Accessible, yes; usable, no
19 February 2004
It's always helpful when an anonymous reader sends you a message saying your site "fails miserably". In this case, it was my "claim" to Bobby AAA approval that they took umbrage to. It's best not to rebuke such scathing criticism directly, but needless to say that this site (or at least the home page) is now Bobby AAA approved, and all it took was three seconds and one full stop.
However, in the process of getting approval I discovered that I could indeed empathise with Anonymous_Reader_37's view of my site's accessibility. If you have a look at the Bobby report page with the error on it (saved for posterity) it looks like your page is an affront to the existence of the Internet. There's bold text, line numbers, warnings and priority levels all over the report. What isn't wrong with your site?
Unfortunately, if your site is approved, the report looks exactly the same. The only difference is that there's a rather small "Bobby AAA Approved" graphic halfway down the page, and that one previous error has disappeared. If you don't know what you're looking for, it still seems like your site is an affront to the existence of the Internet.
I can understand the exigencies of automated detection of accessibility compliance – there's much that a computer cannot (at least for the moment) determine, such as colour choice, and that's what most of the warnings are about. If you are diagnosing your own site, such advice is great, but it does confuse anyone who is quickly checking the accessibility of a site.
This could all be pretty easily solved by placing a prominent "All automated checks passed!" at the top of the page or – if it didn't pass – by listing the automated errors at the top of the page. I think that the W3C gets it pretty right when you're validating a web page. There's a nice big message at the top saying yay or nay, and forthcoming explanations of the nays (if you are unlucky).
I realise that both sites are free and help in a very important area, and for that I bless them, but with some tiny changes they could be oh so much better.
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