Wednesday, October 05, 2005

disability access

In 1999-2000, Bruce Maguire, a blind person, successfully sued the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) because significant parts of the SOCOG Web site,, were inaccessible to him.

On 24 August 2000, the HREOC released its decision and supported Maguire's complaint, ordering certain access provisions to be in place on the site by 15 September 2000. SOCOG ignored the ruling and was subsequently fined A$20,000.
In the US disability access to web sites is law
section 508
see the icon at the bottom of some web sites,
eg. scroll to the bottom of

Also in the UK it is law or about to become so

I try to pursue this as a theme by teaching how to construct web pages with alternate style sheets - that is to say the media attribute of the link tag can be set to all, screen, print, projection, aural, braille, embossed, handheld, tty and tv. The link tag is used to link to the various external style sheets.

This my year 11s have developed alternate style sheets so the same web page looks different when viewed on the screen, on a mobile phone (using an emulator) and print preview. I can't show you the mobile phone because you need the emulator software but here's an example of a different appearance for print preview:

There are complications about implementing all of this in practice, for example, mobile phones vary in their capacity to follow W3C standards - and by no means have I fully explored the potential of it all either. My impression is that much of the technology is still playing catchup to the standards but also that much catchup has occurred in recent years

I think what's important is to realise that W3C standards do mean something real and that separation of structure (HTML), style (CSS), behaviour (JavaScript) is required to achieve this. Not only does this achieve the potential for better accessibility for disabled people but also allows more flexibility for all users, as the print and mobile phone examples illustrate.

If anyone wants to pursue it further I'd recommend Jeffrey Zeldman's book, Designing with Web Standards - it was an amazon best seller a couple of years ago


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