Current Events: Accessibility Importance and Downloadable Fonts

Posted: October 08, 2007 Comments(4)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an article in the Current Events series, but a couple things from last week make it a good time to do so. While many of what I write is based on recent personal experience, the articles in this Current Events series are usually comprised of shorter reactions to multiple subjects.

Accessibility is important. Seriously.

On October 3, 2007 a California court reached a settlement on the suit brought against Target by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). This is really huge news in the realm of accessibility on the Web in the United States.

A federal district court judge issued two landmark decisions today in a nationwide class action against Target Corporation. First, the court certified the case as a class action on behalf of blind Internet users throughout the country under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Second, the court held that Web sites such as target.com are required by California law to be accessible.

This is huge news! Sometimes, simply explaining to clients the importance and necessity of an accessible website is difficult to do. Having a court ruling such as this to back yourself up is really great in helping to convey the importance of accessibility.

It’s no secret that US-based corporations have a lax stance when it comes to Web accessibility. After all, making their website accessible might cost a few bucks. Spending money isn’t a top priority in corporate America. Truth be told, we all know the importance of having an accessible website, especially an accessible website that caters to such a large audience. It’s fantastic to see that legal requirements are finally being put in place.

Downloadable fonts in WebKit

The latest nightly builds of WebKit now support downloadable fonts via @font-face rules. This too, is pretty big news. The ability to unobtrusively include a ‘non-standard’ font without using images really opens up the possibilities with type in Web design. Sure, there are definitely those who have mastered typogrphy on the Web in its current installation, and truly fantastic designs can come out of working with a limited number of fonts.

Naturally, there will be some limits to using such a feature. The first that comes to mind is the inability to use commercial or otherwise preventively licensed fonts in your design. While that goes without question, there is an abundance of effort put into free fonts which you can find in a number of places around the Web. Surely there will be designers who opt to use a commercial font in a design, regardless of legality, but there are a number of ways to tackle such an issue. The conversation resulting from a post by Jon Hicks on the subject brings up some really interesting ways of handling this very issue.

Dan Cederholm recently posted an entry on his thoughts surrounding the @font-face property and his thoughts are very similar to mine.

While this certainly could be true for many, it doesn’t mean that web designers can’t become good typographers — especially when given the chance with more of a variety of typefaces to work with. The worry that all web pages will be suddenly ruined with crappy free fonts everywhere overshadows the fact that some good can come out of the ability to at least have a choice to use those crappy (and/or potential useful) fonts. Give us all a chance, eh?

I agree whole-heartedly. Given this new ability, I don’t think Web designers will for some reason feel they are elite typographers by inheritance. I think it’s more like adding a few [hundred] tools to your toolbox. The first in-depth piece I read about this particular feature was CSS @ Ten: The Next Big Thing by Håkon Wium Lie and I thought the implementation was pretty neat:

@font-face {
  font-family: "Kimberley";
  src: url(http://www.princexml.com/fonts/larabie/kimberle.ttf) format("truetype");
}
h1 { font-family: "Kimberley", sans-serif }

It’s really just the tip of the iceberg and there is a lot more information provided in the original article, but the idea has stuck in my head since reading it and I’m quite glad things are starting to develop. How do you feel about the way things seem to be going? Do you think having the ability to include some new fonts in your design without having to resort to image replacement or sIFR is a positive move?

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Comments

  1. I feel much the same way you do about the proposed font rules. It’s a much needed change. Sure, some people will do horrendous stuff with it, but they can do that with myriad other things as it is.

    The only concern I would have is copyright. Maybe font designers will need to have something simlar to the CC lisencing system. Then we’ll need some way to find fonts that are available to use on the web.

    I think this is an appropriate push to get “web designers” to learn more proper graphic design, including typography. For a long time we could get away with feeling our way around rather than a solid grounding in design theory. Things have been going in that direction for awhile, but being able to use any font will make it even more important to have some understanding of proper typography.

  2. I think the browser manufacturers should, and perhaps are already, developing a way where the font could reside in a locked file in the user’s cache so that it could be used temporarily by the system to display the page – but once you’ve navigated away the font cache file could expire.

    Surely that could work.

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