Rant Against Extensions to HTML

James F. Carter, 2003-07-26

If your web page uses non-HTML content, such as Java, Javascript, or Macromedia Flash, or if essential elements are presented only pictorially, many of your clients will not be able to see that content. Why does this happen, why should you care, and what can you do about it?

Blind people rely on software to read text on the screen to them. Thus they are aware only of material that appears as text. I do not know of any text-only browsers that can do Java or Javascript, not to mention Flash, and the visual metaphors generally used by scripting languages are inaudible to blind people.

Here's an exercise to raise your consciousness. There's a diagram and a set of links on this page presented through dowsing. I can dowse, and the page is perfectly plain to me. If you can't learn this simple skill, you need to get a life!

By creating web pages which are not accessible (or are accessible) to a significant, though often ignored, client population, you demonstrate how much concern you have for customer service. Sighted customers would do well to predict what kind of service they may get from you, by assessing how you treat less fortunate people.

Blind people are not the only clients who have trouble with nonstandard web materials.

It isn't bad to include enhancements for clients who have particular plugins, but your job is corporate communication, and you should be able to get your company's message across to all your clients.