Anne van Kesteren

Campaign: we need more accessibility!

Accessibility crosses some lines with structured markup. I think that the Web Standards Project should start a new campaign. This time it shouldn't be aimed at end-users or software-engineers this time, no, it should be aimed at the developer or webdesigner!

There are a couple of things, which are quite silly. First, proper alternative text for images. That is probably one of the biggest accessibility and usability problems. Lots of authors think that alternate text is a tool tip, like Internet Explorer teaches them. Those authors should be made aware of the fact that they are wrong and that they are creating inaccessible sites. There should be a document which explains this very clear, though not as technical as Ian Hickson's mini FAQ about the alternate text of images is. It should be a more graphical document, preferably hosted at

The second thing that should get more attention is target="_blank", which is absolutely unnecessary, since its very existence. Authors should also be stopped using this. I especially hate all the forum software that does this automatically! Some people argue that we shouldn't give the user all the control. I agree with that, though we shouldn't make it harder to browse the world wide web. The first thing a new user does is to learn how to use the back-button (that's also a reason why most Flash-sites are a disaster).

So if you know anyone who is still using tables et cetera, let him at least care a bit for accessibility!


  1. Perhaps you can propose this to the WaSP, instead of complaining on your weblog ;-)

    Posted by Mark Wubben at

  2. I can go along with your train of thoughts a long way, I've actually been running a personal accessibility campaign. I've convinced a couple of dozens of webdesigners into making their websites more accessible (and using webstandards) over the years.

    What I have difficulty with is that you say this should be up to WaSP. I don't agree. WaSP is about webstandards. Using webstandards has a positive influence on the accessibility of websites, but it's not a webstandard by itself.

    The accessiblity of websites is the WAI's concern, and —in my opinion— that is exactly how it should be.

    The only problem of the WAY is though, that they seem to have difficulty communicating their thoughts to the 'public', very much like W3C had difficulty communicating webstandards to this same 'public'. In W3C's case, this is where WaSP came in, and did an awesome job. The WAI could use a similar help, but not from the same organisation.

    Just my 2 cents...

    Posted by ACJ at

  3. Anne, Do you hate the use of 'target="_blank"' or just when a page opens in a new browser window? If you only hate the last you should the set the browser.block.target_new_window variable in mozilla to true. You probably know how set those variables in mozilla. (about:config in the addressbar)

    Posted by Anonymous Coward at

  4. At Coward :-),
    I always right-click on links to open them in new tabs, or I use CTRL + mouse-click. But I know how lots of people dislike it, since they can't use the back-button to return to the previous page for example.

    Posted by Anne at

  5. We always welcome another 'must' , 'should not' , 'must not' campaign. The message you posted isn't nearly strong enough, though. Why, the accessible torch-bearers might just as well go after every single table that is left on the web. Down for the count with those using transitional doctypes. Volunteer committees of three will take care of the poor souls still using the bgsound tag or a flash splash intro. They will all be publicly demasked. Their names will be posted on the manifesto alongside grocery stores and cinemas. Methinks a red color would be suitable for a billboard 'must-not' logo. What do you think? Come to think of it, we should probably add an amendment to the Constitution. After all, Ordnung Muß Sein!

    You have my full support,


    George M. Orwell

    Posted by Moose at

  6. "target=blank" is not part of the latest standards, and there are some specific reasons about that - it would be tedious to enumerate them all here & now.

    just one question @coward: as you seem to be admitting that there is people who like or dislike new pages opening when following a link - would it not be more sensible to leave to the individual user to decide whether to open in new window or not? instead of leaving the decision to the user to *blocking* them? if there would be *one* way of conceiving the navigavibility (what an awful word) of sites, everybody soon would learn how to use their browser - and this is where standards come in: this *one* way of conceiving things on the web is given by standards. and standards do *not* include target. instead of wanting standards to change, and wanting people to edit their config files, join standards and help giving users that *minimum* education on how to browse the web...

    *my* 2 cents... ;-)

    Posted by csant at

  7. Moose made me laugh so much I nearly choked.

    Maybe it was the wine I'd drunk recently.

    It's a balance, isn't it? A couple of posts ago, you were wondering whether accessibility were possible; now you publish a rallying call for it. In my view, you weren't wholly wrong then, and you're not wholly wrong now. It's a balancing act.

    People like to reduce things to clearly comprehensible principles. It's easier; it also, as that wise arctic mammal knows, makes it easier to throw stones at others, which is, I'm afraid, often pleasant.

    Here's a parallel: I remember reading a newspaper interview with an "alternative" comedian known for satirizing the "politically incorrect". He reacted perplexedly when asked by the interviewer whether political correctness could not have a "dark side". How could it when what it amounted to was a concern for justice, he responded. Hmm ... I have to say his social aerial was a little ill-tuned for a would-be socio-political satirist. That's a bit like saying, "What could possibly be wrong with the ideal of marital fidelity," when discussing The Scarlet Letter.

    Similarly, accessibilty sounds like it has to be a good thing. But I think accessibility "rules", narrowly, and certainly mistakenly - it happens - understood, could actually damage pages without helping anyone.

    I think that the Web Standards Project should start a new campaign.

    They do pay attention to that. A statistical analysis of their entries showed that those to do with accessibility concerns figured high on the list.

    Why not do something yourself? People probably don't read me: they do read you. You could add a section on accessibilty resources to your "Externals".

    Posted by Michael at