Latest Accessibility News on Accessify


End of Free IE Not the End of Web Standards

The WaSP (Web Standards Project) breaks its silence over recent troubling announcements regarding Internet Explorer’s future:

That Microsoft’s browsers were free in the first place is due to their overzealous competition in the browser market. Microsoft earned a conviction on antitrust violations for their actions, but it is only relevant to us insofar as it implies a greater responsibility on Microsoft’s part to support industry standards—a responsibility they have said they accept. We are holding them to their word.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Friday, June 27, 2003


RNIB redesign

Well, the words on this topic on this site (and many others) certainly stirred up some ‘interesting’ conversation.

Now, I know that blind users don’t really go much on Pocket PC devices (that whole stylus touch-screen thing just doesn’t work), but it is a useful device for demonstrating how far a site owner has gone to write markup/code that is device independent. Simon Willison and Michael Davies (isolani) both put together CSS-based versions of the RNIB to show it could be done - here’s Simon’s, and here’s Michael’s. I checked Simon’s version on the Pocket PC. Compare that with the RNIB’s live version.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Friday, June 27, 2003


Who got the Juice?

Spotted on Juicy Studio’s site today:

Juicify logoIn an effort to find work, I’ve decided to start a consultancy and development company. I’ve tried to choose a domain name that has an association with Juicy Studio, and come up with Juicify. I’ll come clean and admit it was a little inspired by Accessify, but it’s quite appropriate, as it’s a verb meaning to make Juicy.

It gave me a smile.

Anyway, on more serious matters, Juicy Studio have a useful new tool for you to try out - the Colour Contrast Analyser. Using this tool, you simply enter two colours (foreground and background) and the tool will calculate whether the two tones offer a high enough contrast. It’s a simple tool, but does the job well. Using #fff and #fca as the two colours, the report would simply state:

The difference in brightness between the two colours is not sufficient. The threshold is 125, and the result of the foreground and background colours is 39.

The difference in colour between the two colours is not sufficient. The threshold is 500, and the result of the foreground and background colours is 136.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, June 25, 2003


Do you like comments?

A simple question really - this news page used to include comments, but they were provided by a third-party system that often slowed down the page load, but we keep thinking about re-introducing comments.

Naturally, it would be great if you could say "Yes, I’d love to be able to pass comment" … but for you to be able to do that we’d need some kind of commenting system here. Ah, the irony. So, if you find yourself wanting to have your say on these posts, drop us a line using the contact us page for the time being. We can add your comments to post manually for the time being.

Any recommendations about how we might introduce comments are also welcome. Note that the site is built using ASP and the news is powered by Blogger Pro. We do not want to rely on an Access database for these comments (if that fails, the whole news page fails), so if there is a third party system that seems pretty fool-proof and puts the comments directly on the page (rather than in a pop-up window), then we’d love to know.

Failing that, we’ll just have to wait for the full launch of TypePad.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, June 25, 2003


RNIB redesign does not go far enough

Well, I have to confess that I had high hopes for the new design for the RNIB’s web site. The re-working is not just limited to the structure/design of the site, but also the content of the site itself:

“If you’ve noticed that this site looks different to the last time you visited, that’s because it’s a completely new website. The site has been completely redesigned to make it more accessible, easier to navigate and visually attractive, but the really big difference is that all of the information has been updated and rewritten for the web.”

However, my initial reaction upon seeing the site is that they missed an opportunity. The site looks OK, but is not as graphically pleasing as it could be. You might argue that the audience doesn’t require that - and I understand this completely - but it’s not just blind and visually impaired users who may visit the site. This redesign gave an opportunity to show that an accessible site - and one that itself indirectly promotes the ethic of web accessibility - can be good-looking (but not necessarily in an overtly extravagant way).

Among the crimes that have been committed in this redesign are:

  • A table based layout - this was the perfect opportunity to ditch a table for layout and make the site work in a PDA just as well as a fully CSS-able browser viewed on a large screen. Not only that, but the tables are quite heavily nested. Here’s an actual grab of some of the source code:













  • Invalid or deprecated markup - a casual glance at the markup reveals that a number of attributes used are completely invalid for the doctype. Oops, did I say doctype? There wasn’t one specified. Offending tags and attributes include:
    • <font> tags
    • the use of <b> tag instead of <strong> (find out what’s wrong with the <b> tag here)
    • bgcolor attribute - background colours specified in table cells (surely one of the most widely supported CSS1 properties - why not use it?
  • Incorrect document structure - why could I find a <h2> in the source code when there is no <h1> preceding it?
  • Poor use of margins - how can it be that text butting right up against the left margin is good for visually impaired users? Margins are easy to control using CSS. The way that the text sits on the page is just poor design generally, if you ask me, let alone for people who may have difficulty viewing verticals that appear to be merging with the vertical divider immediately to the left:

    Text with no margin causes reading difficulty for some.

There may be other faults with the site, but this really is little more than a cursory glance, really.

Some people may disagree with me on this. Blind people may not really give a hoot about some of the points above given that:

  • they can jump around the page using hidden skip navigation links (or signposts, as the RNIB calls them) regardless of the look of the site
  • it works fine in their screen reader
  • the information presented is clear and easy to understand.

However, I feel that the site could have gone further. It should have been possible to make this site smaller in filesize (per page), more flexible in terms of device-independence, comformant to established standards and still serve its purpose in providing information for blind/visually impaired people (or their carers/relatives) in an attractive way. It’s not the radical relaunch I was expecting. Screenshot taken 25 June 2003

Tim Roberts comments: Have to agree with you on the RNIB site. Definite anti-climax.
Tips for screenreaders and many other links returned this:

Content Server Request Failed

Unable to retrieve file. The dynamic application file is not at the
specified location



You would have thought that the RNIB would have also gone for a CSS
XHTML layout considering the inherent accessibility of such techniques.
They also seem to be using a CMS, but rather than just not serving up
content that is not relevant (eg, for users that are logged in) they
comment the code out, adding useless bandwidth to the document.
Step backwards I think. God knows what they are thinking.

Other comments:

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Tuesday, June 24, 2003

RNIB to relaunch their site

As reported on the E-Access Bulletin mailing list:

The RNIB is to relaunch its main web site
next week, to make it more user-friendly for visitors with impaired
vision (which, sorry to say, made this news writer chuckle slightly in a "well duh!" kind of fashion).

According to website manager Margaret O’Donnell the previous site,
which went live in 1995, had grown too large and as a result contained
out-of-date information and had layout inconsistencies between
sections. “Before, we had a big maintenance problem with 20,000
HTML files on the site and a team of only three people.” To combat
this, a new accessible content management system has been installed,
which has also been applied to the RNIB’s intranet.
The new site, which has been two years in the making, will also be
easier to navigate with assistive technologies. “Better-structured
documents will make it easier to read or scan with screen readers,”
O’Donnell said. Staff have also been trained in how to write for text-to-speech software, and other web accessibility issues including plain
style and the avoidance of jargon.

The site will include information on accessing technology, with fact-sheets and resources.

Tip of the hard hat to Darren from Acquiweb for pointing out the news in the first place - thanks !

Text Email Newsletter standard ?

While looking for further details on the above news item, I stumbled across this little nugget of information at Headstar: the Text Email Newsletter standard.

To quote: This standard is designed to ease navigation of plain text email
newsletters by all readers, including those using screen-readers
and other special access technologies.
The standard was developed by E-Access Bulletin, a free email
newsletter on access to technology by visually impaired people
published by Headstar with RNIB.

Comprising 18 common-sense guidelines, it’s certainly not difficult to implement in your own email newsletter practices, and the fact that the RNIB was involved should give this standard some creditibility. My only concern would be that, although this document has been available since December 2002, there is still no list of organisations or individuals adhering to these guidelines. Nevertheless, even if it turns out not to be an “officially accepted” standard, the TEN outline is still worth a read.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Friday, June 20, 2003



In case you missed it, Jeffrey Zeldman has been doing the (virtual) rounds recently, so I thought I should perhaps do a bit of catch-up and list the various interviews:

And I think that just about covers it. Something to do with a book that he’s got out at the moment, apparantly.

Ian spoke … but ran out of time

For anyone who attended the UKUPA meeting last night (topic: Web Accessibility), you will know that I came on late and, as such, didn’t get time to finish my presentation. The point at which I finished was a little premature, as I didn’t even get to present the summary slides. What you missed:

  • Key learning points from the redesign of Nationwide ‘brochureware
  • Why we failed the RNIB See-It-Right accrediation
  • Practical demonstrations of testing tools (other then Watchfire/Bobby)
  • Examples of good-looking and accessible sites
  • Some CSS-based sites that will knock your socks off
  • And finally … a couple of howlers I found on usability sites that really should know better

I’ve posted the powerpoint slides on this site, but obviously you don’t get the talk that goes with it, so if you have any questions about the slides, just drop me a line (ian DOT lloyd AT nationwide DOT co DOT uk).

Hopefully the fact that we were cut a little short didn’t spoil the presentation as a whole. And hopefully you weren’t too disappointed to discover that I am not bearded, over 50 with thinning hair and into Linux programming.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Access Keys at ALA

Alistapart (for people who make websites) is well and truly back. The latest feature is a tutorial about making your accesskeys more apparent to users with the magic of XHTML and CSS.

This site also uses accesskeys, but they are hidden - only if you hover over a link is the attribute revealed. This practice is not brilliant - we much prefer Stuart’s advice about making them clearly visible, so go on over and read the article (a link to this is permanently archive here, along with a number of other useful accessibility articles).

For information, here is a handy reference list of browsers that currently support the accesskey attribute.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Accessify on Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Useful toolbar for Netscape/Mozilla/Firebird

For my first post here, I’d like to offer just a quick heads-up to web developers using Netscape, Mozilla or (my personal favourite) Firebird for page testing: Chris Casciano’s excellent XUL toolbar offers a myriad of useful functions at the click of a button.

Among the highlights:

  • Links to most W3C Specifications.
  • Automated submission to many validation tools.
  • Resize Window to specific dimensions for testing.
  • View page cookies.

Give it at try: download the pnh developer toolbar. Yes, it’s not the only toolbar of its kind that’s around, but I found it a touch more comprehensive than most others I’ve seen … (Ian comments: “And another welcome due to Patrick - happy posting!”)

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Saturday, June 14, 2003


Tips To Make Your Site Accessible

There’s a nice Accessibility thread over at WebMaster World, head on over and check it out. That’s it for now. (Ian comments: “Welcome aboard Nigel - thanks for the post!”)

Glad to be here Ian, thanks for the invite. For anyone who’s in the Yorkshire/Humber region of the UK there’s a couple of briefings coming up from Club UK Online on the topic of "W3C, Web Standards and Accessibility" (yours truly being the presenter). Get over there if you can.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Accessify on Friday, June 13, 2003
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