hierarchy and accessibility The web was invented in order to provide universal access to information, regardless of a person’s physical abilities or access to specialized hardware or software. Many users lack the browsers or software plug-ins required for displaying certain kinds of ﬁles, while visually impaired users have difficulty with small type and non-verbal content. Creating structural hierarchies allows designers to plan alternate layouts suited to the software, hardware, and physical needs of diverse audiences. claphaminstitute.org Website, 2003. Designer: Colin Day, Exclamation Communications. Publisher: The Clapham Institute. This site was designed to be accessible to sighted and non-sighted users. Below is a linearized version of the home page. A visually impaired reader would hear this text, including the alt tags for each image. The “skip to content” anchor allows users to avoid listening to a list of navigation elements.
136 | thinking with type
Sometimes good typography is heard, not seeen. Visually impaired users employ automated screen readers that linearize websites into a continuous text that can be read aloud by a machine. Techniques for achieving successful linearization include avoiding layout tables; consistently using alt tags, image captions, and image descriptions; and placing page anchors in front of repeated navigation elements that enable users to go directly to the main content. Various software programs allow designers to test the linearization of their pages.