Now this is certainly an old article. Published on April 7th of 2000, this article was written at a time where the adoption of CSS was still a debate. The article focuses on why we as developers and designers should be pushing for an accessible web. I was sent this article by my Web Development professor last semester. This article really made me think about how others experience the web and the applications we use on a daily basis.
John Allsopp's article borders between an appeal to designers and a philosophical discussion of the web and its inherent need to be accessible.
Unlike mediums that came before them, the web is almost infinitely customizable and controllable. John Allsopp challenges this idea, he believes that designers and developers are not the controllers of webpages, rather the users are the controllers.
But beneath questions like “how do I make my pages look the same on every platform” and “how can I make my fonts appear identical on the Macintosh and Windows” is an underlying question – “how do I control the user’s browser?” Indeed, the word control turns up with surprising frequency.
-- John Allsopp
The first key to creating an accessible webpage is to relinquish complete control.
The nature of the web is that everyone has access to it in whatever format they want. Some people may be using screen readers or they may have mobility issues which require them to interact with their devices without a keyboard or mouse. When designing a website, it is key for a designer or developer to consider how these people would be able to interact with their page. Using native controls inside of HTML and CSS gives people the ability to alter your page to fit their use case. If someone needs to alter the font size because they are visually impaired, they can increase the font size on a page. However, if the designer decided to make the font exactly
14pt, then that accessibility customization becomes much more difficult
The journey begins by letting go of control, and becoming flexible.
-- John Allsopp
A great website is a site that anyone can experience. This doesn't mean that it needs to look plain or be low on features. It just means that it needs to be adaptable. By taking time during the design period of a website or application to consider accessibility and adaptability, you can make someones day. That is what is so beautiful about the web. Just by conforming to simple standards such as using adaptable font sizes, differentiated colors, and percentage based layouts you can create a webpage that could give someone the ability to fully experience your work.
John Allsopp's entire philosophy that adaptability is truly accessibility is something that I believe more people need to hear. Making your pages and applications truly adaptable will allow your users to make them theirs. It is impossible to solve every person's accessibility needs; humans are fundamentally different. But if you provide the ability for others to adapt your pages and applications, you create most accessible pieces of software.
It is the nature of the web to be flexible, and it should be our role as designers and developers to embrace this flexibility, and produce pages which, by being flexible, are accessible to all.
-- John Allsopp