‘Building Accessible Websites’

In late 2005, I corrected every known copy error in the online files. Errors of intent or concept, like even taking tables for layout seriously for half a second, are retained for maximum historical embarrassment. I’m also retaining the original errata page, as below.


To paraphrase Helen Lovejoy, “Well, as the wife of a minister, I’m privy to a lot of sensitive information. And here it is!”

We take this philosophy to heart here at Building Accessible Websites! Every known error in Building Accessible Websites is documented below.

Have you found a mistake? For the love of all that is holy, let me know.


Type & design

We went to extreme lengths to produce a beautiful object you will love to read. In fact, we consider the book’s level of typographic complexity the minimum permissible for any book. (Doesn't that mean most of the books you read have all the typographic value of a Microsoft Word printout? Yes.)

Nonetheless, yea though we are mortal and have fallen short of the glory of God, and we made mistakes.

Chapter (page) Error
Endpapers Ligatures missing. Oddly, it all looks fine.
Throughout More all-black break pages, as before “Special ‘Advertising’ Supplement,” Colophon, Bibliography, Index.
3, “How do disabled people use computers?” (30) “which oVers the disadvantage of pretense and an extra syllable” needs an ff ligature. We had it there for a while. Reapplying a stylesheet probably nuked it. You realize if we were using OpenType and InDesign this never would have happened?
6, “The image problem” 64 Should be no keyline around the second illo’s bottom. And what is that illustration of? I think we flubbed that image.
6, “The image problem” (99) Third line: “text equivalents must be translated” should not be in Signa, perhaps Joanna roman or italic instead.
6, “The image problem” (101) “voiced pharyngeal fricative" requires a proper closing quotation mark, not a neutral one.
7. “Text and links” (134) We’re not sure the equivalent of a rote copy and paste of the Playbackmag.com article text was really apt. The sentence “MOW Power to them” should probably have been styled as some kind of headline, or at least given a blank line above it.
8, “Navigation” (141) Missing an ff ligature in “difference,” last word.
8, “Navigation” (146) The rather unpleasant sequence onload="window.defaultStatus='text'" requires better tracking.
8, “Navigation” (152, 158) What’s rendered as <var> (Signa Light Italic) on p. 152 really needs to be rendered as <samo> (Signa Book) on p. 158. I think I have named those weights correctly.
8, “Navigation” (154) Pullquote comes from the wrong chapter.
8, “Navigation” (155) “is perfectly legal” needs no indention and a blank line before it. Accursed Quark stylesheets, dumb as a mule.
9, “Type and colour” (221) Orphan.
10, “Tables and frames” (246) Widow: <table>.
11, “Stylesheets” (264) “an accesskey is actually an accesscharacter” requires <code> typography for the words beginning access-.
11, “Stylesheets” (272) What’s shown as bullet points shouldn’t be. Just normal code samples.
13, “Multimedia” (309) “see the nice onscreen button you havee programmed” should perhaps have only one e. Oddly, it isn’t incorrect in the HTML file.
Colophon (393) “Numerals superimposed on examples used in the ‘Navigation’ chapter” are actually set in Combi Numerals Pro (Sean Cavanaugh, 2001).
Appendix A (362) Small-caps treatment of “The ADA and the Internet: Must Websites be accessible to the disabled?” requires true caps as shown here, not as listed there.
Colophon (394) David Michaelides of FontShop Canada created the typeface specimens found in Chapter 13, “Multimedia,” p. 325. I remain astonished that I didn’t give him credit. I credited everybody else in tarnation.
Index (412) Table hack needs to be added here (Chapter 8, p. 150).

Get me rewrite!

If I'm such a hot writer, how come I made all these mistakes?

Chapter (page) Error
6, “The image problem” (88) In the HTML sample, most plain-Jane paragraphs should actually have a class="dialogue".
6, “The image problem” (101) .alt=(&minusb should be alt=&minus;b (no leading dot; added simicolon). Sentence needs a period.
6, “The image problem” (102) img element needs to be closed with space-slash, hence the end should say alt="B" />read. Debatable whether the word fragment read should be in code style. Rather dubious. In fact, I don’t think we’re consistent on that point.
6, “The image problem”: “Special ‘advertising’ supplement” (120) Great rates on air, hotel & car should read air, hotel &amp; car
9, “Type and colour” (201) “you would find a certain area lined with retina cells even in the front half”
8, “Navigation” (142) ¶2 and ¶3 somewhat contradict each other. ¶2 is correct.
8, “Navigation” (146) “Where necessary, I’ll refer to these as ‘navigation tabs.’ ”: But I do so only once again.
8, “Navigation” (149) “While some designers use frames, piling dozens or a hundred links in a <td></td> appearing early in a table row is an accepted practice” would be better written as “While some designers use frames, it is an accepted practice to pile dozens or a hundred links in a <td></td> appearing early in a table row.”
9, “Type and colour” (200) “Our goal here is to make sure,” not “o make sure.”
9, “Type and colour” (216) Last paragraph of cutlines is dreadfully written. Correct, but undisciplined and hard to follow.
9, “Type and colour” (220) “more than ons one category.”
9, “Type and colour” (221) Echo: “I can imagine that less-imaginative developers.”
11, “Stylesheets” (263) A fusillade of semicolons in the middle paragraph, as though this were the style of Samuel Johnson. I’m not that goddamned pretentious... normally.
12. “Forms and interaction” (285, cutline) “Note the accesskey indicators iCab uniquely displays” should read something like “Note the accesskey indicators; iCab is the only browser that displays anything like them.”

Factual errors

Chapter (page) Error
3, “How do disabled people use computers?” (26) “[T]hey are most apt to use whatever sign language or language is native to their region” should be “whatever sign language or languages.”
5, “The structure of accessible pages” (47) “The URL in the DOCTYPE is technically optional for XHTML documents and mandatory for XHTML documents”: No, optional for H and mandatory for XH.
5, “The structure of accessible pages” (48) “In certain cases, you may require Strict-level control over stylesheets” – HTML, shurely?!
6, “The image problem” (91) Java is not JavaScript. The discussion on this page pertains to Java solely.
7, “Text and links” (130) This one’s just terrible: I got a foreign phrase wrong in a book that takes localization seriously. The expansion of the Italian acronym SpA is, in fact, società per azioni and not the (Securitate-like) societate per azioni. Even typing that correction now I made another mistake. Perhaps I subconsciously find the Italian writing system incomprehensible.
8, “Navigation” (152) The colspan="2" attribute merely makes the content cell twice as high wide as the other cells under discussion.” Note that the table hack is incorrectly coded. You should use rowspan, not colspan, and we need a space-slash to close the img element. The correct markup is:

<td valign="top"><img src="spacer.GIF" alt="" width="1" height="1" border="0" title="" /></td>
<td rowspan="2" valign="top">Content</td>
<tr> <td valign="top">Navigation</td> </tr>

At least, I hope so. Tell me if I’ve muffed the correction itself.
9, “Type and colour” (213) Not all the pairs listed contain blue.
12, “Forms and interaction” (284) fieldset is an element, not a tag. I did a pass through the entire book trying to catch that malapropism, with, apparently, imperfect results. (I did use tag to mean “one half of a paired element.” Hence <fieldset> would be a tag, but the HTML construct as a whole is an element.)
12, “Forms and interaction” (289) embed, which is invalid code anyway, cannot take an alt attribute.
12, “Forms and interaction” (297) A reader writes in with the following (verified by technical editor/curmudgeon Mark Pilgrim):
  • <input type="radio" name="voice" value="voice" title="Voice number" id="voice" accesskey="v" checked="checked" />Voice
  • <input type="radio" name="tty" value="TTY" title="TTY Number" id="tty" accesskey="t" />TTY

should be replaced by something like the following:

  • <input type="radio" name="telephone" value="voice" title="Voice number" id="voice" accesskey="v" checked="checked" />Voice
  • <input type="radio" name="telephone" value="TTY" title="TTY Number" id="tty" accesskey="t" />TTY

The name attribute of the input element does not provide alternative text but is used to identify a set of choices.

Colophon I managed to fail to credit David Michaelides of FontShop, who has been a consistent supporter for nearly ten years. He hosted my launch party. I owe him a lot.

Page proofs

Superspecial feature! See for yourself, via inaccessible PDF download, what marked-up proofing pages for a book on Web accessibility look like!

Updated 2006.01.29

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