23 Things: Thing 6 Accessibility

Thing 6 is all about web accessibility and it’s a thing I have had a very on and off relationship with over the years. Despite the fact that I am fully signed up to the belief that accessible design is good design for all, I think I probably pay less attention to accessibility online than I did ten or fifteen years ago. When I used to build websites for other people, I made a point of trying to ensure they were as accessible as possible within the constraints of the web browsers of the day. It’s a long time since I actually built a website though, most of the content I now put on line appears on blogs or social media platforms which come with their own user interface or stylesheets. Consequently I’ve got very blase about accessibility because the design of the user interface is usually beyond my control.  However I know I’m just being lazy and there is a lot more I could be doing to make sure my blogs are accessible, so it was really interesting to run one of my blogs through the Web Accessibility eValuation Tool.

wave_outputThe blog I chose was the Open Scotland, a simple WordPress blog running on Reclaim Hosting and you can see the results here.  To be honest most of the errors and alerts didn’t surprise me as they relate to heading abuse and images without alt text.  One thing that did surprise me though is that justified text is problematic.

“Large blocks of justified text can negatively impact readability due to varying word/letter spacing and ‘rivers of white’ that flow through the text.”

This made me very sad, because I love justified text and I justify all my blog posts and documents.  I will have to try and wean myself off justification, starting here today.  I still think unjustified text looks messy though.

Also as an aside, when I used to work in technology standards development I had a very peripheral involvement in some of the web accessibility standards groups.  I was never actually a member of any of the working groups but I was occasionally called in to comment on metadata issues. Negotiating consensus in standards working groups is never an easy task but in the accessibility groups it could be particularly fraught, so kudos to all those to worked hard to bring these standards to fruition.