Accessible Design = Ugly is a MYTH
The first thing we should be aware of is that the tools and techniques used to write accessible design are available to every Web designer and are included in all Web editors. It is not the act of writing accessible pages that makes them ugly, but rather the effort or lack thereof by the designer. If you believe that accessible Web pages are, by default, ugly, then perhaps you haven't noticed that most Web pages are ugly. Claiming that accessible design makes a page ugly is like claiming that valid HTML makes the page ugly. Both can be ugly or beautiful, it just depends upon the skill of the designer building the page.
How to Write Beautiful Pages that are Accessible
The best way to build beautiful, accessible pages is to start with your design, just like you would have before. Follow the basic principles of design and use standard elements of design. Make sure your page has a focal point and that you use whitespace effectively. The key is, don't worry about the accessibility while you're in design mode.
Once you've created your design and built the HTML, then start worrying about accessibility. Accessibility, like SEO works best when you have the content you can evaluate as well as the HTML. Accessible Web pages don't need to have HTML written in a specific way, they need the content that is on them to have alternatives and options for people who might not receive the page content the way that you do.
Look for the following accessibility problems, and fix them:
- Images missing alternative text. The easiest way to do this is to search for your image tags: "<img" and then make sure the tag has text in the alt="" attribute.
- Add a "skip navigation" link to the top of your page. To do this add a link: <a href="#skip">skip</a> and then add the bookmark below the navigation, but at the top of the content: <a name="skip" id="skip"></a>
- Validate your HTML. This will catch a lot of the errors, like missing alt text, without you having to search for them.
- Use font sizes that can be resized like ems or percentages.
- If you have a patterned background, make sure that any text that is displayed on it has a solid color background behind it.
- For video and audio portions of your site provide transcriptions.
- Encourage feedback from your readers, especially if they have accessibility issues. You can't fix it if you don't know there's a problem.
The Key to Beautiful, Accessible Design is You
If you are willing to take the time to create beautiful Web designs, then you should spend a few extra minutes making them accessible. It doesn't have to be hard, take a lot of time, or require extra software. You just have to be willing to do it.