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The big Accessibility misunderstanding issue. My Grandma, vs the W3C Consortium!

Many web designers think that website accessibility is about making an html/css valid website. Trying to achieve this, they use some validation checking engines such as http://validator.w3.org/

We have a HUGE misunderstanding here. Making a valid html/css website does not mean that you have an accessible website. Accessibility means that everybody (including visually impaired people) gains easy and successful access to your website's functions and content. Accessibility is a term strongly connected to the science of psychology. It is about the appropriate use of colors, the type of fonts used, the graphic elements of the website including images and backgrounds. Accessibility is about the structure of your web presentation/application itself.

The true accessibility factors are not detectable by ANY automated engine including W3C and similar scripts. Only a human can actually determine whether your website is accessible or not. Accessibility validation requires a human being, not a script. It is all about human psychology.

W3C consortium wrongfully uses the "accessibility" term to promote its (often useful) online services. W3C actually confuses accessility with compatibility. It is necessary for us to follow commonly accepted html/css guidelines when developing a website. In this way we may also succeed a cross-browser / cross-platform validity. But we shall not confuse terms like "source code validity", or "cross browser compatibility" with the "Accessibility" one.

Here is my advice: In order for you to make an accessibility test after you have uploaded your website, put your old grandmother (usually old grandmothers suffer from eye problems) in front of a pc monitor and ask her to use your website. If she succeeds using your website, then you will pass the first test. Then ask other users to browse your website and gather feedback. Be careful: You have to do this test by physical contact and not remotely. You have to closely look at the user's behavior towards your website step by step. Watch his moves, his glances, the time he needs to understand what is going on...

Surely your grandma will prove better than W3C consortium regarding accessibility validation. Trust me.


Writer: Panagiotis Perros 
(Hyper Center, Managing Director, MSc, PhD in Ethics, University of Athens)