Accessibility Knobs

I was over at Jeff’s blog about to comment again when I realized that it was a post I should have it here. For reference you should also read Roger’s diatribe and the comments attached.

A part of the problem of accessibility mavens who whine (and those who piss and moan on their behalf) lies in confusing Accessibility, i.e. being able to access content, with personal comfort.

Let me explain.

I was having problems seeing when driving at night, but not while seeing in the dark, so I went to the eye doc. My night vision is fine. In fact, it’s better than most. Dark or light wasn’t the problem, it was dark AND light. I have problems with high-contrast lighting situations. If I were Roger, I’d have written about headlamps creating high-contrast situations is unacceptable, and, without research backing me up, whine about how this needs to change so that the streets are more comfortable accessible for me.

When reading sites like Veerle’s or Daring Fireball I get the ghosting and retinal residue that he refers to, although neither site is particularly high-contrast (my opinion), they are both inverted. It’s very easy to ‘see’ the residue on inverted designs, but dark-on-light causes residue, too. The residue is the entire area and isn’t as noticeable because it covers so much of your eyes own viewport or visible area, and, since it’s the light parts that create lighter residue, the larger area bleeds into the lines of text, making them smaller and less likely to be noticed, thus reducing the overall noticeability of the residue. For the same person in the same ambient light reading the same display, sites that are at contrast ratio but inverse to each other will both create visual residue. Because it’s not a function of the site or the colors, it’s a function of the display.

Contrast is an issue for many, but contrast and inversion aren’t the same thing. Inversion is not an accessibility issue, it’s aesthetics. Contrast can be an accessibility issue, but the solution is usually outside of the scope of web design.

Instead of truly understanding the situation Roger assumes it’s an accessibility problem. Experts should avoid knee-jerk reactions, as those reactions feed the idiocy of reactionaries — like Commenter #14 Danny Hope. Now you have the comments of an accessibility expert being used as an excuse to never bother with accessibility. Danny evidently doesn’t understand accessibility, web standards or how the two relate, yet he’s a professional web designer, so woe to the masses who must go to him for advice!

Roger can help himself by using tools developed for televisions decades prior to the first home computer: ADJUST YOUR DISPLAY! And no, brightness isn’t the only adjustment, you can control the contrast, too, and that’s where your problem lies. I would think it was obvious, but I guess not.

Making something accessible doesn’t begin and end at the web designer, there are many pieces to it. If accessibility ends with the software (browser or OS), Roger might be excused for not knowing about display settings because even tho he can use a browser, he might know next to nothing about his computer. It’s a stretch, but it’s possible. However, since a computer is the primary tool for accessing the internet how can you not know about the basic hardware controls and still claim to be an expert on accessibility? Roger’s understanding of accessibility seems flawed to me, but understanding and accessible are two different things.