If it works in Lynx it works for everyone
The primary argument people make for advocating that a site work with Lynx is the claim that if it works in Lynx, it will work for everyone.
- Lynx doesn’t display images. Images on a web page will be replaced with their alt attributes. If the alt attributes are good, the lack of images won’t matter. If the alt attribute values are missing or are not a suitable alternative for the image, this will be readily obvious in Lynx, indicating it also be a poor experience for users of screen readers.
- Lynx doesn’t play time-based media. The on-page content, it is argued, should be sufficient for access by all.
- Lynx doesn’t support CSS. Therefore, CSS positioning, use of color, etc. will be impossible with Lynx. Like before, the argument is that if it is easy to understand the content in Lynx, it is possible for assistive technology users, some of whom may be unable to see the screen or perceive the use of color, size, and positioning on screen.
The Lynx experience is not representative of real users
Taking a look at the complete list of Lynx user-agent strings and looking back at the analytics on all of my sites, I see zero visitors from Lynx, ever. Though some may argue that the user-agent string could be forged (this can be done in the Options menu in Lynx), I doubt that fully all Lynx users do so. This tends to suggest, if nothing else, that the global percentage of users on Lynx is extremely small. Further to my point, this also suggests that the overwhelming majority of persons with disabilities are not browsing with user-agents that are text only, which is in agreement with my personal observations as well. This begs the question: if persons with disabilities aren’t using text-only browsers, what’s the point of recommending that we develop sites that support user-agent that is unused by persons with accessibility needs? The argument that Lynx is the “Lowest Common Denominator” is flawed based on the fact that Lynx is very clearly not common at all among persons with disabilities.
Text-only is not accessible
Accessible is Accessible
For us to build a more accessible web, we should be careful to understand that Universal Design involves ensuring an environment is usable for all users not just those who are blind or who use a specific user agent or device. Lynx can be a good tool for providing quick (and free!) accessibility feedback on your site but it should not be regarded as the ultimate criteria for determining whether your website is accessible. Most tools, be they toolbars, alternate browsers, automated tools, or checklists are useful in testing for accessibility. The ultimate deciding factor however, is whether real people can use the system.
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