March 31, 2005
WAI’s Wendy Chisholm asks developers to see accessibility requirements as a catalyst for finding new solutions to benefit all users in her very comprehensive article Innovative Design Inspired by Accessibility over at Digital Web Magazine.
Don’t postpone providing an alternative method or direct access for years or decades. Do it today. You will design an application that will increase the usability and worth of your application for more people, and likely increase your audience and create something truly innovative.
March 29, 2005
Access Matters is an interesting new site by Bob Easton:
Are practices and techniques developed several years ago still valid as web technology evolves? Designers and developers are continuously changing their techniques. As we move away from using tables for layout to using CSS for layout, what accessibility techniques need to be updated? This blog uses a quiz format to seek current best practices. Many, but not all, questions ask about techniques that can be used in designs using CSS for layout. I ask about specific situations and see how the best minds in the industry answer.
March 26, 2005
Bob Regan, Director of Accessibility at Macromedia, has posted an interesting draft of Flash techniques that mirror WCAG 1.0 priority 1 and 2 checkpoints within actual Flash movies. And before anybody jumps up to point out that Flash is inherently inaccessible, I’d suggest skimming over Bob’s previous post on Flash Accessibility which hopefully puts this idea into context.
March 24, 2005
Yesterday I was reading through The Zen of CSS Design, and came across a few paragraphs that covered the thorny topic of accessibility conformance, namely that when the site was first built it validated in Bobby as AAA compliant, but in reality - for a number of reasons - it couldn’t truly claim that level. However, Dave Shea openly admitted in the book that changing any of the underlying structure of the CSS Zen Garden was out of the question because of the numerous sites that were built on those XHTML foundations.
The story has become an issue in recent days, prompted by the Italian web developer community who have been questioning those AAA claims, and Dave has responded here. However, what’s more interesting, for my money, is the discussion that’s followed Dave’s posting - what should he do with the Zen Garden to ensure that the accessibility claims are fair and honest?
March 22, 2005
Matt May (W3C WCAG dude - if dude and those acronyms have a place in the same sentence*) makes the point that, first of all, asynchronous server interaction is not new (it’s just a new, improved flavour) and secondly if those people who are pushing AJAX as the ‘new great thing’ don’t think things through thoroughly, there’s going to be trouble:
There are other discussions about the topic, such as this one over at Standards Schmandards which I would strongly advise the standardistas who are thinking of using AJAX to read before untold damage is done. I would not recommend this page, however.
Ajax - the new DHTML? You decide …
* [I jest of course - I know Matt, and he's no freaky, bearded, big jumper-wearing brainbox with poor social skills and bad teeth. That was someone else I met at SXSW ...]
After a year out, I’ve finally got back to the process of re-coding and re-designing Accessify. Some may know that although this site is powered with ASP (a Microsoft-only technology), I am now firmly a Mac user. This, and the travels, made updates to anything other than the home page a major hassle (apologies go out at this point to anyone who took the time to point out bugs they spotted that have not been fixed. Now you know why!). So, I re-built the majority of the site in PHP and MySQL, and also got help from a number of individuals in re-coding some of the tools and wizards (they will be given the appropriate credit once the site is re-launched), but having reached the 90% progress mark, I stopped work and downed tools. Why? Well, it was just crazy to consider re-launching a site when I was on the other side of the world with infrequent Internet access. So I parked the work and vowed to pick it up again when I could.
Visiting Austin for SXSW 2005 both inspired me and made me realise that I need to pick up those proverbial tools again, and that’s exactly what has happened. In the process of dusting down the old content in the last few days it’s become apparent that the site needs more content (other than the fairly frequent news updates). And this is the reason for this post: If you are interested in accessibility and would like to write a feature, opinion piece (rant about whatever you like) or put together a tutorial, please drop me a line. I’m not asking for article submissions at this time - I’d rather wait until the site has a firm re-launch date - just for people to register interest so that I can get back to them at the appropriate time.
Other Things I Need to Do
- Find some decent hosting, must support PHP/MySQL and allow use of .htaccess files. Can you recommend anyone? If you can, please drop me a line with an indication of cost
- Find a way of turning a few hundred pages of ASP URLs into PHP equivalents. I’ve re-built the whole site and it’s not a simple case of re-writing the file extension using mod_rewrite. Basically, I’m wondering if there’s a way of entering into a database all my ‘before’ and ‘after’ URLs and then converting them all to mod_rewrite statements. If you know how I might do this, please drop me a line.
- I’m also trying to think about what might be useful to add to the tools and wizards section of the site. Do you have any ideas about tools you’d like to see (note - I am aware that many people have asked for a List-O-Matic that supports two-level lists for use with drop-downs, before you suggest!)
So, with that I’ll get back to some proper, ‘paid’ work!
March 18, 2005
Please, if there’s anybody in the room here from Mozilla, make Firefox accessible.
So said Bob Regan at one of the SXSW presentations (well, I’m paraphrasing a little). And I have to agree that while I personally love Firefox (but to a lesser extent Mozilla), I simply cannot defend it on its accessibility record. The simple fact is that if you want to be serious about using assistive technology, you have to use Internet Explorer. So, I was pleased to read this interview on an Italian web site with Aaron M Leventhal, leader of the Mozilla Accessibility Project:
There are two main areas of Firefox accessibility. The first part is the HTML window … This area is in pretty good shape, although we have a DHTML accessibility project, and will also want to make XForms accessible.
The other area is Firefox’s user interface … One of the reasons that the Firefox UI is so great is that a very small group of developers worked very closely on it, and only started allowing the larger community of developers access to it after much progress was made. Unfortunately, accessibility was not always considered during these early stages. As a result, we have a large number of small scale glitches that need to be fixed. The most common problem is missing keyboard functionality, such as the innability to compeltely use the options dialog with the keyboard. The other major set of problems is widgets that are not correctly exposed, such as the download manager, which screen readers currently can’t recongize as an interactive list of items. In general Firefox is like a rough sculpture which needs to be polished for accessibility. The basic structure is already there, but the details are very important.
So while there’s no specific news about a release date for an accessible Firefox, there is some promising news in the pipeline - ‘it’s being looked at’. It’s a start - keep on it, guys and girls. I look forward to following up this post!
March 17, 2005
Apologies for anyone who was expecting a full run-down of all the accessibility panels that took place at this year’s South by Southwest. Quite simply, I did not make copious notes, but I will be collecting together all the accessibility-related posts I find on other people’s blogs over the coming days (feel free to add a comment for antying you find in the meantime). For those vaguely interested, here are my personal recollections of SXSW 2005 (not necessarily accessibility related, nor necessarily relevant to you, unless perhaps you know me personally or were at SXSW yourself).
The leading online resource for anyone interested in deafness, hearing loss and tinnitus is just a click away. After months of focus groups, research and user testing, RNID launched its new website on March 17.
Packed full of new features, and with a fresh, modern look, it is easier to navigate, fully inclusive and has a powerful new search engine to help you find what you’re looking for faster.
“Overall it will be a completely new experience for our users, comparable to the best websites out there,” says Website Manager Sara Ashton.
“People have the same expectations for all websites and charities are not exempt from this.”
There is no doubt about it, the new RNID site is a huge improvement…although a few things still puzzle me. For instance: why can’t I find anywhere on the site what the initialism RNID actually stands for…is it “for the Deaf” or “of the Deaf”? Yes, I know…but the devil is in the detail.
March 13, 2005
Some people sit in the audience furiously typing away, blogging the presentations as they happen. Others sit back and let them get on with it. I’m in the latter category, so here are a few links to those people in the former category who can type a heck of a lot faster than me
More accessibility-related SXSW postings as I find them …