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Access by the Books

Many well-intended accessibility books preach fire and brimstone. The smell of sulfur does not inspire designers. All too frequently, these books contain only visually ugly—or completely unrealistic—examples of accessible sites, along with impractical advice such as “never specify type sizes.” Some in the field are hostile to design. Others have no experience in developing commercial sites. Designers might come away from these books believing that accessibility is irrelevant.

Other books are well researched and fueled by passionate insight. These are worth the devotee's time. But they are not recommended for the general web professional because they are pitched at readers who live with one or more disabilities. In serving that readership, these books spend much time presenting alternate input methods and assessing the merits and demerits of alternative user agents. Nondisabled designers are likely to feel alienated if not unconsciously fearful that somehow they too will be afflicted. Fear of blindness, paralysis, and other disabilities partly fuels some designers' discomfort with the very concept of accessibility, and such books will not help designers shirk that prejudice.


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