Accessibility for the Rest of Us

June 19, 2007

I recently spent a great deal of time on the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) site, combing through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 working draft. There's a lot of very fine material in that document. Unfortunately, for the average designer it's pretty much, well, inaccessible. The WCAG is a dense document of technical specifications intended for a technical audience. Most designers will use the WCAG 2.0 Quick Reference, but even this is hardly quick. The guidelines are organized around accessibility "principles." This might make sense when writing guidelines, but for reading or applying them, it's not much help at all. Designers don't design principles. They design elements. For someone who is interested in coding an accessible list, for instance, the only way to find all the guidelines associated with lists is to (a) read the entire document or (b) search the document for that term. How many busy working designers have time for (a)? The WAI says it plans to include a supplement called "Application Notes" for designers "who are not accessibility experts." Since that includes 99% of us who build the web, I hope they publish soon. After all, accessibility matters.


Perhaps this why creating and managing a web site is so segmented now. We have content specialists, info architects, interface designers, usability specialists, programmers, accessibility specialists, etc. I don't think this is a bad thing--and we all need to intermingle.

As the web evolves, one of the most important lessons we've learned is that one person can't do it all. Not exceedingly well, anyway.

But it is really heartening to see more people considering accessibility (another great lesson learned).