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Better Late Than Never

Finally I can point people in the direction of presentation slides from @media 2005. I had originally intended to put them up on this site but because of connectivity issues (house-moving) and hosting issues (ran out of disk space), this wasn’t possible. Dotjay (or Jon, as his mother refers to him) has kindly hosted the presentation slides for me. And he’s already discovered that hosting the saved pages (that I used as examples during the presentation) has given him a little Google surpise - a search for “Chippenham Sexshop” brings up his domain in the first page of results!

Anyway, without further ado, and assuming anybody is even vaguely interested now, so long after the event, here are my slides from @media 2005.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Saturday, July 30, 2005

Copying 508 vs. raising the bar

On Friday, IBM Worldwide Accessibility Director Frances West wrote an op-ed piece in News.com raising what IBM sees as a red flag: the numerous new accessibility policies in development within Europe.

Titled “Accessibility could take a step backward”, one is lulled into a sense that West is advocating advances in accessibility policy, raising the bar from Section 508, passed in the United States in 1998. However, read closer and you’ll see the real message here: IBM wants 508 to be adopted around the world, as is.

It is true that a different accessibility policy in each country in Europe would result in a terrible mess. It would mean that software companies would need to ensure that each feature meets the different requirements of each government, paralyzing the development of even the simplest applications, and fragmenting the meaning of accessibility to the point of irrelevancy. Software developed today and delivered via the Internet is, by default, international in nature.

However, it is important not to fall into the trap West lays with this argument. Standards harmonization does not mean sticking to the first thing that came along, that being 508. Accessibility laws must evolve to meet the needs of modern software development. Section 508 itself requires the Access Board to review and update the standard as necessary.

In the interest of harmonization, IBM should be urging the numerous accessibility bodies in Europe, as well as those in technology leaders such as Japan and the United States, not to settle on the least common denominator. Section 508 has in some senses been a big success, but in other areas it has failed people with disabilities, and as it becomes more dated, it is destined to fail more often. Its greatest benefit is that it sets a single benchmark with a relatively low degree of subjectivity. But that alone doesn’t mean it’s perfect; it merely makes it measurable.

We as advocates of accessibility should be aware of the dynamic between software companies, their consumers, and the regulations set forth to benefit accessibility. IBM is calling for a worldwide baseline of Section 508. What they and other vendors really need is one unified, measurable standard applicable to all of their markets. And it is to everyone’s advantage to work toward such a standard, provided it is as rigorous as necessary to fully meet the access needs of users with disabilities. Settling for the aging 508 is not a victory for international accessibility. For large companies like IBM, whose software already complies with 508, it merely enforces the status quo.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (1) Posted by Accessify on Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dolphin launches the world’s first access software on a portable Pen

Announced back in March, Dolphin Computer Access is now offering versions of it’s assistive technology software that run from a USB pen drive.

Dolphin Computer Access Limited today announced the availability of the world’s first access software available through a portable Pen device. Dolphin’s version 6.51 software suite is now available to order in two separate editions: the PC Edition and the Dolphin Pen Edition.

Using the Dolphin Pen, it is possible for blind and low vision computer users around the world, to walk up to any computer and find their access program running automatically, and configured just the way they like it! From 11 th May 2005, Dolphin’s Supernova, Hal, Lunar and LunarPlus will be available to order in the new Dolphin Pen Edition, as well as the standard PC Edition.

Unlike all other screen access products, the Dolphin Pen runs from a USB Pen Drive ? a small portable device that measures just 6cm long and 2cm wide, which plugs straight into the USB slot of a computer. This allows a user to carry their software with them to any “Dolphin Pen Friendly” PC and run Supernova, Hal, Lunar or LunarPlus instantly, as if it were on their own system. The Dolphin Pen automatically saves a user’s own preferred settings, so that every time the Pen is used there is no need to reconfigure the settings. Just plug it in and go! When the Pen is removed all of the user settings are automatically saved back to the Pen.

Read the full press release.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, July 25, 2005

W3C Web Accessibility Initiative site redesign launched

After a period of beta and requests for feedback, the redesigned W3C Web Accessibility Initiative site was finally made live. I’m glad to see that a good number of suggestions from the community were taken into consideration (particular thanks for abandoning Gill Sans for the main copy, as at small sizes it is definitely not a pleasant on-screen font).

The curious among you may be interested in the process documentation on the WAI Web Site Redesign Project pages.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, July 25, 2005

The Accessibility Chronicles

OK, so I’m two weeks late posting this. My justification? Well, I only just saw it for myself today! I’m referring to a well written piece by Mike Davidson on his personal blog entitled The Accessibility Chronicles.

Does CSS-P automatically create a better user experience for blind people than table layouts?

Those who know say no.

Are unordered lists always more navigable than manually linebreaked items?

Those who know say no.

Are today’s screenreaders able to consistently interpret even the cleanest of code?

Those who know say no.

It’s well worth a read, and stay for the comments too - lots of interesting discussion happening there also.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Thursday, July 14, 2005

Making Friends and Influencing People

A lesson in how not to make friends in the accessibility community.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Monday, July 11, 2005

Screen Reader Users - What Bothers You Most?

The recently announced WaSP Accessibility Task Force (ATF) needs your help - if you are a screen reader user, be that an every-day user or someone who uses the tool for testing purposes, we want to hear from you.

  • What are your biggest frustrations where support for XHTML/HTML is concerned?
  • What are the biggest problems with your screen reader software’s support for HTML elements that it really should be able to cope with?
  • What do you find most difficult when listening to a web page which could be improved by basic HTML support?

Please feed your comments using the feedback form and be sure to make clear the following:

  • What software and version you are using
  • Describe the problem
  • Provide a live URL for an example of how the screen reader gets it wrong

I know that other people on the WaSP ATF are also asking for feedback of this nature. It will be collated and then used when WaSP approaches the screen reader vendors - this is your chance to have your say. With some hope, and with enough weight of evidence, perhaps the people making the software might pay attention.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (1) Posted by Ian on Wednesday, July 6, 2005