Coding with Jesse

Accessibility Is About Minimizing Requirements

September 30th, 2007

What are the minimum requirements for using the web?

  • an Internet connection
  • a web browser

What are the minimum requirements for using your web site? Well, the answer could include any of the following:

  • a high-speed Internet connection
  • a keyboard
  • a mouse (and the ability to use a mouse)
  • a large computer screen (eg. 1024x768+)
  • specific web browser versions (eg. IE 7, FF 2+)
  • specific browser plugins and version (eg. Flash 7 or VRML)
  • JavaScript
  • a PDF viewer
  • near perfect vision
  • lack of colour blindness
  • knowledge of a language (English) or jargon (web development)
  • potentially many more...

How many requirements does your site make? How many are really necessary and how many can you eliminate?

Being accessible means minimizing requirements. The less requirements you have, the more freedom people have to use your site, the more accessible it is to the world.

The more requirements you make, the more you're requiring people to have specific devices, software and even physical abilities that may not be possible. As a result, the site becomes inaccessible to some.

Of course, some requirements are necessary. Can you imagine a web site translated into every language? And what would this blog be without assuming a basic knowledge of HTML, JavaScript and CSS?

But how many are just trivial requirements, made to save a bit of programming or decision making? And how many are simply unreasonable given the wide range of physical and technical limitations people face in the world?

One thing is for sure: plain HTML makes the fewest requirements. Start with that and add other technologies carefully and unobtrusively.