Decolorizing for the Visually Impaired
Our old friend, "Big Al" Wesolowsky, editor of Boston University's *Journal of Field Archeology, came over for brunch one day last summer [1998?]. Somehow he got talking about the difficulties the visually.im.paired (V.I.P.) have in reading many websites. The V.I.P. often set up a color scheme on their browsers for maximum contrast (e.g., white text on black background) to help them read websites. However, the color schemes that we web designers so painstakingly put together often frustrate the V.I.P.'s efforts because our tinkering plus their tinkering results in e.g., dark text on black or light text on white. Result? Illegibility. How should we artistic dessinateurs handle color then, says we? Specify no color at all, says Big Al. None. Go with the defaults.
This sounded like a breathtaking step to us last summer, because memories of painful experimentation with O'Reilly's "Web Design in a Nutshell" and a variety of browsers were too fresh in our minds to just trash all that and cut to the defaults. However, the worm of GUILT grew in our breast as weeks went by.
We had *Big Al over for brunch again yesterday (11/13/99). Meanwhile we had metamorphosed into the world's first political party so the website could stand a heralding change of some kind. And political parties are occasionally sensitive to the needs of neglected minorities - never any harm in picking up a vote or two here and there - and a group of V.I.P. had recently sued America OnLine to nudge them to make their service more accessible. And hey, we're text-based anyway, and we DO get irritated by those graphics-laden websites that take forever to load - and most of it is just advertising anyway. And the "websafe" colors are from poverty anyway, and we couldn't get exactly what we wanted to hold up on both Netscape and Explorer anyway. (Do we have this rationalized yet? Coup de grâce - ) And we remembered how, back when we were confronting color, how we were just about to say Hellwithit anyway.
Sooo, we prevailed upon Big Al to sit down with us here at the World Headquarters computer of the Timesizing.com Party and show us just what he'd like us to do. And he did. And we are doing it, although it may be one of those things that we think we got it all, but we just got the first layer. So bear with us, and let us know if you are V.I.P. (visually.im.paired) & can't read something on our site, and we will send that, hopefully last, little cobweb of coloration to tarnation.