I recently reviewed Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think. Now in its second edition, if you haven’t read it yet, you’d be doing yourself a huge favor by adding it to your Christmas list.
Anyway, Chapter 11: Accessibility, Cascading Style Sheets, and you is available to read online at WebReference (although I am concerned about the permanence of that URL, so get it while it’s hot).
Towards the beginning of the chapter Krug talks about why designers are skeptical about “doing accessibility”. He refutes these arguments in an extremely effective way:
The worst thing about this skepticism is that it obscures the fact that there’s really only one reason that’s important:
It’s the right thing to do.
And not just the right thing; it’s profoundly the right thing to do, because the one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. Personally, I don’t think anyone should need more than this one example: Blind people with access to a computer can now read the daily newspaper on their own. Imagine that.
How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?
Wow. There really isn’t much you can say against a statement like that.
Further Reading on Web Accessibility
In the chapter Krug references a must-read research study – Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work With Screen Readers – which explains how people actually use screen readers and provides 32 practical guidelines for developing web sites for screen reader users.
The research study itself makes reference to an excellent section on Usability.gov about writing and organizing content for the web.
And on a related note, don’t pass up the usability updates from Usability.gov (although, sadly, you can’t subscribe to these by email or RSS).
For example, September 2005’s issue on Segmenting your audiences includes a handy template for identifying user tasks by audience in order to develop your home page.
It also includes some useful persona samples that were used for other government web sites.