Overdoing accessibility

Sometimes when people first learn about Web accessibility they look for quick ways of improving the sites they build. This often leads to misuse or overuse of certain HTML features that are meant to aid accessibility, but when used wrongly have no effect and can actually have the opposite effect by making the page less accessible and less usable.

Many of the commonly misused accessibility features are HTML attributes. It is my feeling that they get misused either by developers who mean well but don't quite understand how the attributes help end users, or by developers who add them simply to be able to tick "accessibility" off their to-do list and shut up their manager, client or whoever is pestering them about making the site more accessible.

Here are a few examples of HTML attributes that are often misused or overused:

In early August this year, Patrick H. Lauke held an excellent presentation where he brings up many of these overused accessibility features. The presentation slides can be downloaded in several formats from Too much accessibility. There is also an audio recording of the presentation, which is really great since you can listen to Patrick talk while going through the slides.

Patrick also brings up several other features that can improve accessibility if used correctly, so I highly recommend that you take the time to go through the entire presentation. You will come away with a much better understanding of why the HTML attributes I mention here can be problematic when used wrong, and how to use them well.

Posted on December 17, 2007 in Accessibility