Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

The Simplified Web Accessibility Guide

There is a Yahoo Group I visit about once a month. I can’t stand to visit it with any greater frequency a) all the daggoned popup and interruption ads and b) an individual in that group who tends to take every discussion and force it into one about designing for people with disabilities. Now don’t get me wrong, we should keep disabled seekers in mind, but when your child asks for a bread, who among the kid a rock instead? Or up-to-date, when someone says their in need of server-based CGI-forms to send email, who among us needs someone spouting off about the evils of client-based Javascript forms? And that’s why I don’t frequent that forum too often. Nor do others I suspect for the same reasons.

Well I sucked it up and visited the forum last night in hopes adding some more participants to our discussion about Christian Web Services. While there, I saw a thread about email forms, along with a Seinfeld-like Soup Nazi character dominating a discussion about server-based CGI-forms to send email with some rant about the evils of client-based Javascript. I tend not to listen to this character. No soup for you! Instead, I served up a nice hot steaming loaf of programmable forms to the individual asking for a slice-o-CGI-bread by referring them to my December 31, 2002 article entitled “Fighting Spam with Contact Forms” — all part of that fighting evil with good thing.

But I digress

What I also found on this forum was a most excellent repsonse by Rachel Andrew of EdgeOfMySeat.com fame. Here are some snippets of what she said over on the Church Site Chat forum in response the off-topic back-n-forth:

You get theorists on every list, they will always know better than you how to build a web site but tend not to have any startling examples of their own to show around (presumably this is because they spend so much time learning the W3C specs they don’t actually have time to actually write any xhtml or css themselves). The problem with the approach of simply stating the spec/guidelines for any particular issue is that these things don’t stand independent of all the other aspects of your site.

As to not having enough time to do this – yes it can be a big task to retrofit an existing site but it is possible even in stages. I have an non-profit client who I built a site for about 4 years ago, long before we cared about this stuff and while version 4 browsers were the most recent versions. They can’t afford a huge rebuild so what I have been doing is, whenever I need to do some work on the site anyway, tackling some part of the problem – this is a 500+ page, static site but slowly it is becoming more accessible and it isn’t costing them or me any more than the regular maintenance would.

This site: The Simplified Web Accessibility Guide has a good approach to these issues, and isn’t as confusing and technical as the w3c specs. Just by reading through something like this you raise your own awareness, and then you tend to find that you start to work in a way that creates a more accessible site just because this info is in the back of your mind. There may be some things listed that you feel you can’t comply with – but there will be plenty that you can without any real extra work and I feel it is a shame if people feel that because they can’t do everything they put the blinkers on and do nothing.

Did you catch that hyperlink she offered? Boy, I’ll tell you, that was worth putting up with all the daggoned ads and even the Seinfeld character. In case you missed it, the Simplified Web Accessibility Guide — a document that reminds us that good web design makes information accessible. And that web designers need to be aware of accessibility issues in order to accommodate people with disabilities. “People with disabilities use the Web for the same things others do-education, employment, entertainment, shopping, and banking. In fact, they may rely upon the Web more than others because of their disabilities. The Web has opened many doors for people with disabilities but bad design can slam the door shut again!

As Strong Bad would say … now THAT’s what I’m talking about! Yo Rachel A., if you’re reading this, there’s a free pizza waiting for you if you’re ever here near D.C. You’ll enjoy my wife’s company, she’s half Brit you know — I’ll need to stay home and make sure my 3 yar old doesn’t take over this blog.

Now , back to the topic of Christian Web Services

One Comment

  1. Got here from Slashdot, in a signature… now rather surprised at seeing my own sister referred to as having some sort of fame.

    I’m heading over to England to visit her on Wednesday, maybe I’ll convince her to come back with us, and stop by and take you up on that offer of pizza. :-P