Pages of Tragedy…And Accessibility

As a long-time fan of dark music, I have browsed countless web sites of bands in the gothic, doom, industrial, and death metal genres. And although I love the music of these bands and the information they’re providing online, I find that almost all of the band web sites I’ve visited are just downright awful in terms of accessibility.

But no, I didn’t believe that there was no accessible web site in the realm of dark music. And so one night, I remembered Theatre of Tragedy, one of my most favorite bands. I visited their web site, and I was quite happy with what I’ve found. It was, to my surprise, quite an accessible web site.

TheatreOfTragedy.com is the first relatively accessible metal site I’ve visited after centuries of surfing. So I thought that it was worth it to do an accessibility review of their online abode.

About Theatre of Tragedy

Theatre of Tragedy are a gothic metal band from Norway. They have been around since the 90s. During their early years, their music consisted of a mixture of two elements. The first included angelic female vocals, string instruments, and keyboards. The second included heavy distorted guitars and male growls. In most of their songs, these two elements would be present and would complement each other. Theatre of Tragedy’s songs are generally slow with a doomy atmosphere. Their lyrics mainly deal with beauty, sorrow, and darkness.

The band significantly changed their music in 2000. They played a mixture of electronica and industrial rock, made relatively faster songs, and replaced the male growls with clean vocals. The lyrics talk about urban life and technology. In their last album, the band made a slight return to their earlier style, while retaining elements of gothic rock and electronica.

I personally love their earlier works. I adore their self-titled debut album, as well as “Velvet Darkness They Fear” and “Aégis” (their second and third albums, respectively).

On to the accessibility review of Theatre of Tragedy’s web site…

Accessibility Features of the Theatre of Tragedy Site

Note: I used a screen reader in browsing the pages of the web site. A screen reader is a software that speaks the highlighted text displayed on the screen. This software is used primarily by blind persons.

Descriptive Page Titles

Each page in the Theatre of Tragedy web site clearly describes its main content. This is very helpful as screen reader users (blind individuals, mainly) often rely on the title of the web page to verify their location.

Here is an example. When I moved to the News page of the web site, I made the screen reader read the title and it said “Pages of Tragedy – News”. Then when I moved to the Band page, and did the same action, the screen reader said “Pages of Tragedy – Band Information”.

Labels for Input Forms

I went to the page for contacting the webmaster. There I was glad to find that the text boxes in the contact form were properly labeled. When I moved to the Name text box, my screen reader spoke “Your name:” and it said “edit”, which told me that it was a text box. The other text boxes in this form (i.e. sender’s email, the subject of the message, and the message itself) were also correctly labeled.

This feature is very useful in helping me, and other screen reader users, in making sure that we’re entering data on the right text box.

Headings

The pages have marked up headings. This is another pleasant surprise, because I never found any headings in all the other band sites I’ve visited. Well, perhaps there are headings in those sites, but instead of using the correct tags, the texts were simply bolded to make them look bigger.

Headings improve a page’s usability, and they make the information look more organized. As a screen reader user, I find headings very useful as they let me navigate within a page more quickly. I can simply press a screen reader shortcut key to move to the next heading, and skip the content I don’t want to read. Without properly marked up headings, it can become hard to navigate through a page’s content.

Access Keys

Access keys are shortcut keys attached to a specific link or control. Using access keys, you can activate a link or control regardless of where you are in the page. Access keys aim to lessen the amount of steps in activating a link or function.

I know that most accessibility folks don’t support the use of access keys, mainly due to their tendency to conflict with browsers and assistive technologies. However, I think the site made good use of access keys. Here is an example. The “home” link in the pages has an alt+shift+1 access key in my browser. Since the access keys all used numbers instead of letters, I believe the access keys have a lesser chance of conflicting with assistive technologies and web browsers.

Alternative Text for Images

I’m also glad that the webmaster took the time to include text equivalents for important images in the site. This is clearly shown in the pages containing information about the members of the band.

Take for instance the page about Nell Sigland, the band’s female vocalist. When I set my cursor on the image in this page, my screen reader said “Graphic, Nell Sigland”. This helped me verify that in this page, there is an image of Nell Sigland, and not an image of something else.

Accessibility Issues of the Theatre of Tragedy Site

The Theatre of Tragedy web site also has its share of accessibility issues. Although alternative texts were provided in certain images, there are still a lot of images which do not have alt text. Most of these images can be found in the home page. There are links which do not clearly describe their purpose. Here and there I saw links which have the text “more”. These do not really provide meaningful information to people who listen to the content instead of reading it with their eyes. The accessibility of the site can also be improved by providing skip navigation links at the top of each page. These are only some of the issues in the site.

Conclusion

The Theatre of Tragedy web site does not mention accessibility in any of its pages. Yet I find that it has a higher level of accessibility compared to other web sites that do claim that they are accessible. Also, I believe that the Theatre of Tragedy site proves that you can still show your own unique identity, connect with your fans, and attract new followers, while providing a good amount of accessibility to those who need it.

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5 Responses to “Pages of Tragedy…And Accessibility”

  1. Tom Says:

    The fact that they are using access keys is a real good indication that they have considered accessibility. There are pros and cons for access keys, but that’s beside the point here. My experience is after testing a number of sites is when the site developers implement access keys, they implement many more accessibility features. It is just an observation, no scientific evidence.

    • Julius Charles Says:

      Mr. Tom,
      Thank you for your comment and observation. I agree that the use of access keys is a good indication of other accessibility features. The Theatre of Tragedy site is a perfect example of this.

  2. Julius Charles Says:

    I’d like to share that I wrote to Master of Tragedy, the webmaster of the Theatre of Tragedy site and shared a link to this blog post. I was very glad that Master of Tragedy replied, on the same day! He told me that he’ll try to work on the issues I talked about in the post, and asked if he could show the blog post to the band. I of course said YES!
    I am happy to say that TheatreOfTragedy.com is an accessible web site, and the wonderful people behind it are equally accessible too.

  3. Hein Says:

    thanks for the kind words on our website! we own it all to our excellent webmaster (and great friend for many years) andreas oelke (or master of tragedy as he calls himself)

    best regards
    hein/tot

    • Julius Charles Says:

      Hein,

      Thank you for your comment! I praise your webmaster for creating one of the few accessible websites in metal.

      Also, thanks to Master of Tragedy for posting this review on your site’s discussion board.

      Best regards,

      Julius

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