Web Accessibility – A Small Part of a Jigsaw

Where does Accessibility start, and where does it end? For most,Accessibility is about creating Web content that can be accessed universally, with reference to whatever version of the WorldWide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Even for Web Accessibility, things do not end there. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a process that also includes the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG).

The ATAG has a two-fold purpose: "…to assist developers in designing authoring tools that produce accessible Web content and to assist developers in creating an accessible authoring interface."

The UAAG "…provides guidelines for designing user agents that lower barriers to Web accessibility for people with disabilities…".

So, not only do we have pathways for creating accessible content, but also for having an accessible means of creating that accessible content and of rendering that content. Developers of Web content would do well to familiarise themselves with ATAG and UAAG, as these can both impact on what happens to their content, and how it comes into being in the first place. (Badly coded user agents and authoring tools are NOT, in the authors view, an excuse for producing bad content.)

This is, however, still only a small part of a jigsaw. accessibility does not stop here. Close your user agent (browser) and your authoring tool – be it a sophisticated Content Management System or a lowly text editor. What are you left with? The computer's operating system. And just how accessible is that?

Those who have spent considerable time testing and repairing the accessibility of their content, should open their minds and apply a similar process to the operating system as a whole. Just how accessible is it? Does it make unexpected sounds and movement that might confuse? Can it be operated with a keyboard or pointing device alone?

Also have a look at other applications on your computer. How intuitive and accessible are they? Would they, if presented as Web content, pass the test?

Then move a little further back (literally). Look at the computer itself, the positioning and ergonomics of the display, keyboard and locator. Are these as fully accessible as they could be for you? Or for another person?

The further away from which we look, the more we can see of the jigsaw puzzle that is accessibility. It neither starts nor ends with Web content, but Web content is nevertheless a crucial piece, without which, the puzzle would be incomplete.

Now that we have seen the shape of the puzzle (and looked at the picture on the lid of the box), we should be better placed to fit in our little piece of Web Accessibility – in the right place and the right way around.