Recently, while gathering materials on a paper on accessibility in SharePoint 2007, I have stumbled upon an article by Roger Johansson about Web standards vs. Accessibility I have read a while ago. And although the article has been written back in 2005, it has opened my eyes on accessibility - once again. Are you sure that accessible web sites don't have to be valid?
In his article Roger presents his opinion on web standards in combination with accessibility: is it really required for a site to have valid markup in order to be accessible? Quite some people say that it's not necessary and that they can deliver an accessible web site which hasn't been built using the valid markup. Although it sounds weird, because accessibility is all about quality and standards, they are right. If you don't believe me, have a look at the WCAG 1.0 guidelines: there is no such requirement saying that your markup must be valid in order to be accessible.
Still, reading Roger's article, has made me realize something I've been doing wrong lately.
It is not easy to explain to the customers what accessibility really is. And by explain I mean: make them understand why it is important and why they should care and invest some more money to learn their people how to provide accessible content. I have noticed that I tend to explain the idea of accessibility using the example of blind visitors who simply can't access the information on the web site unless it has been provided in an accessible way.
As Roger said:
Accessibility is not just about screen readers or blind people. True accessibility is building one site that works for everybody, disabled or not, and whatever user agent or operating system they prefer.
These two sentences have made it clear for me what accessibility is about. It's about creating one web accessible by all of us - no matter what, no matter when.