In his article “What is an Accessible Website” for the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAAWDS), Jim Byrne poses the problem of designating a definition to website accessibility – what is the definition for making the content of a website available to all people everywhere? He details four possible definitions and, frankly, overwhelms me with his first three possibilities. With possibly thousands of different languages around the world and countless disabilities/disadvantages among web users, how in the world do you come up with one site for everyone? How would my site be understood by both a blind Ugandian and a learning disabled businessman in Berlin? The idea of creating content in multiple languages for multiple abilities is daunting. I see the fairness in such a task and the advantages of reaching a greater audience, but how in the world…?
So his conclusion, which I agree with, is to not design a site from this perspective of accessibility. Design a site with specific users in mind for most aspects, but when it comes to accessibility, design to the computer first. This makes sense and is much less worrisome for a newbie, like me. Use cascading style sheets in order to make available those layers that people with disabilities and/or assistive technology will be able to utilize for their specific purposes. This allows the designer/developer the freedom to create while giving them the flexibility to consider accessibility without getting bogged down by it.
Though I still have miles and miles to go before I learn all I need to learn as a web designer and developer, it is lessons such as this that give me the perspectives and guidelines I need to see a website for more than just interesting words in pretty designs.