I ran across an interesting article entitled CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is Worthless, by Mike Stenhouse of Content with Style. I don’t read this blog/publication very regularly, but this particular article really caught my attention.

Whenever someone is designing an accessible site, they’re pretty likely to design it exclusively using CSS for layout. Is this because CSS is an accessible technology? Hell, no! CSS is just as susceptible to inaccessibility as the next design technology. This is because it is a design tool, not the content itself.

The first step to creating accessible web content is to write accessible HTML (HyperText Markup Language). If you’ve organized your HTML semantically, using your block elements correctly, not littering the page with extra <span> or <div> tags and using your <table> tags for tabular data, then you’ve accomplished the greatest part to building an accessible website.

When you’re using any design tool, CSS being the most common, all you can do is try to prevent your design from getting in the way of the accessibility in your underlying semantic code. For some users, it makes no difference at all what you do with your CSS – the blind aren’t listening to your style. However, a low vision user desperately needs you to have been respectful with your design!

This is, practically speaking, the exact same discussion as my last post, but applied to a specific technology. Using CSS isn’t superior or “accessible” in any particular sense unless the underlying HTML has been well-structured.

Something to keep in mind when looking for an accessible web designer – the fact that they are a CSS wizard doesn’t mean that they know how to create an accessible site. Similarly, somebody who builds completely standards-based strict XHTML (eXtensible HyperText Markup Language - HTML reformulated as XML (eXtensible Markup Language)) isn’t necessarily creating an accessible site. It’s easy to follow the rules without acknowledging the principles of accessibility in both situations.

The only test for an accessible website which is of any ultimate significance is whether a disabled user can navigate it successfully and to their satisfaction.