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Questionable Elements

UK Accessibility > UK Government guidelines > Questionable Elements

Some of the UK government accessibility guidelines are puzzling, possibly even ill-advised. Here's a quick look at these problem areas.

Use HTML as the default information format

This is merely out of date. XHTML is a better format. It would be perverse for anybody to be criticised for using XHTML rather than HTML. The W3C is currently promoting XHTML over HTML.

But the guideline does make sense when interpreted as - use HTML in preference to PDFs and Word documents on the Web.

Ensure that users of screen magnifiers do not have to scroll sideways to view important content or navigation

I've know about this rule for years, and still don't understand it. There's really no way to avoid sideways scrolling when using a screen magnifier. By definition, the magnified section cannot fit in the same width as the original content.

Use interim accessibility solutions so that assistive technologies and older browsers will operate correctly

Is "interim accessibility solutions" a polite expression for bodges and workarounds? If so, it looks like we have permission to use them.

A myth surrounding website development is that building accessible and inclusive pages is expensive, they have to be dull and boring, and they have to be written for the lowest common denominator - this is not the case!

Hmmm. A little strident? It is "not entirely the case", true. But if you are budgeting for a fully accessible site, and making plans for its design, it might be a good idea to at least be familiar with The Myth, even if you don't intend to believe it. See Overview for more details.

When buying design services it is inadequate for the designer to simply present colour visuals or mock-ups of the look and feel. It is important these are also presented to you as HTML mark up. When you buy web design you are also buying the source coding that will render the visual onto computer screens and the standard of this is the backbone in achieving HTML validation and meeting the mandatory WAI requirements.

This isn't entirely compatible with destroying The Myth mentioned above. If you demand coded mock-ups from your design agency, they will charge you more, and quite fairly, because it requires a lot more work. It is certainly not normal practice in the commercial world.

You also have to ask yourself if you will be able to fully understand the HTML code they provide. If you can't assess it in detail, there's not much point in looking at it.

Perhaps a reasonable interpretation of this rule would be to state the accessibility level you are aiming for, and assess uncoded mock-ups under the proviso that the final coding must reach the required standard.

I have personal experience of seeing design mock-ups that were accepted for a WAI Double-A standard site when the design wasn't really suitable for that level. I had to do the HTML coding for them, and the end result full of workarounds and far from ideal. It's definitely a good idea to think about the HTML at the design stage, so this kind of mess can be avoided, but it's probably not cost-effective to do all the coding at this early stage.

Note: the government guidelines are rarely used in practice. See UK Accessibility for more details.


This Tinhat page is valid XHTML to WAI Double-A standard