I wouldn't say "at all costs" - I can't imagine there are many people surfing in this day and age with images turned off, and from a design perspective, sometimes the design demands graphical buttons. Listen to the design! :) But yes, most definitely be sure to have text links in the footer if nowhere else -- the search engines like them best.
Is that true? I must be the exception. I never follow contextual links. Well, I do follow them on rare occasions, but only in a new browser window so I can pickup where I was on the previous page.
That's because you can't shake a dead cat these days without hitting a web designer. Everyone's son/brother/nephew/niece is a web designer, and by golly, if they can do it for me, why do I need a professional?
Anyway, enjoying this thread. Thanks Nick.