Eighth – about men and machine

Jim Byrne’s article “What is an accessible website? Attempting a definition.” offers four approaches to define website accessibility. The fourth defines an accessible website as “One that will be accessible to machines first, and people second.” http://www.gawds.org/show.php?contentid=35 This post should expand on this, and also brainstorm, what if the reverse were true and accessible website would mean accessibility first to people and second to machines.

For me, it seems to be natural that a web site should be accessible first to machines. Without my computer, I cannot access any website. If my computer cannot read a website, for sure, I will not be able to do it either. Of course, this axiom is present also on a more nuanced level. If a website is not coded wisely enough, it may not be completely or partly accessible to some machines and their owners. I think, the kind of machine one chooses to use, tells much about the sort of internet usage that characterizes a person. This does not necessarily translate to a clearly definable group of web sites one may regularly access. However, it may serve the designer and the programmer as a guideline for introducing the imaginably needed flexibility to the code and the design as well.

In my reading, this article is an eye-opener that plays with the idea of thinking about the possible disabilities of the audience of any web site as just any other technological challenge for the developer. If the code is done well and the design further allows easy approach to the site, theoretically, any disability can be accommodated and at the same time dismissed as an obstacle to approach a site. Once, I saw an exhibition that was presented in complete darkness. It seemed to be the same as the circus number of the flea-acrobat. With complete eye-sight one could enjoy either of these on the same level without actually seeing anything. Both were presented in a way that without seeing them, one could equally appreciate them. But most importantly, audiences with and without visual disabilities could enjoy these equally, because the idea behind them first targeted the question: how to create such an exhibition or performance, whether the creators can do everything so that their ideas will realize with maximum comprehensibility, and these concerns were weighted equally along the question of accessibility for audiences. Thinking about audience first, accessibility first to the person and only then to the machine is creating an unnecessary difficulty for any audience who does not share the same capacity to approach the web site as the ideal public, which the developer has in mind. It is to narrow down the audience instead of broadening, it leads to the usage of restrictive tools instead of pluralist thinking at both coding and design, and ultimately underscores the possibilities that HTML and CSS offer. It disables the web site.

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