Text-only Web techniques are an important set of tools in every Web developer’s repertoire. When fully utilized, they allow developers to render multiple types of information, in various organizations, into linear text. Examples of these techniques include text descriptions or transcripts of non-text media; the ability to reorganize tabular text into linear information; and label placement for Web forms. Using text-only Web techniques does not imply the exclusion of other media types from a Web site. Rather, text-only Web techniques allow for media richness by providing clear, speedy and intuitive access for many types of users. Although the term “text only” commonly arises in discussions of assistive technology, text-only techniques provide benefits for all Web users. This article will discuss some of the motivations for developers to use text-only techniques, including adherence to World Wide Web consortium standards. It also will describe the three primary technical strategies for creating a text-equivalent version of a Web page.
One of the primary groups involved in setting Web accessibility standards is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C provides three overall guidelines for the provision of text-only versions. First, they urge the separation of structure from presentation. While the structure of the page concerns the logical organization of information, the presentation refers to such issues as font, color and images (W3C, 2003). The W3C consortium is also encouraging developers to separate structure and presentation by recommending new versions of HTML, the newest versions of which are called XHTML (W3C, 2003b).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Text Equivalent: An alternative version of a document that provides the same functions and conveys the same information as the media-rich version, but without using non-text media.
Form Element: Any part of an HTML form, including input boxes, check boxes, pull-down menus, submit or reset buttons, or radio options.
Caption: A short textual description used to summarize a picture, table or other non-text information.
Applet: A computer program that is portable between operating systems and requires only minimal memory to run, often written in the Java programming language.
Media Rich: Adjective describing the use of non-text media, such as images, sound or video.
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): An international organization devoted to the development of interoperable technologies such as specifications, guidelines, software and tools, to lead the Web to its full potential.
Assistive Technology: Any of a number of devices designed to bridge between standard technology interfaces and people with different abilities.
Web Accessibility Initiative: An initiative of the W3C promoting the use of Web techniques to provide equal access to information, regardless of ability.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): A set of tags used to structure text and multimedia documents and to set up hypertext links between documents, most commonly on the World Wide Web.