Access me... #3

...options and worst case scenarios...

is this helpful…?

I'm not able to see what's really helpful to some, and what's not. Some accessibility options seems to have been implemented as an afterthought, while access should be priority no.1. The whole issue is quite confusing at times (...sigh...).

Figuring out what may happen to a line of (x)html or a CSS-definition in every possible case, is close to impossible. Still, the only way to secure access to our web pages is through knowledge. You may access some on this page.

windows accessibility options…

Operating Systems(OS) comes with a lot of options. Some of these are "accessibility options", but the results from using these might turn out to be anything but improved accessibility.

I'll point out some reasons for these questionable results.

  1. OS-developers have made assumptions about how a web page is organized.
  2. OS-developers have made assumptions about what type of access-problems users may have.
  3. web designers don't have a clue about these options, because they never need them.

All reasons carry the mark of "ignorance", and maybe that's not such a bad thing. However, by "turning the blind eye" to the existence of these options, we may make them even more useless to even more visitors.

On windows-OS, win2K pro at least, this "horror-house" only affects Internet Explorer in a negative way. Browsers like Opera, Mozilla / Firefox and Lynx may even gain some, because only their "outer skin" is slightly affected. These browsers have their own, internal, options, and these will work just fine.

Given the fact that most windows-users only have Internet Explorer installed, some of our visitors may end up having some of these "mixed blessings" turned on. Make a note of it ... and move on.

Example: this very page will not survive well when subjected to some of the extreme accessibility options in windows-OS – if viewed in Internet Explorer. I'm avare of this, but a complete fix would create even worse accessibility problems...
- Users on windows-OS have so many other browsers and software-solutions to choose from, so I won't consider this to be a real accessibility-problem to even one single visitor on the entire world wide web. Thus, I'm moving on...

IE/win - internal options…

Any page where the text is too small to be read, and where the text is by design not resizeable, is by definition: badly designed. It has long been a practice amongst web designers to cramp as much text as possible in as little space as possible, and try to keep it stable as an image by defining font size in pixels since they know Internet Explorer can't resize pixel-sized text.

Internet Explorer isn't completely lost here, although there are signs that many web designers are completely unaware of IE's defense-mechanisms. It's about time to put up some heavy resistance against such moronic design-practices.

ignore font size specified in page…

That should do it! Just follow this line of action:

  • Tools > Internet Options > General > Accessibility

- Any bells ringing now?

Let's go one step further:

  • Ignore colors specified on Web pages
  • Ignore font styles specified on Web pages
  • Ignore font sizes specified on Web pages

Don't be surprised if our carefully styled web page doesn't survive in IE-win - not even with font-size set in pixels. IE/win may simply ignore that part of our styles.
See: MSIE: Ignore Font Sizes for more info.
- I find this option quite useful on my high resolution screens...

buggy option…
illustration: overlapping text-lines

The problem is that although IE-win may now use its own (default) font-size, it is unable to override our defined line heights if line-height is defined in pixels in our stylesheets. The result is often ugly, not to mention: unreadable, so don't define line-heights in pixels.

To those who are surprised after reading this; old IE4 has these options, so you are a bit late on it...

Opera 7.5+…

These are really useful:

  • Zoom the whole page with images and all - 20% to 1000%   (my favorite)
  • Tools > Preferences... Alt+P > Fonts > Minimum font size (pixel)

Minimum font size is set by the user, and our nice little 8px link-text became twice the size (or something). Extreme scale, but testing to around 25px should do in most cases.

illustration: Google add

Problem: the same as in IE-win, so don't define line-height in pixels or other restricting units.

Older versions have a different path to these options, but the same functionality.

Opera's main scaling-method: Zoom, is not a problem. It will never hurt a good web page to be zoomed (that's why it's my favorite).


These options are very useful:

  • View > Text Size > Increase CTRL++
  • Tools > Options > General > Fonts and Colors > Minimum font size

Maybe not so small link-text anymore... Moz/FF are adjusting line heights well, but may still throw in a surprise if we define line-height in px or do other tricky things.

Mac OS…

Opera and Moz/FF (Gecko)...
The same options as in windows versions. No added surprises.

Internet Explorer...
The same options as Moz/FF (Gecko). No minimum font size setting available.

Safari and Omniweb...
Text-zooming much the same as Moz/FF (Gecko), included Minimum font size settings.
These browsers rely on System wide preferences for further accessibility options.

Thanks to Philippe Wittenbergh for info on Mac-OS / browsers. And yes, I do have an iMac now. Cute little thing.

it's not a major problem…

Never mind the slightly weird look a web page can get when someone overrides your styles. That's usually not a major problem unless you want everything to stay pixel-perfect – because it won't. Just get used to it.

It is when things start running together and elements are overlapping, that we should be re-thinking our design-methods. Let it space out a bit more – when needed, and adjust to the envirnment at the user-end.

The most important thing in my view is that a well prepared page is fully accessible – even if it is breaking up slightly. After all: accessibility is the reason why browsers have these options.

You may go to text-encoding next.
You may also look at tips and go up to access me #1.

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 01.nov.2004
last rev: 29.apr.2006

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.

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Dear web design experts:

Don't tell me that nobody use these options...
...I'm not a 'nobody'...

You're right, I'm not an expert on web design...
...I'm a software expert...

No, I'm not blind or deaf, and I don't have any major disabilities...
...not yet...

Yes, I might be in the minority with some of my views on accessibility...
...that's the whole issue...

The weakness of the Web is that access can be prevented by everyone. No particular skills needed.
Georg, expert on usability and man/machine interfacing since 1982

Dear visitor:

No, I'm sorry...
I'm still unable to make Internet Explorer perform as well as any good browser.

You're completely right.
It didn't help one bit that I wrote the word "accessibility" one more time.

external resources:

…2005 - 2006