Massive, Stark & Chunky – A Listing Aside

Readers of A Listing Aside will by now be fairly accustomed to screen-reader customers, the most important group of disabled internet surfers whom requirements compliance truly helps. In a earlier article, for instance, I examined how properly image-replacement strategies work in display screen readers (not very).

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However — shock! — most individuals with impaired imaginative and prescient can nonetheless see one thing, and a big however unquantified section of this group sees properly sufficient to make use of a pc with a magnified or zoomed show. Now we have not executed job of catering to those screen-magnification or zoom customers. Utilizing CSS, it’s simple to do, as we will quickly see. And furthermore, utilizing CSS to develop zoom layouts is sort of precisely what builders of handheld and PDA browsers are doing of their quest for small-screen rendering of huge, multicolumn internet pages.

However first, let’s perceive the issue.

A distinct technique to view the net#section2

Web sites are largely sort. A low-vision individual will in all probability be capable to learn sort on an internet web page if it’s large enough and if it’s introduced in a sure colour scheme.

However whenever you blow up the fonts on an internet web page, finally your show runs out of room. Or even when it doesn’t (are you utilizing a 50-inch plasma show? how about two 30-inch Cinema Shows?), you the low-vision person are sitting at a sure distance from the display screen, providing you with solely a restricted area of snug view. Furthermore, your imaginative and prescient loss could contain visible area; you could merely see lower than folks with regular imaginative and prescient and even folks with different visible impairments.

Finally, then, each web site will outgrow its container for those who zoom in far sufficient. The container could also be desk cells, divs, the monitor, or the person’s visible area, or any mixture. You need to use CSS to verify your web site doesn’t knowingly zoom previous the perimeter of a person’s imaginative and prescient.


There’s a modicum of printed analysis documenting the wants of zoom customers. Of most up-to-date curiosity is a paper by Ginny Redish and Mary Theofanos (see references).

Whereas many individuals of their research had bother when colour was faraway from an internet web page (as some display screen magnifiers do after they change to excessive distinction), the most important drawback was multicolumn web page designs. A couple of customers by no means found a number of the columns. Some elements, even when positioned inside a single column that topics might theoretically see and use, had already scrolled proper off the display screen and have been ignored.

Some highlights from that paper:

  • These customers, nonetheless, don’t need a “completely different” web site: They don’t need a “screen-magnifier model” or a “textual content model” if meaning a web site that must be individually maintained from the principle model. They consider the websites wouldn’t be equal. They consider the “particular” web site wouldn’t be stored up-to-date.  The difficulty is tips on how to present “expertise fairness” and common usable entry to all low-vision customers.
  • [One participant stated] “Headings and daring are essential.”
  • [Participants] informed us that they usually copied and pasted materials into Phrase the place they may enlarge the font much more and make it daring, thus rendering it simpler for them to see.  Two different individuals made aware choices about viewing methods to accommodate the issues brought on by wanting to maximise each how a lot of the web page you see and the way simply you’ll be able to learn it. [One person] stored the magnification at 2×, which he stated was decrease than he wanted; he stated he was sacrificing ease of studying for seeing extra on the display screen. 
  • Most of our individuals didn’t use cursor management keys even when doing so might need helped them. As an alternative, they moused across the display screen very quickly, and, in doing so, usually misplaced any sense of the place they have been on the net web page.
  • Customers who don’t work with the scroll bar could by no means go to the precise facet of the display screen.
  • Customers can miss objects – even ones which are subsequent to one another – when the display screen is magnified.

Destroy your individual design#section4

Now, standardistas have spent years developing with multicolumn web page designs that look good, render kind of the identical in compliant browsers, and (for the keener builders) are additionally usable to display screen readers. We took a barely faulty mannequin (multicolumn pages laid out with tag-soup tables) and cleaned it up considerably (multicolumn pages laid out with legitimate HTML and CSS).

Standardistas have been capable of abdomen the concept that blind folks have been merely ignoring the looks of their websites as a result of, self-evidently, they have been blind. It was no huge deal; nothing occurs to your visible design whenever you accommodate blind folks.

However to accommodate low-vision folks, it’s a must to completely rearrange your multicolumn web site. It’s a must to knowingly destroy your authentic graphic design. However do we have to throw out the infant with the bathwater? No. You need to use CSS to customise all variations of your web site.

  • Your default web page can use no matter graphic design you want.
  • By way of a site-preferences web page or a easy type sheet switcher, the person can change the identical data to a single-column view with huge fonts. You possibly can tweak which parts of your navigation scheme truly seem, and the place, in every design; you typically need much less navigation.
  • Since we’re not making a text-only web page that might in all probability find yourself uncared for, however are merely offering a special view of the identical web page, we obviate low-vision customers’ fears of being caught in particular gulag.

Your low-vision design ought to do the next:

Change to an enormous font
You possibly can let the customer enter a degree measurement by keyboard, otherwise you may give an inexpensive set of predetermined choices. Except you’re utilizing one thing really bizarre (Zapf Chancery, anybody?), you don’t have to fret about font choice. Hold your line-height proportional.
Invert the display screen


Many guests will need light-on-dark textual content reasonably than the dark-on-light textual content we’ve gotten used to for the reason that first Macintosh.
Customise colours
Nevertheless, brilliant white on flat black won’t work for everybody; it’s too brilliant. You possibly can present a couple of choices, lots of them harking back to Eighties-era terminals (e.g., inexperienced, yellow, or blue on black or darkish brown, or the outdated WordPerfect 5.1 default of white on blue).
Rearrange content material
That is the biggie: It’s a must to judiciously prune your multicolumn web site into one column.

If you wish to be actually fancy, you may make every of those choices individually selectable; you would possibly use a preferences web page that lets guests selectively allow choices. (That web page would just about have to incorporate all of the above options directly to be accessible within the first place.) However for those who’re simply beginning out, clustering all these choices as a one-click possibility by a single CSS file will suffice.

And a word about pictures: Don’t do something particular to them. Don’t, above all, assume {that a} low-vision individual gained’t be serious about your pictures or illustrations. We already know that low-vision youngsters love digicams and love taking pictures footage, for the reason that pictures can then be blown up good and massive and edited on laptop. If your web site options thumbnails or galleries that take up numerous horizontal house, you could have to rethink your format. However for almost all different websites, don’t attempt to conceal, shrink, or enlarge your pictures.


We all know from expertise with screen-reader customers that an excessive amount of navigation on a web page is a critical usability drawback. Why else did we invent, and endlessly debate the main points of, the now-infamous skip-navigation hyperlink?

Now contemplate the issue for a zoom person. In case your navigation (whether or not a styled unordered listing or no matter else) sits in a column at display screen left, both that column will occupy an enormous proportion of a magnified display screen or the customer may have horizontally scrolled to remove it. A big left-hand nav column is solely in the best way.

The true resolution is to simplify navigation in order that it may be skipped if desired or simply learn in sequence with minimal inconvenience or confusion. I’ve to agree with J the Z right here: In the event you suppose your web site wants drop-down menus, you might want to streamline your web site.

To enhance navigation for magnifier customers:

  • Normally, we’ll need one or at most two strains of navbar textual content — introduced horizontally at display screen high.
  • In case your navigation is already easy, you could merely have to replace your CSS.
  • In the event you’re caught utilizing an enormous chunk of navigation, extract solely an important components for the highest navigation row. The remainder could be contained on the backside of the web page, for instance.

We should not have mature and well-tested methods to do that; it’s all a bit new. Worse but, HTML stands in our technique to some extent. Our choices embody:

My esteemed colleagues Cameron Adams and Sergio Villareal wrote new zoom-layout CSS information for his or her websites, which you’ll check out as approximate examples of this reasonably new type.

Cameron Adams
The Man in Blue
Zoom format (“distinction format,” truly)
Sergio Villareal
Zoom format (“high-contrast format,” truly)
Single-column format

This isn’t quite a bit to go on, nevertheless it’s all I might squeeze out of the numerous builders I polled over a interval of 5 months.

We want additional examples of zoom layouts to solidify the entire concept within the minds of visible designers. In the event you give this a whirl your self by yourself web site, tell us within the feedback to this text and, ideally, additionally on the ZoomLayouts web page on the CSS-Talk about wiki.

In the meantime, some current websites use desire pages to specify sort and colour:

  1. Ok.S. Pope
  2. Confort de lecture (an offshoot of Handicapzéro)
  3. Sjoerd Visscher

Thus far, I’ve not been capable of obtain consensus amongst potentates of the CSS Working Group that we’d like a brand new media sort, zoom, to accommodate screen-magnification customers. (In contrast, there was some modest settlement {that a} new reader property was wanted. Although that proposal hasn’t gone anyplace, it nonetheless might.)

Given the constellation of show properties concerned in zoom layouts, with show and hiding of particular web page components, it could be essential to ponder a zoom media sort in spite of everything. I go away this job to others.

Similarities with small-screen rendering#section9

Because it seems, what you’re doing whenever you use CSS to design a zoom format is just like what a handheld browser should do when confronted by a large, multicolumn web page. It too should selectively reorder and conceal elements so the web page content material could be loved in a single column. The distinction is that there is no such thing as a vital have to radically restyle the kind to make it simpler to learn; even the default sort presentation on many handhelds is taken into account readable and doesn’t should be touched.

We will examine the show codecs this fashion:

Standard Zoom Handheld
No single assumed viewers Low-vision viewers (no private selection) PDA proprietor (private selection)
Single- or multicolumn Single-column
No limits on navigation Easy navigation most popular Navigation eradicated, rewritten by proxy server, or deferred to web page finish
Any sort colour Mild-on-dark most popular Browser defaults (normally dark-on-light) most popular
Any sort measurement Massive wanted Browser defaults most popular

The extra superior small-screen-rendering (SSR) platforms try and intelligently decide which side-by-side elements, pictures, headers, footers, and dividers of many types are literally vital. With few websites providing legitimate markup, with fewer nonetheless utilizing CSS for format, and with no consensus in any respect as to tips on how to title completely different elements of a web page, SSR units face a critical problem of synthetic intelligence. (See references under.)

Nevertheless, you as designer or developer know your individual web site and all its conventions. There could also be a little bit of trial and error in CSS properties till you produce a zoom format that’s easy, huge, and readable, however up entrance that it’s attainable. And actually, you’ll be able to reuse a number of the information you acquire in rewriting your web site for zoomability to make it appropriate with handhelds. Beginning along with your new zoomable type, make the next modifications:

  1. Retain a single-column format.
  2. Don’t specify font, measurement, or colour (until you actually know the platforms your guests use).
  3. Contemplate hiding or at the least shifting all your navigation. Put the content material of the web page first.
  4. Proceed to chorus from doing something particular to photographs. They’re a recognized challenge in PDA browser software program and you need to let these person brokers deal with pictures themselves.

This text will, one hopes, function a place to begin for a brand new software of CSS design ideas by standards-compliant designers. Evidently, as time goes on, we uncover increasingly more implementation particulars of what seem on the floor to be applied sciences which are frozen in time (viz. the HTML and CSS specs). Equally, with every passing yr we be taught extra about tips on how to accommodate folks with disabilities gracefully with out impeding the graphic design or different fascinating traits of our websites.

However the ball is now in your court docket. I’d prefer to see fairly a couple of extra makes an attempt at zoom layouts and, within the fullness of time, a basic consensus {that a} professionally-designed, standards-compliant, accessible web site isn’t full with out one.

Low-vision customers#section12

Serving to low-vision and different customers with web sites that meet their wants: Is one web site for all possible? (Redish and Theofanos)
Excessive Accessibility, Excessive Design

Small-screen rendering#section13

Collapse-to-Zoom: Viewing Internet Pages on Small-Display screen Units by Interactively Eradicating Irrelevant Content material

The marquee-menu strategies explored on this paper — through which PDA customers draw diagonal strains to break down and broaden web page elements — might simply be expanded to traditional browsers, as by a Firefox or Mozilla extension. (It is also inbuilt as customary gear. Doing so would, by the way, help however not guarantee compliance with Guideline 5  of the Consumer Agent Accessibility Tips.)

id=“Detecting-a” title=“Full textual content
on-line”>Detecting Internet-Web page Construction for Adaptive
Viewing on Small-Kind-Issue Units
The authors’ technique right here makes an attempt to deduce construction from HTML so it might reorder web page elements. For sure, the entire thing breaks down with invalid markup: “Within the page-analysis stage, HTML syntax errors left by the creator might trigger the HTML parser to provide [an] misguided HTML DOM tree, which might typically make the high-level content-block detection produce sudden outcomes. For instance, a pair of misplaced <type> and </type> in an internet web page causes our parser to put the footer of the net web page beneath a small desk within the physique.”
id=“SmartView-R” title=“Microsoft Analysis
web page”>SmartView: Enhanced Doc Viewer for
Cell Units
  • PDF (which Google refuses to index because it’s on an FTP web site)

“At the moment, far too little printed materials on the net is appropriate for cell units [undesirable anyway from the standpoint of device-independence]…. In a couple of well-defined instances, the SmartView prototype even adjusts the format of a bit by breaking it up utterly and re-flowing it to slot in the window…. The format is modified by altering the side-by-side preparations right into a top-down association, as a result of the latter is more practical on small screens.”

Opera’s Small-Display screen Rendering

Most of the strategies described on this article are derived from apresentation by Aries Arditi on the American Academy of Optometry conference, Dallas, 2003.12.06. The creator contacted Mr. Arditi for a reference or quotation to that presentation, however acquired no response.

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