block" (DIV or P), Netscape will automatically put a paragraph before the next block, although it really isn't there in the HTML, and thereby maybe fool you not to use paragraphs were they really should have been.
      Browsers that don't render CSS of course don't do this, so make sure you use your paragraphs properly, or everything will be a big text block.
    There is probably more, but I can't come up with more right now.
    But by now you should have a pretty lynx-friendly site. Simple? It is.

    As a side note, I tried out this myself on a small and simple site project I had lately, and in addition to the latest Netscape and IE browsers, it also works great great in lynx. (If anybody cares, it's here [addcon.se] and in Swedish).

  • I think the general trend towards graphics everything, no decent text navigation sucks, period, and I think it's going to get worse, not better.

    We have some people where I work (an ad agency) that totally ignored the internet and now are trying to get involved in web site creation. The problem is their background is in TV production, NOT web site design, so their idea of a "cool" web site is one with loads of Flash, javascript and lots of other "multimedia" junk.

    I'm sure this trend will continue as more corporate types with brand new G4/PIIIs on their desk do nothing but look at splash screens and determine what's a good site and what's not..
  • I was also confused by the techie reference. In fact I was close to insulted. The statement makes it sound like techs are the group that wanted all graphic navigation on web pages. Even with a fast internet connection graphic navagation tends to drive me nuts.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I could be wrong, but I think he's talking about Rice University [rice.edu]. Find it at http://www.rice.edu.

    Bobbie doesn't approve their page.
  • That's a very good point. I've seen pages that use more than a dozen shim/spacer images just to line things up. If I have to wade through hundreds of "spacer" alts while using Lynx, I'll stab someone.

    Well, according to the bobby page at http://www.cast.org/bobby/html/gls/g9.html [cast.org]

    In other situations where alternative text is unnecessary or distracting, such as images used as spacers, bullets in lists, and links, ALT="" should still be included so that text based browsers can ignore the image. It is important not to use this technique if the image is a link or is important to understanding the page.

    Personally, I think this Bobby guy is an idiot. :) A browser that reads text should just say nothing if no alt= text exists.. Bit stupid to use ALT=""...

    ---
  • When the recent lawsuit against AOL was posted on Slashdot, some very common themes in the responses were "should the net be run by lawyers?" and "let market forces provide access instead of some bureaucrat!". (Not to mention the "blind people can't surf anyway!")

    In this article, the common theme seems to be that "those evil lawyers for BigCo are discriminatory", and "there oughtta be a law, because it's obvious that market forces aren't helping people with disabilities".

    Maybe it's just a different group of people reading and responding to the two articles?
  • Eye-candy over content? How could this happen?!?! Easy, most web designers don't know squat about their craft or what their assignment is. Professional marketing people do, and thus can produce stuff that informs while selling. Your average web designer is someone who took a class to learn HTML and then printed up a bunch of business cards. They have no idea about what makes a good web page, and they don't care. They know clients will look at flashy graphics and be impressed, so that's what the client gets: crap. Until people realize that good web design is as hard as good code, things will never get better, and web designers will just propogate themselves like script kiddies.

    Walt
  • The problem with Bobby is that usability can only be determined in the end by a human. The W3C usability ratings, mentioned elsewhere, acknowledge this, but I know of one site that flaunts a Bobby Approved status, but actually doesn't have a single Hn element on the page, even though the layout appears to have headings, and doesn't have a single LI, even though there are many lists in the menus.

    On the other hand, those only paying lip service are likely to interpret guidelines in their own favour.
  • For what (little) it is worth, US-based corporate sites that do not take accessibility into account may run afoul of US federal law designed to protect those with disabilities -- i.e., blind users who can't access a page that relies on graphics. I can't come up with a good reference off-hand, but perhaps someone else will add a link to a relevant article or legal page.

    I had to "ruffle a few feathers" at my workplace before I could finally get the main corporate site to include ALT tags on graphics, and even now it's not 100%. Very frustrating...

    (The above is not a reference to UniNova's site [uninova.com] which should be fully accessible.)

  • A good friend of mine is blind. I can tell you from my conversations with him that all the crap "look what I can do in java!" stuff and lack of alt= tags really irritates him. He is a websurfing fool, so for the folks at Adventis to say "So? How many blind people will visit our site?" is something I find very irritating and unfortunately it is not just them that is thinking this way.

    When I design my webpages, I don't give a rat's patoot what anyone in corporate thinks - I always design them with my blind friend in mind and I stick with it.
  • Regarding the jwz site. Since when did _width and _height become attributes? And when did valign="middle" become valign="center" ???

    Seems like JWZ needs to quit bitching about what browsers to do his HTML when he can't even write proper HTML in the first place.

    Ben
  • I'm gradually learning on websites that I create; slowly, they're getting simpler and less ambitious in areas that I'm not good at (e.g. graphic design), and better in areas I am good at (programming).

    You can speed up your learning process by going to The Web Tools Review [photo.net]. Philip Greenspun is somebody who obviously 'gets it', and he'll be happy to tell you about all the mistakes he has made in the past so that you can learn from them.

    Highly recommended reading.

  • As a counter example, I recently helped my sister (a graphic design major) put a site on line. She used dreamweaver to build her site. Dreamweaver created the entire site in images and flash!

    What? I use Macromedia Dreamweaver 2 and Macomedia Flash 4 (2 seperate programs) and this seems physically impossible to me. Dreamweaver is a HTML (or JavaScript) generator not a graphics prgram and Flash is well something different entirely.

    I don't think you know what you are talking about. I don't comprehend your statement enough to recreate your error.

    If you created the entire web page using Flash 4, Dreamweaver isn't going to pick out the text for you.

    Little Sister

  • Perhaps being slashdotted will make them realize that while there may be a minority of visually impaired customers, they certainly create a sense of outrage by being so callous.

    But, this being America, nothing short of losing a multimillion dollar lawsuit will convince them of anything.
  • That's a very good point. I've seen pages that use more than a dozen shim/spacer images just to line things up. If I have to wade through hundreds of "spacer" alts while using Lynx, I'll stab someone. If the image is just there for spacing (I hate the practice, and I still have nightmares about working in that web-design shop), a competent HTML producer can through in ALT="", and let the normal images show up for somethings.

    I hate this practice of over-using images. Text is easy to understand. Why must we go against it?

    Orcslicer
  • In Canada, this is White Cane Week [www.cnib.ca] Feb. 6-12.


    ---

  • by NettRom (39971) on Monday February 07, 2000 @10:08AM (#1297948) Homepage
    Actually, I think the idea of rendering them as tooltips isn't such a bad idea. I mean, what do you usually put in the alt tag anyway? Usually you don't want to describe what the picture is in an alt tag, you want to tell them what would happen if they clicked on that picture.
    There's two things that need to be kept as separate entities here. One is the ALT attribute, which is to be used as alternative content shown to those who do not see the image.

    Then there's the tooltip (or an equivalent thereof), which can tell a user what to expect behind a link.

    HTML 4.0 takes care of both of these. The IMG element has an ALT attribute, which is defined to be used as alternative content (not surprisingly). The A (anchor) element has a TITLE attribute which is to be used to describe what lies behind the link. This can again be rendered as a tooltip, Microsoft Internet Explorer 4/5 does that.

    This is to keep two things separate. Not all images are links, and not all links are images. By doing it this way it's easy to give useful content to those without images, and it's also easy to describe what's behind a link. Then it's up to the user agent (e.g. browser) to render the information in a useful way.

  • Find a blind friend. I have one and she's quite technically competent for a non-programmer. She just can't see. Put your friend in front of a Linux box with Emacspeak [cornell.edu] loaded on it. If your friend can navigate the site, it is probably sufficiently friendly for the blind. I've been trying to get her to visit Slashdot to tell me what she thinks. She told me Saturday night that she hasn't been here ... yet.
  • Ah, my son. I am proud of you.
    You have learned to use alt="" with spacers.
    You have found out that HR loads faster and looks better than graphic ruler bars.
    Your graphics all contain proper alt= attributes and your tables contain summary attributes.
    You have properly used the Meta Tag
    But you are not yet a webmaster.

    For, although your page is truly viewable in any browser, and is completely accessable to people of all disabilities, quit frankly my son, your page looks like festering backside of a unwashed gibbon.

    --
    But Master, I followed all of w3.org's reccomendations. I used tidy and bobby, and checked all the links. I didn't use CSS because every browser interprets them differently. I rejected tables as they work differently on different browsers (especially table background images). I did my best to make sure that it looked just as good on Lynx as it does in Gecko!

    ---
    And that is the problem my son. All pages look like junk in Lynx. However, AOL users are spoiled little pigs. In the process to make your page appeal to the 10% of people who don't support the current IE and Netscape browsers, you have offended the other 90%. Go back and try again.

    -----

    The author is currently the webmaster of virtualsurreality.com [virtualsurreality.com]. He has learned that even w3.org is still in confusion about the <p> tag and that table backgrounds are questionable (as can be seen by comparing his main page under Netscape and I.E.). He is however in love with Tidy [w3.org].

    -----

  • >The market for web-clued people is so skewed that some companies will hire anyone they can find, and not all of them have clue.

    And if people go to classes, looking to buy a clue, they don't get value for their dollar spent.

    A friend of mine started a web development program at a local university, & one of the requirements to pass the introductory class was to be able to create a floppy to boot from DOS from.

    Yeah, right: your $50K UNIX server running on a sparc chip crashes, & you're REALLY going to fix it by booting DOS on the system. I doubt this is useable information even for NT servers. (``Uh, I booted to DOS, but fdisk is reporting non-DOS partitions on all of my drives. Should I reformat & reinstall?")

    Needless to say, my pal dropped out of the program.

    Geoff
  • And if they have to do it, you can bet that commercial sites will have to make "reasonable accommodation" under the a (sic) new attachment to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Probably not. That would be "forced speech", which is a First Amendment violation. US publishers can't be forced to produce translations of works into other languages. The same applies to translation to other forms such as audio. Even TV closed captioning isn't required by law, although broadcast regulation is more restrictive than speech generally because the spectrum is regulated as a public resource.

  • Actually, it's not a lot of work to duplicate the site, if the developers go about it properly -- using m4 macros to generate different versions of the html, for example. I think they just can't be bothered -- "if it looks good in IE, it'll do", is an attitude that's all too common.

  • It's not just blind users who suffer from image-intensive pages; it's bandwidth-limited users. When I login over a modem (at home) or when on the road with my laptop, I have my browser set so that image-loading is off by default. I click on the "show images" icon when I absolutely have to have images to navigate the page. Then I usually wait for 2 minutes for it to load.

    Executives generally don't care about the blind or slow-bandwidth, thinking that in business terms they won't be potential customers. But I have a solution for that. You have to convince the executive that other "high-end" people will be similarly frustrated.

    I think if you show an executive how fast the page-load speed from a "executive dialing in on a laptop on the road", you could make a persuasive case for alt-tags for faster navigation. And point out that the new WAP-oriented phones with web browsing (also used by executives) will have the same problem.

    --LP
  • As I recall, Tim Berners-Lee created the web to improve communication among researchers. You can see this in many places, but more often than not researchers bury papers in the PDF. (What is the correct setting to launch gv with the file from NS 4.7 anyway? My system always opens a blank page.)

    Commercialization has brought the poor advertising strategy of most companies to the web. The strategy is poor because the advertisements aren't advertisements! They are merely product propaganda with little information. Ad designers need to drop the assumption that people are cows; if they don't, they might discover that a raging cow is more fearsome than a bull (female of a non-sentient species and all that...).

    Part of the problem is the poor characterization of capitalism that predominates in most people's minds. Capitalism is not about competition. Competition is merely one aspect of the capitalism. But almost everyone, pro and con, thinks they are equivalent. Competition can exist in the absence of a free market; for what people compete is what changes. Under the best system, what competition occurs is to create a better product. Slightly worse is the system in which people compete for market share. And in the worst systems people compete for the favor of a man with power over life or death.

    But there is no universal law that says we have to compete. When we chant 'nos morituri te salutamus', there is no one listening. There is no playing field but for that which is encircled by the dogs which would keep themselves in chains.

    If only that legendary French baker had said to the king's emissary, "Let me alone, and I'll let everyone else alone." But he didn't, and now people think that laissez-faire is as far as civil society goes. Well, it doesn't; and the reason to be left alone by the government is not so that you try to rule other people. But people have to stop thinking in terms of masters and slaves.

    There is no scarcity. Nothing is more than what it is, but there is plenty of everything. One might say that time is scarce, but really you have your whole life. If people stop believing that there is a sum of wealth forever fixed for a slice of which they must fight, then perhaps the competition will end.

    When people know what is, they can act upon it. When people can act freely, they can be happy. When people choose to be happy, they can learn many things.

    The web was created to improve cooperation. Ignore the forces which would work against that, but don't let them meddle with your affairs. The web, like the software that created and sustains it, is for sharing. Let those who would compete remain chained one to another their cave. But do not go there, and do not let them take you.
  • Thanks for the link. Coincidentally, the hardware store pictured on this page is about a mile from where I am right now.
  • This doesn't seem to be Corporate America not realizing that the 'net has NON-techies, but the other way around. Joe Q. NetSurfer loves image-happy sites, even if they take ages to load. It's the techies that browse with images off, or with Lynx, and like to see text-based navigation and alt= tags.

    Anyway, it is a problem, but the best way to vote is with your wallet, so to speak. I buy a lot of computer hardware, as I'm sure much of us do, and I tend not to buy from vendors whose sites are bogged down with images, Java[Script], or, I shudder to think, Macromedia. And I outright refuse to buy from vendors whose sites don't work at all in Linux Netscape. For this pharmaceutical company, the story is a bit different. I imagine they're not conducting any actual commerce on their site, merely offering information. But the same principle can still be applied: browsing their site is a pain? Go elsewhere! And if you feel strongly about it, write the webmaster to tell them why you've decided to take your business elsewhere.

    MoNsTeR
  • by Fastolfe (1470) on Monday February 07, 2000 @11:38AM (#1297984)
    You don't have to have two separate pages. It's a common misconception (typically among inexperienced web authors) that in order to have a good looking web page accessible to people light on bandwidth or handicapped, that you have to have a separate version of the site for them.

    Any professional web author will tell you that it really can be done on the same page:

    1. Never use images to convey textual information. This prevents the information from being indexed in search engines and otherwise made available to non-graphical clients.

    2. Use HTML markup intelligently. Lots of today's sites are simply huge tables with a bunch of images in it. HTML tags are incorrectly used for things like spacing and fonts, when instead they should be used to designate different types of text in the document.

    It really isn't difficult at all to build a very nice-looking web site that works well with lesser browsers. All it takes is some education/training on the part of the author. HTML people are a dime a dozen nowadays, and, sadly, many large firms think that they're all the same. I mean, if two different web authors can end up building web pages that look basically the same, they must both be of equal skill, right? Try looking at the HTML source code once in a while, and try viewing those pages in a variety of other browsers.

    As people start migrating to 4.x and higher browsers, it's time we started paying attention to things like strict HTML4 and CSS. If you can build a page correctly using HTML4 (which forbids HTML attributes and tags designed to change how a page is displayed) and CSS (which is designed to precisely control how a page is rendered), it will typically look great in text-to-speech browsers (and even better in those that themselves support CSS).
  • I think the problem is not with the corporations but the designers and the corporate attitude towards the web in general. When a company makes a web site, most are making a big, interactive advertisement. So, they treat it as such; their designers and content writers are, if not from an advertising firm, advertisers who crossed over to the web.

    If you think corporate sites are bad, take a look at just about any popular web designers'. 90% of them are cluttered messes of jargon and obfuscation, albeit very nice to look at. Organization is hidden behind mysterious content sections entitled things like "Feed," if there are titles at all. Navigation menus are totally irrelevant buttons or pictures, the meaning of which can only be gleaned if you move your mouse over every damn one to see the rollover. You're lucky if there's any actual text not in a graphic.

    Sorry to get on my soapbox. The point is, these are sites designed by artists and advertisers, not by information architects as they should be. Few corporations know about usability testing; few web design firms do either, for that matter. We can only hope as these people start discovering that they actually are losing appreciable business through poor usability (a Forrester study found that approximately 50% of sales at major corporate storefronts were lost because customers couldn't navigate the site), more attention will be payed to the user experience and less to empty flash.

  • And I thought I was the only one still stuck at 26400. I'm in bandwidth hell - 26400 at home, and my server colocated on a T3.

    So the off topic question - what do people that rely heavily on the internet for income do in a situation like this? I know I'm not the only one that likes to live in the middle of nowhere, yet still be connected. Aside from a leased line or a satellite, I think I'm going to be stuck at this horrible speed for some time to come.

    As far as graphics are concerned - I still use lynx frequently, and most of the pages I load are not graphics intensive.

    One more offtopic bit - I've been reading usenet with tin on my server through supernews, because even the article headers take a prohibitive amount of time to transfer at this speed. Any better solutions out there?
  • I applaud people's efforts to bring attention to this issue (slashdot has itself run a couple articles, both on the AOL-ADA lawsuit [slashdot.org] and did a Q&A [slashdot.org] on internet accessability for the handicapped a while ago), just as I applaud people's efforts to bring attention to the Free Tibet campaign. But I can't help but wonder whether, like with Free Tibet, people get involved, not because they truly care deeply about the principles at hand (although they might also do that), but because it's an easy cause with only one rational side to choose and which they can fight at no cost to them. Who wouldn't want to help the blind?

    This point can be made about nearly any political cause, so let me explain why I make it about this one: people will say they care, and they might even make a half-assed attempt to comply with the dictates of these principles, but when push comes to shove, they will not forgo doing what they would've already done simply because of their allegiance to a political belief. They'll wave their flag and chant their slogans, and then they'll go home and quietly forget to implement the very changes they demanded. The 'cool' factor is just too dominant. The trend is away from text-accessability and towards whizbang GUIs, and we'll all suffer from it, blind or visually empowered. I hope to be proven wrong on this matter and hope to see a massive consumer revolt in favor of ALT tags and the like (logical formatting, not lexical formatting), but I'm not holding my breath.
  • Let's not forget the other accessibility problem: sites which are full of info except how to contact the company.

    There are major corporations with web sites which have no addresses nor phone numbers listed. A potential customer has to do separate searches and filter out the companies with the same name which are in other fields of business.

  • For people who develop web sites and preview them on IE5 through our DSL lines, we're just not going to remember about things like alt tags or dealing with people who don't support frames.
    Preview with Lynx! Also try loading in your regular browser with style sheets turned off to ensure that non-CSS browsers don't get horrid color schemes or illegible fonts or something.
  • While writing an article in slashdot is a good idea, most of us are probably already aware of this issue (personally not only I use almost no images in my web pages, but I also take the trouble to use a <span lang="..."> tag whenever I introduce a quote in a foreign language, so that a text to speech translator could presumably make the right decisions; and when I'm not too lazy, I even use the <abbr> quote for abbreviations — anyway, here is not the place to brag about my HTML coding style).

    I think you should contact the W3 Consortium [w3.org] instead. This sort of thing is precisely their raison d'être. They have written many advocacy documents and editorials on similar subjects, and they probably have one targeting this precise problem. The moral authority of the W3 Consortium, although thin, is still stronger than an individual's, and they might have a better chance to convince a reluctant webmaster.

  • Personally, I think this Bobby guy is an idiot. :) A browser that reads text should just say nothing if no alt= text exists.. Bit stupid to use ALT=""...

    I kind of like the symmetry of the alt="" tag on a clear gif. If nearly all sites used alt tags for significant information, there might be no need for spacer alt tags, but until then, it should be there. That way a blind person knows that the designer DID consider blind people and that the image is a spacer. Otherwise, they have to wonder if they're missing something important.

  • To go to my site, you see there are two ways to get into the two main "features" of the site, one by imagemap, and one by a plain ol' text link. Bobby says that I need to have alt tags for my imagemaps, why? They're the same links as below!

    Bobby couldn't know that for a fact since it's just a parser. Perhaps the alt tag should say imagemap, text links are below.

  • Lot of webmasters target web site to specific system: they are optimized for IE or Netscape, for a specific screen size making them unusable on smaller screen.

    That is probably my #1 pet peeve with web sites. HTML is meant to be a markup language, not a rendering language. Web Designers should NOT be control freaks. The user is supposed to have the final control on the page rendering through configuration options. It's web abuse!

  • I think the Web is primarily a visual medium and as such many people are going to be left out.

    Radio is INTRINSICALLY an auditory medium. The web is not intrinsically visual.

    As a humorous side note, not thinking about disabilities can get you into trouble. There was a commercial that featured people talking over a desk with a voiceover. They weren't going to be heard, so they were told to just talk about anything. They chose to tell dirty jokes.

    The ad was pulled later when deaf people called and complained about it. One of the guys' lips were visable. OOOPS!

  • The LONGDESC tag, as defined in HTML 4.0 [w3.org] is not displayed as a pop-up on images in IE, and probably not in Netscape either (I don't have it handy to test). And although I can't say for sure, I wouldn't be surprised if page readers could use the LONGDESC tag just fine.
  • Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKlein Beecham
  • It would be the same thing if, for example, to check if You've Got Mail you had to simultaneously right-click while pressing the z-key: pretty hard to do if you only have one arm, and thus a (potential) violation of the ADA.

    Nah, that's easy. I can tell you're right-handed: you're assuming the mouse is on the right side of the keyboard... :-)
    -----
    The real meaning of the GNU GPL:

  • What ever happened to link rev, and the heirarchy of documents? Is this the current implementation of it?
    Even though the browser support for using LINK for other things than style sheets is nearly non-existant, it's still in the HTML 4.0 spec. See Document relationships: the LINK element [w3.org]
  • The real culprits here are the web design houses - particularly those from long-established marketing organisations that suddenly decided to join the new media boom. They declared themselves to be "web designers" simply by changing the notepaper, not changing the working practices.

    Corporate buyers of web presence are often more used to buying magazine or TV coverage. They have no knowledge of what "good web" ought to look like, not are they likely to improve. A single magazine ad might be delegated to a junior, but a single web site is such a large single investment that it's likely to attract their marketing head honcho. Given the corporate sluggardliness of these people, they're unlikely to be young enough, or technically literate enough, to have much a clue web-wise.

    I'm a self-employed freelance, but I'm currently working for just such a web design house. This place embarasses me, and their work is shoddy in exactly the way this article complains of. As an example, a "creative spec" for a page is a single 640x480 bitmap. That's magazine thinking; seeing content as being a single static image and taking no account of how it can be implemented, how it changes with window size, how it degrades across browsers, or accessibility. I've had meetings where major content loss of function is swept under the carpet, but changing a simple bitmap (logo or screen background) is regarded as an earth shattering change.

    If web-buildng is done by people who understand nothing more than the look of a static image, then that's what you'll get as a site.

  • What bugs me the most is that Netscape Communicator has a nasty bug where it will leak memory due to poor rendering with a lot of tables.

    LOL. Netscape will leak memory just sitting there. A friend of mine likes to leave Netscape open for long periods of time (he has a DSL line, so he probably doesn't want to wait for it to load up). Anyway, he posted a line from top on a mailing list a while ago showing Netscape using 440 megs of memory.

    Currently, Netscape is using 32 megs on my machine. When I checked an hour ago, it was 16... when Mozilla hits beta I'm switching.
  • I'd like to know exactly who gets paid to make sites that don't work.

    Sadly, I do.

    When the client only ever sees the site as roughed-out bitmaps, buried in a PowerPoint presentation, then this is what you get. Most high-spending clients have never heard of the W3C, barely use the Web, and certainly wouldn't know the accessibility guidelines. If this is ever to change, then consumers need to feed back to the buyers of design effort that they want good design, not just glitzy.

    PowerPoint - it's a lobotomy on a disk. There's nothing inherently wrong with a good presentation tool, but how often have you seen the OHP projector light up in a meeting and the collective IQ drop by 50% ?

  • My mother is in a wheelchair. My best friend is paraplegic. Unlike Free Tibet, anyone can become disabled at any time. This should give any rational person cause to support disabled accessability options.

Entropy requires no maintenance. -- Markoff Chaney

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