Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

Managed Solutions Suck

There you go, another vehement opinion, but the reality of it is that any managed solutions as regards accessibility is fraught with problems. What is, you’ll ask, a managed solution? It is a way to add accessibility to a site that is not handled automatically, and has to be managed by human intervention. One of the most common managed solution on the web is offering a text-only version of a script intensive or flash-based website.

This is not new practice, and is recommended by WCAG. Point 6.3 of the guidelines state that if the site uses scripting, the content should be accessible when scripts are turned off or not supported, and if that is not possible, to offer alternative accessible content. This is good. The content must be delivered to the visitor, and if you can’t make it work with your scripts turned off, then a "text-only" alternative is a simple solution.

But! And there is one… Who will ensure that each time the site is updated, the text-only version also is updated? It is typical to go to the text-only version and discover that content is out of date. It takes solid procedures to ensure that each time an update is made on the main site, the text-only version is updated. It is too easy to forget. Or if two people are working on the content, confusion leads to the alternative version not being updated. Or the person who was maintaining content changes position, or leaves the firm, and suddenly the procedure is forgotten.

The fact is, managed solutions break down entirely too easily.

And with some forethought in the development process, it is not usualy necessary to go that way. Save yourself the headache, do it right the first time!