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Achieve Accessibility with Dreamweaver

By Virginia DeBolt

Accessibility can be part of your normal workflow in Dreamweaver. Developing work habits that include the built-in accessibility help offered by Dreamweaver will not add any significant time to your projects. The information in this article applies to Dreamweaver MX 2004. This version of Dreamweaver has many new features aimed at making accessibility easier to create in the Dreamweaver environment. In older versions of Dreamweaver, any of the features described are possible, but may require some hand coding in Code View.

Start with Preferences

Long-time Dreamweaver users will benefit from a careful re-examination of their work habits to take full advantage of what Dreamweaver has to offer. The first step is to set the Preferences for maximum accessibility help.

In the General Preferences category:

  • select "Use <strong> and <em> in place of <b> and <i>."
  • select "Use CSS instead of HTML tags."
General Preferences

Tagging elements with semantically meaningful tags such as strong or em is important for accessibility. The idea of using semantically logical elements to create content is a foundation concept that applies to other element choices as well.

Accessibility requires that you separate content from presentation. To do this, you must use HTML to structure the document with logical semantic elements that are clearly organized into headings, paragraphs, lists, and other logical content blocks. By using the generic HTML container div, you can add context to the structure to give yourself powerful descendant selectors for your CSS.

More information is available in The Early Bird Catches the CSS: Planning Structural HTML.

In the Accessibility Preferences category, select every option.

Accessibility Preferences

With these preferences selected, Dreamweaver will help you by reminding you to include labels on form objects, alt text with images, and other important accessibility attributes.

This is important as the number one accessibility need is effective alt text.

The References

Dreamweaver has a number of built in reference materials, including the UsableNet Accessibility Reference.

The Reference Window

Page Checks

Dreamweaver will run accessibility checks for the page.

Check Page Options

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