‘Building Accessible Websites’ serialization

Updated 2007.04.15

A note on corrections

When you buy the book, you get the entire text (but no graphics) on the included CD-ROM, along with a few extras, like fonts and utilities. The following files provide the original copy (with almost no graphics, save for Chapter 13), corrected as of August 2005.

In autumn 2005, I made every known correction to these texts. The corrections were limited to copy-errors and mistakes in code samples. The 2002-era advice is left intact for historical accuracy. Some of the methods espoused in the book are now outdated, and it may be of interest to future historians of Web accessibility to read what we thought would work in that bygone era.

A note on outdated advice

Some of the advice in the book is now outdated for developers in the 21st century. Most importantly, the use of tables for layout can almost never be justified anymore. When I wrote the book, it was just barely possible to defend tables for layout (if you used exactly one table) because browser support for CSS was so poor. That isn’t the case anymore and you shouldn’t follow the book when it advises the use of layout tables.

As this site is a repository for the text of a book published at a certain historical moment, this is not the place to correct or update the book based on knowledge or facts that did not exist at the time I wrote it. You may view the advice to use tables for layout, and a few other things, as artifacts of a sort.

Two of the most useful sections

  1. How to write alternate texts for images

  2. The Brewer palette: Colour combinations for colourblind people

Table of contents

00. The access manifesto
A declaration of what accessibility is and should be: “The true reason to design for accessibility is greed. Quite simply, I want it all, and so should you. Give us everything you’ve got. Give us everything there is to give” (2002.11.10)
01. About this book
Inapplicable to an HTML version, hence not provided
02. Why bother?
Why make Websites accessible? Well, why not? Common myths exploded, and active reasons to engage in Web accessibility provided (2002.12.02)
03. How do disabled people use computers?
The right (as opposed to “correct”) terms to use in discussing disabled people. Screen readers and other adaptive technology
04. What is media access?
Web accessibility is merely the latest form of media access to come down the pike. Learn your history
05. The structure of accessible pages
Web accessibility relies on standards. Learn the importance of valid structured HTML
06. The image problem
Reason in itself to buy this book: The fullest explanation of how to make online images accessible yet written, with dozens of special cases explained
07. Text and links
Text is the most accessible format there is, but some reasonable care must nonetheless be taken
08. Navigation
For a mobility-impaired person (and, to a lesser extent, for a blind person), moving around within Websites is tedious. Learn how to ease the tedium
09. Type and colour
Colourblindness explicated. In this chapter, what little you need to do to ensure readable onscreen type is laid out in black and white, as it were
10. Tables and frames
Tables prompt eye-gouging hissyfits among accessibility advocates and Web designers of all stripes, whether oldschool or avant-garde. Both sides are saddled with myths and both argue in large part from ideology. Let’s do a reality check, shall we?
11. Stylesheets
We are told that stylesheets hold tremendous untapped power in accessible Web design. Could it be almost completely untrue?
12. Forms and interaction
Getting around inside Web forms
13. Multimedia
Near and dear to my heart, a full discussion of captioning and audio description of multimedia (with illustrations!)
14. Certification and testing
You may be required to assert that your Website is accessible – and prove it. Here’s how
15. Future dreams
The current state of the art barely qualifies as an “art.” What do we need for Websites to be truly and elegantly accessible?
Appendix A. Accessibility and the law
Is accessibility legally required? In some cases, yes. Read case history and precedent
Appendix B. Language codes
How to specify languages in Websites
The making of Building Accessible Websites
For further reading
Who owns the rights to this book (differs from CD-ROM statement)
About the author
Super-intimate biographical details about your accessibility author

Content limitations

These files contain the full text of the printed book, plus hyperlinks. My book designer Marc Sullivan and I made the command decision late in the process to include none of the 50 or more images used in the printed book. Why?

Because, as explained in the Colophon, producing HTML and Quark Xpress versions of the book added weeks to the production time. Stated another way, providing two formats ate two weeks out of my life. Manually converting Quark graphics boxes plus their associated cutlines (captions) into HTML, then inserting same with appropriate links in just the right places in each chapter, would have added yet another week.

And it still would have been inadequate. All you would have gotten is a simple alt text and title for each graphic rather than the full, rich verbal or textual description you could expect from a trained talking-book transcriber. (Guidelines exist for such conversions of illustrations to voice or text. It’s comparable to audio description of TV, film, and video.)

Consequently, the entire “Special ‘Advertising’ Supplement” allied with Chapter 6, “The image problem,” is not provided here, since it’s nothing but graphics and cutlines. I regret that I have but one life to give to accessibility; unneeded efforts must be eliminated.

Why didn’t we use PDF? Because Quark Xpress cannot save a tagged PDF, and those are the only kind with a reasonable chance of being read sensibly with a screen reader.

While all the foregoing may seem vaguely hypocritical – why isn’t a book on accessibility itself accessible? – the fact remains that books are old media, and old media must be made accessible outside themselves. New(er) media, like television, film, video, and indeed the Web, can carry along their own access features. So in fact, nothing more than what we’re offering could reasonably be expected. The way to make books accessible is to create alternate-media formats (these files are an attempt at creating such formats); books cannot carry along their own accessibility features.

For a later project, however, I returned to the book and added illustrations for Chapter 13, “Multimedia.”

HTML structure

All files included here that I created myself use valid HTML and stylesheets. (Note to strict readers: Using an image as a header, as the chapters do for typographic reasons, is perfectly valid as long as alt and title are provided, which they are. The book itself explains why.)

Note that all HTML files use extensive metadata (information about information), including full Dublin Core encoding and an enormous range of Next, Previous, Chapter, Section, and other attributes of the link element. The Dublin Core information won’t be useful to anything but some kind of future database software or aggregator, but the link-element additions are immediately practical for anyone who uses a browser like Mozilla, Netscape 6 or later, Opera, iCab, or Lynx, all of which give access to those navigational elements, which let you can move from chapter to chapter and section to section. Have fun with them. (Hint for Mozilla and Netscape users: You must turn on the Site Navigation Bar in the View menu’s Show/Hide submenu. In iCab, the Standard Links toolbar must be active. In Opera, reveal the Link Bar. Lynx shows you the navigation elements automatically.)