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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable and recommended
Right up front, let me say that I usually find web usability books are a major pain to read. The authors normally set themselves up as "experts" and present all their opinions as undeniable facts. While you can get good information from their writings, I quickly tire of the tone of "I'm the expert".

So why am I reading a book on web...
Published on Jan. 7 2004 by Thomas Duff

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars a labour of (self-) love
I was looking forward to reading this, but what a disappointment. I need information on what the laws and standards actually are, not what Mr Clarke thinks they *should* be. This book seems less about accessibility, and more about Mr Clark. For example, there is an extended section triumphantly detailing every typeface used, every piece of software the author used to...
Published on Nov. 7 2002 by Terry J. King


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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable and recommended, Jan. 7 2004
By 
Thomas Duff "Duffbert" (Portland, OR United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
Right up front, let me say that I usually find web usability books are a major pain to read. The authors normally set themselves up as "experts" and present all their opinions as undeniable facts. While you can get good information from their writings, I quickly tire of the tone of "I'm the expert".

So why am I reading a book on web accessibility? Because I know it's good for me. It's a subject I don't know much about. And with this title, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a very readable book by an engaging writer, and it's a good mix of opinion, fact, standards, and practicality. It also helps that he doesn't much care for the "my opinion is fact" usability experts either.

With the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, public entities have to address the issue of making their websites accessible to various groups of disabled individuals. Clark starts off by explaining how visually-disabled, hearing-disabled, learning-disabled, and physically-disabled people use computers and the web. He then explains in entertaining fashion how each type of element in your web page can be made accessible to the different devices that are used by the disabled. The suggestions are also broken down into beginning, intermediate, and advanced techniques so that developers at all levels of experience can take positive steps towards compliance with accessibility regulations.

For Notes/Domino developers, you have the same issues to deal with as do web developers on other platforms. Since Domino applications on the web are often Notes applications rendered to HTML "on the fly", it's a little more difficult to exercise the total control that other types of web page coding involve. But you do have the "HTML" tag in the property box for each design element. By using that set of properties to add accessibility tags, you can go far in designing Domino apps that are friendly to the disabled. And if you work for a public organization, you may find that you have little choice but to comply. It might be a good idea to get started on the learning curve now.

Conclusion
If you are responsible for maintaining an organizational website and either have to/want to address accessibility issues, this is the book you'll want to get. Not only will you learn the "whys" of accessibilities, but you'll learn the different level of "hows". Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Since it is not an option, you must do it, Feb. 27 2003
By 
Charles Ashbacher (Marion, Iowa United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
In the new environment where customer service rules, all web masters must consider the needs of those whose senses are not within the ordinary norms. Furthermore, the federal government has a great deal to say about what is required of web sites when it comes to servicing the handicapped. Therefore, it is necessary for all web programmers to learn what the rules are and how to most efficiently satisfy them. That is the purpose of this book and the author is successful, although in a very preachy way.
Two pleasing points are that the author scoffs at those who play semantic games in describing people with handicaps, heaping particular scorn on the term "handicapable." People who are blind or deaf simply will not experience the web the same way as those with those senses and short of eliminating that medical limitation, nothing can be done about that. Which is the second of the points. It is absurd to try to make the experience equivalent to that of a sighted or hearing person, so the focus should be on making it as functional as possible within their field of experience.
While much has been done in terms of screen readers and closed captioning, there is still a lot of weaknesses in the technology that replaces the actions of one sense with another. Clark is very clear about those weaknesses, pointing out that some things are just not possible, so the emphasis should be on what is possible. Further points of emphasis are in the usability testing of the site, where it is difficult to perform such tests without using someone whose handicap is what the structure is supposed to overcome. As is the case with all other areas of software development, including the accessibility must be part of the initial design, as making the adaptations later is much more difficult and expensive.
Hard data concerning the numbers of people with the various handicaps that access the web is very difficult to find. However, there are two facts that cannot be disputed. The first is that it is significant enough so that they cannot be ignored, even if the law was silent on the issue. Customers are too valuable to ignore any of them and the size of the group will continue to grow. The largest growing segment of the regular population is the elderly, most of which suffer vision and hearing problems. This group is also moving to the web at a very rapid pace and they generally have a lot of money to spend, so it simply makes good e-business sense to design your site so that they can use it with ease. To do anything else is poor business practice, and I recommend reading this book as a fundamental part of your business on the Internet.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Structured, Useful and Practical, Feb. 11 2003
By 
John Kusch (Madison, WI USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
Joe Clark's detractors are the sort of critics who would gleefully detract from anyone who shows the poor taste to believe what they say and say what they mean. It's far easier to construct a rambling, nattering bleat of discontent than it is to actually write a book on web accessibility.
The book is structured to support multiple levels of interest and involvement. If you want to understand the entire history of web accessibility, it's there for the reading, but if you'd prefer to skip the narrative and get to the nitty-gritty how-to, the road signs are clear. In addition, the tools are there for proficiency levels from the first-time web designer who is willing and able to contribute only 101% toward accommodating the disabled to the veteran developer for whom 200% is still insufficient.
Clark makes it clear that not everyone is so well-informed, so esoteric, and so single-minded as he; nor should they be. He merely makes it possible to try. Accommodating, flexible, and wry -- much like the best of the Web -- "Building Accessible Websites" is as many things to as many people as such a book could possibly be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A well-written comprehensive guide to web accessibility, Dec 21 2002
By 
Jonathon Delacour (Newtown, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
Building Accessible Websites is a considerable achievement: a thorough, practical guide to Web accessibility that's pleasurable to read.
The book's structure is much as one might expect. Joe Clark starts by running through "some typical objections to providing accessibility, blowing them out of the water one after another," then lists a number of active reasons for making one's site accessible. He outlines the various kinds of disabilities, explains how disabled people use computers, and defines both accessibility and the structure of accessible pages.
Having mapped out -- in five relatively brief chapters -- the nature and extent of the issues, Clark gets down to the nitty-gritty: how to make images, text & links, navigation, type and color, tables & frames, stylesheets, forms & interaction, and multimedia (including Flash) all accessible.
The long chapters on images and navigation reflect Clark's belief that addressing these two issues -- even at a basic level -- will make a site "vastly more accessible" to two large disability groups: the blind/visually-impaired and the mobility-impaired.
These how-to chapters are all organized similarly. For example, Chapter 6, The Image Problem, covers:
* the three levels of accessibility for uncomplicated image types (the alt, title, and longdesc attributes);
* variations in browser support for each attribute and workarounds;
* problem image types including advertising, animated GIFs, bullets, charts & graphs, exploded drawings, hit counters, maps, pictures of text, porn, image portfolios, rollovers, sliced graphics, spacer images, and webcams);
* succinct advice on implementation.
A section titled Bottom-Line Accessibility Advice concludes each chapter. For example, the advice for images is:
Basic accessibility
Use alt texts on absolutely every image without exception.
Intermediate accessibility
Add titles to images in increments no smaller than a page: Either all graphics on a page contain titles or none.
Advanced accessibility
Write long descriptions for the rather more intricate images.
In the last two chapters, Clark discusses certification & testing and outlines some "future dreams." Finally, he provides appendices on accessibility & the law and language codes, a bibliography, and a colophon (describing the making of the book).
While it is true that Building Accessible Websites offers a comprehensive treatment of its subject, it's packed with practical advice, and is written with clarity and wit. However, a large part of the book's appeal is Clark's refusal to pull any punches:
"Usability is a good predictor of accessibility, since usable sites are put together by intelligent, thoughtful people (not necessarily paid experts), and that is exactly the group that pays heed to access without being pushed and prodded. But we should not expect a one-to-one relationship. Usable sites can be inaccessible (e.g., an E-commerce site where every navigation button is an image without a text equivalent). Conversely, accessible sites can be unusable - e.g., Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox.com, which is so outlandishly undesigned as to make it hard to find anything, not to mention dozens or hundreds of pages at the World Wide Web Consortium itself, where we similarly drown in accessible data."
Frequently provocative, Joe Clark is also remarkably pragmatic. For example, many cutting-edge web designers believe that table-based layouts are inferior to those that use CSS-positioning. Not so, argues Clark: "The use of tables for layout has never been prohibited by the Web Accessibility Initiative. You are not creating an inaccessible page if it contains tables used for layout. You have committed no sin -- necessarily. You will not be forced to turn in your trackball and badge while WAI Internal Affairs conducts an investigation. But you are not off the hook: You must code tables properly, which, for layout tables, is not difficult at all."
He is similarly relaxed about pictures of text: "For small amounts of text (typically, text rendered as graphics is used for navigation buttons), enter the complete text into alt; you can add explanatory details to title if you wish. (Example: alt="Contact" title="Contact information, job listings, and feedback page".) Accessibility purists may hate this entire approach, but I simply do not see any harm whatsoever in limited bits of text rendered as graphics since it is dead simple to make those graphics accessible. I use pictures of text myself."
I nearly fell off my chair, though, when I read Clark's advice on headings: "The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines tell us to use heading elements in strict numerical order -- <h1></h1>, then, if necessary, <h2></h2> through <h6></h6> in that sequence. That dictum suits androids and Vulcans quite well, but here in the real world you can skip intervening levels and you don't have to start at <h1></h1>. I am telling you that you can defy the WCAG in this limited way. You must not, however, use heading elements in anything but ascending order."
Call me a Vulcan -- or an android -- but this makes no sense to me at all. The usual reason given for starting with (say) <h3></h3> is that <h1></h1> is too big, black, and ugly. Yet you can easily define the appearance of any element with CSS so the <h1></h1> can be as small, brightly-colored, and pretty as you like. More importantly, assigning <h1></h1> to the first heading on a page will assist in securing a higher Page Rank in Google. In other words, what's the advantage in defying the WCAG in this case?
I was also surprised at Clark's argument that anyone with significant visual impairment will be using screen magnification software, thus rendering the font-size argument irrelevant. While I can see his point, I still believe that it's worth accommodating normal-vision people who find small type difficult to read, even if it is "too low-level for this book to worry about."
So, what's that then? A couple of quibbles in over 400 pages. Building Accessible Websites is the book to buy. Constructing Accessible Web Sites by Jim Thatcher et al. is a fine book, packed with useful information. But, because it has eight authors, it lacks the most appealing quality of Joe Clark's book: the sense of being guided through the subject by an informed, literate, entertaining, and -- above all -- iconoclastic expert.
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1.0 out of 5 stars a labour of (self-) love, Nov. 7 2002
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
I was looking forward to reading this, but what a disappointment. I need information on what the laws and standards actually are, not what Mr Clarke thinks they *should* be. This book seems less about accessibility, and more about Mr Clark. For example, there is an extended section triumphantly detailing every typeface used, every piece of software the author used to write the book - with version numbers - and we even learn the colour of his Mac. We find out who his friends are, and what music he listened to while he wrote the book. We are privileged to be told which of his friends gave us the CDs of those pieces of music. All of which leaves no room for discussion about such fripperies as JavaScript or PDF. Who'd want to learn about those in a book about Accessibility?
The book is also maddening to read. I need information, delivered relatively neutrally. The typeface used next to figures has an annoying, pretentious little loop between 's' and 't's, making it difficult to read. The main title font has exactly the same size caps as lowercase, when Mr Clarke of all people should know that a lot of reading is carried out by recognising the 'shape' of words rather than reading each character (that's why READING ALL CAPITALS IS SO DIFFICULT). The index is poor and badly laid out, the screenshots are fuzzy and difficult to see. Then there's the author's verbal tic of dropping in french words when the English would suffice, which is tres annoying, n'est ce pas? Especially to those who don't parle Francais. The constant authorial interventions to demonstrate his own learning makes reading the book feel like being hectored by some prissy, preening self-obsessive.
My verdict (to take one of the chapter titles as a two-word summary): Why bother?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Guide for Building Accessible Web Sites, Oct. 29 2002
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
BUILDING ACCESSIBLE WEBSITES
AUTHOR: Joe Clark
PUBLISHER: New Riders
REVIEWED BY: Barbara Rhoades
BOOK REVIEW: When you build a web site, do you think of what it would be like if you had a disability? What if you were color-blind? How would that wonderful page you just created in the latest colors for this year look to you? Or how about that Flash page your spent hours creating music clips for, sound if you were hard of hearing or deaf?
Most web designers never think about those with handicaps although they should. Among the handicaps web designers need to think about when designing are those with limited mobility, learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, the blind or low vision, and of course the hard of hearing or deaf.
Our televisions have closed caption so why not a web site? As for color, most people with color blindness see blues and browns. Do you as a web designer remember to use alt texts on every image? Just how many links does it take to navigate to something on your site? Have you ever used a screen reader? How many times have you used a Reset button on a form?
All of these things and more can be explored in Building Accessible Websites". Even the CD thinks about accessibility - the whole book can be read on the computer! Finally, there is an appendix on accessibility and the legal aspects a designer needs to know. If you are truly building web sites for the future, this book will help you make sure everyone can use the site.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Building Accessible Websites, Nov. 20 2002
By 
Alan H. Herrell "the head lemur" (Phoenix, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
Building Accessible Websites is a stunning book.
Accessibility is not an afterthought anymore. It is a vital component of the World Wide Web for Personal, Professional and Commercial websites.
This book is not a theoretical discussion about the right thing to do, but a compelling guide to techniques and practices to enhance the ability of websites to convey their messages.
With concrete code examples not only as a how to, but why they are important by browser, technology and display, Joe guides you through the minefield of what works, what doesn't, and offers you suggestions to add value to what you do.
From how the disabled use computers, through structure, navigation, to testing and certification, Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced methods of creating or adding accessibilty to your websites are clearly provided.
Joe Clark presents a powerful and relentless case for accessibility that needs to be read by every practitioner of website building.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to read, Dec 1 2002
By 
Robert Jan Verkade (Utrecht, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
'Building accessible websites' was a pleasure to read, and I was particularly pleased to see that Joe Clark takes a critical look at the W3C/WAI guidelines. Many accessibility advocates quote the guidelines without considering why they should take this approach or what the consequences of the guidelines are.
Too many people still think of accessibility as a subject for and by people who have to be pitied. Joe Clark takes a good visual design as the starting point for an accessible site, which has made me very enthusiastic in my work (building websites) once again. I hope that this book will start a movement to make ever more people enthusiastic about building accessible AND beautiful sites.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative and surprisingly entertaining, Dec 1 2002
By 
M. Tristan Nitot "nitot" (Paris, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
I think that many people tend to avoid dealing with disable people and to what relates to disabilities.
When I bought that book, I was not sure I would have the courage to read it entirely. Sure, web content accessibility is important, but I thought it would be boring to learn. I was wrong. Joe Clark manages to make his reading very interesting, very enjoyable. I have read the book in less time I initially thought, because I have been learning stuff on every page, and I did it with a smile on my face. I am now working on an accessibility policy for my web site, retrofitting most of my existing pages to make them accessible, thanks to what I've learned in this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Perspective, Dec 3 2002
By 
Gerard L. Torenvliet (Ottawa, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Building Accessible Websites (Paperback)
In this book, Clark presents a lot of advice to help authors in creating accessible websites. Each chapter gives advice (albeit very opinionated) on how to design accessibility into a page. Because this is done outside the pale of established accessibility standards, this is not a book to read if you want to learn the standards. However, this perspective does emphasize that accessibility is much more than just meeting a few checklists on a Section 508 or W3C WCAG form.
Clark's writing is engaging and colourful; that having been said, if you tend to appreciate dispassionate books, this is not a book for you.
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