I myself approach my own site designs as freelancer from a very practical point of view, in many ways similar to yours, and try to convey this to my students. And your post is just so well written and clear that I will have to share it with my class tomorrow ;) thanks ;)

Patrick said on November 27, 2007

Jon, excellent article. I know the accessibility community can be quite zealous in their arguments; I'm in that community. It's nice to see the points raised by you, Dustin, and Jeff. I've had a hard time with many designers/developers who just don't see the return on working in accessibility features to their work. I think the perception is that being accessible means not having the whiz-bang, enhanced features or good design and that's in large part the fault of the accessibility community. I don't think we've delivered our message well.

Ben Henschel said on November 27, 2007

Great Article Jon, a lot of people just make their sites accessible to a variety of web browser and resolutions (actually some people don't even do that). But just like you said, it most certainly doesn't stop there.

Dustin Brewer said on November 27, 2007

Awesomely thorough article, I like the relationship between accessibility and usability. It puts things into a new perspective that I may not have fully considered. That "link to" thing is hilarious, I can only imagine what the end user would think.

Joe Clark said on November 27, 2007

Typical text-and-graphics Web sites can be much more than Jeff Croft a€?80%a€? accessible with little effort. Jeff is getting craftier at restating his a€?Real code isna€?t all that importanta€? ideology.

Johan said on November 27, 2007

Accessible should be catering content for anyone but we need different solutions to make the internet an accessible medium (translate the chunks of content in the form we need), usability is more *how do I find access to the controlsof the user interface the easiest way"?, and "How do I make everything readable
and understandable=the content, actions eg 'find stuff, list stuff, complete a form, buy)

Jeff Croft said on November 27, 2007

@Joe Clark: You may be right. It might be more than 80%. There are two simple reasons I chose 80/20 over some more precise percentages:

1. I don't know the precise percentage (and neither do you).
2. 80/20 is a well-known, widely accepted principle.

As I said, you may well be right. What can be done with relatively little effort (beyond what any good HTML author would do by default) may be more than 80%. I really don't know. I do know it's not 100%, though. Sorry for the confusion.

Tom Watson said on November 27, 2007

Great article Jonathan and I completely agree as well. It's always a tough balance pushing the envelope and making sure you're doing it in a way that helps keep things accessible to as many users as possible.

David Bolter said on November 27, 2007

Yup, accessibility is usability. I played a little with these concepts here: http://mindforks.blogspot.com/2006/12/solving-disability.html

Mike Cherim said on November 27, 2007

Well said, Jonathan. You'll get no arguments from me. Much of it is similar in sentiment if not in words to some stuff I've written on my blog and at Accessites. It's nice to see an article like this sending a like message.

Rob Enslin said on November 28, 2007

I like your post because you are being honest and reasonable. It could be quite easy for you to preach how complex accessibility can be, but you haven't. I guess from your post you could say that by designing websites and (and html emails) based on web standards all the other *important* aspects are inherently covered (slight generalisation here). Thanks.

Kim Siever said on November 28, 2007

Conclusion, accessibility is just usability but marketed to a particular segment of the population.

I don't know that I agree with this statement. I was under the impression that accessibility was about making a website accessible to all. I think it is important to point out that accessibility isn't just about making content available to persons with physical impairments. It's also about making content available to persons independent of browser, device or medium to viewing that content. Whether a person listens to the content, reads it on a cellphone, pr prints it out, it should be easily accessible.

Jonathan Snook said on November 28, 2007

@Kim, you've described what you feel accessibility is, but what in your mind is usability and how does it differ from accessibility?

stef said on November 28, 2007

great article jon. thanks - stef

Kim Siever said on November 28, 2007

In my mind usability describes how ones uses the website. Accessibility describes how a user accesses content. I do think there is a lot of overlap between the two.

The point of my comment was that accessibility is more than catering to a specific group of people, not whether there is any difference between accessibility and usability.

Dusan Smolnikar said on November 28, 2007

Great article, Jonathan!

I've always wondered myself, where the line between usability and accessibility was. My simple definition of the two terms is:

Usability
Making sure someone visiting my site for the first time will know how to use it. It targets a majority of people, everyone that isn't familiar with my website.
Accessibility
Making sure people with any special needs (being blind, having a non-perfect eyesight or maybe just using a different kind of browser, say mobile phone, etc.) will be able to read my website. This means people who see my website in a different way that I do.

But the two do overlap many times. Will a, let's say, small font harm usability or accessibility? Probably both.

Here are the steps I usually take to assure a website is as accessible as I can make:

Now, what I can't understand is how some people tend to prioritize "accessibility" too much. They end up with a website which is very accessible in theory, but doesn't work on some less standards compliant browsers, such as, say IE6. Great, you've covered the 5% of people with disabilities but forgot about 50% of people using Internet Explorer. Well done there. Do take care about accessibility, but don't let this mean the other 95% of users are going to have a less pleasant experience. Jonathan hinted this a couple of times as well with javascript and flash - don't be afraid to use them, just take care.

Kilian Valkhof said on November 28, 2007

Jon, great article!

I understand your reasoning begin accessibility = usability, though I prefer Kim's variation. Making that difference makes it easier to finding a solution to a particular problem, i.e. does the user have a problem getting to info in the first place (usability), or does the user have a problem doing something with it? (accessibility).

Abilitynet (U.K. based) held a survey and found that sites with high accessibility are 35% more liked by visitors (paraphrasing Robin Christopherson of Abilitynet at FOWA London).

I think the best advice is: don't make assumptions. Like you showed with your 'link to', I've found that it goes wrong more often than not. Stick to what you know and use simple html to just describe the data, and don't "add" accessibility features, just remove culprits.

Stas said on November 29, 2007

Accessibility is usability - well said. Hope that will understand so called "designers" and start to make sites for people not for themselves.

Oliver said on December 01, 2007

It's the same story about everything nowadays, people get clued up over the little nitty gritty things when they should just be designing the site. You code it well enough and take your time while doing it them people are going to be able to access it through your thoughtfulness of how you've coded things.

patrick h. lauke said on December 03, 2007

@Kim: you're describing what some would term "universal access". browsers, operating systems, even individual settings and preferences (e.g. somebody browsing with CSS on but images off) are all things that can potentially be changed by the user. however, jonathan is taking the narrower definition of accessibility as "for users with disabilities" - the barriers they face are not something that they can change easily.

universal access, in my mind, is more often than not a byproduct of accessibility...but not its underlying reason/purpose.

Jesse Rodgers said on December 03, 2007

Usability *is* accessibility for that huge segment of cognitive disabilities that always seem to come second to those with more obvious disabilities. In Canada there are over 600 000 people with learning disabilities (likely more, and certainly all of our politicians)... spending some time on usability makes it better for a lot of people.

A technically accessible site can be totally unusable... which might have been said already ;) Just saying it again.

Damjan Mozeti?? said on December 13, 2007

This article is a nice eye-opener, because for many people accessibility simply means big fonts and high contrast. Thumbs up!

Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.
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