Access me... #1 starts at the bottom...


I don't know how to create accessible web pages. I just try to avoid making them inaccessible. The following is how I go about it.

I start off by writing a page that will work in a no-CSS / no-javascript / no-images environment. That's Lynx described in one short sentence.

A browser like Lynx will read the source-code, and present its content with all elements defined by browser-defaults only. This is where the ordered source-code comes into play, and the use of each element as it is defined in the (x)html standards.

The best source order will let the main content come out on top when CSS is off, and the non-styled order isn't being cluttered by having navigation and other "less important stuff" mixed in with the main content just to get it positioned in the right places on graphical screens. I may write excessive source-code for presentational reasons, but I don't cheat on the use of elements in order to get a specific presentation. I leave that to CSS.

The goal on this level is to make sure as much of the content will get through as possible. It also has to make perfect sense on this no-nonsense level, as this is the foundation for accessible pages.


I make use of link-relations between web pages. They are the core of navigation throughout this site, while all the other links are adding flexibility.
Guess the back button is most important, so don't break it.

Capable browsers will give access to link-relations in the page head.These are also defined in the (x)html standards, and their use is recommended. Lynx is a very capable browser. So is Opera, and some Gecko-browsers have, or can be given, the same capability.

I fine tune link-relations and source-code in Opera's accessibility modes, and test its functionality in Lynx.


Clearly, not everything is working across browser-land. Some browsers give limited access no matter how I write web pages, but there are many browsers to choose from. It all comes down to each user's needs, which I can't cover completely because I don't know what they are.

Some so called "accessibility software" makes matters worse by not following any guidelines but their own, and by not providing web designers with anything to test on. I can't solve that problem at my end.

Different groups have different needs, and we who design web pages are given very limited access to descriptions and test-environments that can help us make our creations work for all of them. I am left with very limited options.

All the conditional "standards" for making content more accessible, are conflicting with each other—one way or another. These "standards" are also quite vague, and therefore of little or no use to me. They are probably of even less use to those who are in need of them.

Most available manual accessibility testing is best compared to "unreliable guesswork at a prize", and I most certainly would not leave an important subject like accessibility to some/any software-testing.

accessibility is important…

I recognise accessibility as the most important part of any web design. If we can't access it, then it is worth less than nothing - no matter how much work has gone into it.

My approach is to put everything that is important on a web page, into text.I also make choices about what's important enough to write about and what's not. I'm completely free when it comes to what I'm writing about and what I write about it. Even how I write it is for me—only—to decide upon. Standardized writing is not an option. We have enough "Lorem ipsum" around as it is.

I can write short—very short. however, I can't see any accessibility-reason for it. It may be a preference-thing to some though. I like it "short" myself at times, so that's why I write short headlines.

Generally; I do not simplify content in order to improve access. Visitors will have to level with me, or seek something that's closer to their own level. It's like that in all walks of life, so why should the world wide web be any different.

People who never try to access something that is at another level than their own, will eventually become unable to access anything. They won't be able to understand much of the surrounding world either, and I won't carry them through it. They will have to walk themselves.

the web author's approach…

If we think of writing for the web as if we are writing books with no pictures in them … if a book is any good, then readers with some ability to visualize will be at an advantage, while others may lose track and interest. That's to some extent what will happen on the web also.

We, the writers / authors / web designers, may have to work on our ability to express ourselves. At least make sure our spelling is good enough for software-translation into voice and braille. Perfection may be lost somewhat in weak software, but at least that's not going to be our fault.

My goal is to create web pages that provides visitors with a complete experience in a text-only environment, even if it can't be the same experience as the page provides with graphics and all to a visitor with all abilities at a "normal" level. That's about as close as we can get in our accessibility-efforts.

I also want my pages to stay "alive" and look the best they possibly can in the best graphical browsers. I'm not giving an inch when it comes to design. The good thing is that I don't have to make compromises—I can have plenty of both...

print ≠ screen…

I imitate some methods from paper-media. The width of a paragraph is limited, as it improves access. Contrast between text and background is also important. I always set background colors.

OTOH: screens and browsers aren't anything like print. No need (or use) to fix fonts and sizes, as these things are outside my control. Some "standard" and medium values and definitions, and then I leave these things to each visitor.

up to a point…

It is pointless to go very far along any of the "improved accessibility" paths. The solution is to stay close to the cross-road for all these paths, and do the best we can there. That way it may work relatively well everywhere.

The "trick" is to avoid inaccessible web pages and sites; by not building avoidable barriers. Then most web surfers will have access, and we can keep on designing web pages with "most" people in mind. To me that includes everyone who want access.

People who like to argue in length about lack of access for their prefered software, should be listen to—up to a point. If accomodating one small group makes web pages less accessible for the larger groups, then "some" software should be fixed, not our web pages.I have no way to test accessibility in all types and brands of software, but the basics are in place. Thus, software which cannot handle the basics, are not supported.

Nothing more to argue about really, but there's almost always room for slight improvements at our end. Just remember; "improvements" based on what someone 'says' or 'thinks' or 'have heard', is hardly ever worth the effort. Only 'real life' testing can tell us 'what works and what doesn't'.

I am writing about access and accessibility, based on my own understanding and experience. These writings are collected here, and I'll add and revise as I gain more understanding and experience on these subjects. New information is received and digested frequently, so I should be able to improve access to the subject of accessibility from time to time.

Here you have access to tips for improvements, accessibility options and text encoding. More will follow, and I'll provide access to it all.

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 01.nov.2004
last rev: 27.mar.2005

Access me...

Accessibility is not an option - it's the main thing.


  • introduction
  • Table of Content


  • this is PTL web-design
  • CSS sledgehammer
  • accessibility
  • more about access
  • Print enhanced page
  • Projection enhanced
  • Small Screen enhanced page
  • validity of xhtml and CSS
  • html tidy
  • Opera and me
  • Firefox vs. IE
the usual
  • the author
  • Copyright
the unusual
  • Molly speaks up
the additional
  • Examples
  • Demo pages

Two good friends - Lynx and Opera.
They both provide excellent access to the world wide web.
Make sure they find an open site ... yours.

Offsite resources:

Dear web design experts:

We can't quantify accessibility...
...we can only try to provide access.

If you want an accessibility button on a page; go make one yourself.
It's probably just as good as anyone else's.
Besides, you may choose your own colors and styles.

Sorry, no "AAA" here.
Try "???" on for size.

Dear visitor:

Visitors who don't know how to make use of available options in their own software, are out of luck.
I don't even know what software they have access to.

No, I can not make an image accessible in colors to visitors who can't see the image.
I may sometimes be able to describe it in a very colorful language though.

No, I can't make my writing accessible to illiterate.
I wrote; no!