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Chapter 1. Introduction > Accessibility From the Developer’s Point of View: You...

Accessibility From the Developer’s Point of View: You Can Make a Difference

You can make a real difference in the way people with disabilities experience the Web by designing and building your sites so that people with disabilities can access and use them as effectively as people without disabilities. And if you’re someone who has responsibility for seeing to it that Web sites get built for your organization, you can make sure the people who will be building the sites for you understand that accessibility—not just compliance—is a high-priority requirement.

Accessibility Guidelines and Standards Are Resources for Design

When we said that accessibility goes beyond compliance we didn’t mean that the standards don’t matter or that it isn’t important to follow the guidelines. But we did mean to say that compliance in and of itself isn’t the point. The point is maximum accessibility. Accessibility is defined in terms of the user’s experience, that is, his or her ability to access and use the site and its resources as effectively as someone without a disability.

That’s where the guidelines and standards come in. WCAG 1.0 and the Section 508 standards are means to achieving that end. They’re tools you can use to do your part in creating a significantly better Web experience for people with disabilities—and all the people who visit your site or use the resources you provide. With that in mind, we’ll be talking extensively about guidelines and standards throughout this book to help you add them to your creative repertoire.

Good Design Is Accessible Design

Whether you’re a Web developer or someone who manages Web developers, we want to persuade you that good design is accessible design. No responsible Web designer, in 2002, would create a Web site knowing that African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, or members of any other ethnic or racial group would be unable to use it simply because of their racial or ethnic heritage. It should be equally unthinkable to create Web sites that people with disabilities can’t use simply because of their disabilities. It’s not enough for a site to be visually appealing. The visual should work in concert with other senses, too. The site should appeal to the ear and the eye and allow for economy and ease of movement.

Accessibility doesn’t just happen. On the contrary: what you get when accessibility isn’t factored into the design equation is a site that’s at least partly or maybe completely inaccessible. That’s why so many existing sites will have to be retrofitted, often at considerable expense.

This book will show you that there are lots of things you can do to retrofit an existing Web site for accessibility, just as there are lots of things architects and engineers can do to retrofit a building with wheelchair ramps and wider doorways. Thousands of sites will be retrofitted over the next few years. That will make a big difference in the way many people with disabilities experience the Web. But the best experiences will happen as developers who share our belief that good design is accessible design make maximum accessibility a design goal from the beginning of every project.

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