University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Disabling style-sheets? Does anyone know user(s) who actually do this?

As part of 508 check I have to disable style-sheets and check the layout of the page. I've run into a problem, and it made me start thinking about who it is that actually disables CSS. If you disable CSS in Firefox using the Accessibility Toolbar, then this will only disable CSS for the page you are on. Go to a new page and CSS is enabled again. Do users actually select to disable stylesheets for every page they go to? Perhaps, there is another way in which they permanently disable CSS? And do these users who have CSS disabled ever have Javascript enabled?

I'd really appreciate any answers in this regard, but didn't want to e-mail the list as I'd like to find a fix today.

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Replies to This Discussion

Does anyone actually disable stylesheets? Yes, I do it all the time as a course of development. Disabling stylesheets gives you a representation of how good your semantic markup is. It lets you linearize your content and see it in the order a screen reader does.

Your comment about Jaws is not incorrect, but it's not entirely correct either. Your are right that JAWS does not disable stylesheets - but it doesn't exactly honor them either. It will honor things like { display:hidden }, but not positioning. It will read text links and alt tags, but won't read out images included via CSS (such as replacing the background-image of a tags via their ids, with no text content in it or displayed). Depending on the version of JAWS, it also can't react to changes to CSS made on the page, such as hiding and displaying content dynamically. It's not going to tell you what color a word is, or how big the font is. New versions can do more than previously, like react to live changes on the page, but a lot of places don't upgrade labs frequently due to the cost. I think they are still on v6 or 7 in our library. And lastly, like my last post, laying out the page with CSS isn't honored, and can drastically impact how a screen reader reads the page. That might have changed in newer versions, I don't know, but I know older versions read the HTML as it parses it.

So, if you still don't understand why you need to test with stylesheets disabled, go spend a long week doing surfing ONLY with JAWS. That should help explain it. The key to your original question: "Name an assistive technology in use that doesn't use CSS," is that they don't tell you to test with stylesheets disabled because assistive technologies disable it, they tell you to do it so that you can make sure everything gets read correctly, in the right order, and to ensure that you're not relying on visual cues to convey information. They tell you to make sure you are writing good, semantically structured XHTML. I could write you a page that looks awesome in a browser because of the CSS, but you drop it into a screen reader, and it will turn into mud.

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