Latest Accessibility News on Accessify

BSI launches PAS 78: Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites

Fashionably late, due to my not being around over the last two days…

PAS78: Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites was officially launched by the BSI this Wednesday, 8 March 2006, at a one day event in London.

The document is the result of a year’s collaboration between the DRC, RNIB, BBC, Tesco, IBM, the W3C and many other contributors and reviewers.

Although it’s not perfect, the PAS gives a lot of very common sense advice to people in charge of commissioning any web development. It extolls the business sense of accessible web sites and provides decision makers with the information they need to avoid snake oil salesmen. It wisely does not try to set up its own set of accessibility guidelines, but heavily refers to W3C’s WAI WCAG, as well as making some excellent points (which directly address my usual “the onus is also on the user” argument) regarding UAAG and the need for users to meet developers half-way.

My partner in comedy crime for the day, Bruce Lawson, has an excellent run-down of the PAS‘ main points. Also see the BBC news item and the excellent OUT-LAW article.

PAS 78 is available to purchase for £30 (and yes, the price tag itself has been a hotly discussed issue at the launch already) from the BSI in a variety of formats (including the Daisy audio format and accessible PDF). Site licenses that enable organisations to place a copy of the document on their intranet for viewing/printing/transfer are also available.

Discuss PAS 78 on our forum.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sign Language on the Web

About this time time last year, I heard about a sign in Florida airport that struck me as somewhat silly. Obviously I just didn’t get it (as the two comments on that post clarified), and I was happy to find out more about the issue - and that is that while it may seem superfluous to include sign language when you have the written word, the fact is that for many deaf people the written language is their second language. With that in mind, I’d like to refer to an article I read today regarding live signing on web sites.

"… there are about 70,000 people in the UK who use British Sign Language [BSL] as a primary means of communication. It’s not a straight translation of English ? it has its own word order, grammar and morphology ? so English is often a very poor second language to them."

On a related topic, I caught part of a program made especially for the deaf community here in the UK at the weekend (called Switch). It was just on in the background, following from something else I’d been watching. A great idea in theory, but is it just me who thinks some of the acting is dreadful? Or are my expectations too high as a non-deaf consumer (in other words, for a deaf person watching the show, a ‘flat’ delivery by one of the speaking characters - and I refer to non-mute or non-deaf characters in the show, I’m not critiquing a deaf person’s vocal delivery! - is somewhat irrelevent, so does it matter?).

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Clear Type by Default

Hey Joe, your days over commandeering other people’s PCS and insiting on switching on ClearType may soon be over - ClearType will be on by default with IE7

After 5 years of real world experience and research, we?re now quite confident that the benefits for using ClearType are significant, and it was a mistake that we didn?t turn it on by default in XP.

No problem, Joe’s been doing his personal best to address it!

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Einfach für Alle relaunch

Just a quick congratulation to the hard working people over at German accessibility site Einfach für Alle (simply/simple for everybody) and their beautiful relaunch, which has been meticulously documented in their EfA relaunch article series.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Saturday, March 4, 2006

Digital Web Magazine interviews Derek Featherstone

Fellow WaSP Accessibility Task Force member and all-round nice guy Derek Featherstone is put under the spotlight in an interview over at Digital Web Magazine:

I start with “your brain” because accessibility isn’t a black-or-white question - what may be accessible to one person may not be to another. Human judgment plays a critical role in the process, and that comes from your brain, and your bank of experience.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Thursday, March 2, 2006

One of the (Many) Reasons I Have Been Quiet, part 3

Ever the apologist, here I am again justifying lack of activity on this site (and some others) over the last year or two (the list of other time-suckers can be found here). What’s the justification this time? Well, it’s a good one.

While travelling around the globe a couple of years ago, I started doing some technical editing for Sitepoint. It was a great way to earn a bit of money to pay my way while not getting in the way of moving from place to place - no bar work or fruit-picking for me! Much of this editing work was carried out in the back of my van in the late hours while my wife-to-be snoozed. When I returned to UK after travelling, I was approached about some more potential writing work. Despite the fact that I knew I had an extremely busy year ahead of me, somehow I felt brave enough to take it on. Over seven months, while dealing with two house sales, buying a new house and making tentative wedding plans, I spent many evenings working on this project. Today, for the first time, I saw the evidence that it was finally coming to fruition - Sitepoint have added the book to their ‘coming soon’ section.

So, what’s the book about?

At this point, it might be worth re-reading this post about the poor state of many beginner web design books on the market. The reason for my trip to the book shops was to really get a feel for what’s out there and to make sure that I was on track with what I was writing. I couldn’t have been happier at how bad it was - it made me realise that what I had started writing for Sitepoint was much needed and much overdue.

Who is this book aimed at?

Well, chances are it’s not aimed at you. As much as I’d like to say it’s a cutting edge book about CSS tricks that you and I love to peruse, or an accessibility book with a slightly different angle than those currently out there, it’s neither. This is what it is:

  • It’s a book that you can give to your web newbie mother/sister/auntie
  • It doesn’t presume any foreknowledge of HTML or ownership of any expensive/fancy web authoring software (nor does it suggest going out and buying any)
  • While it’s for beginners, it’s not going to call anyone a dummy ;-)
  • It’s a web design book that refuses to teach bad, outdated practices as a way of getting eye-catching results more quickly than the ‘proper’ method. For example, the first time you will see page layout covered is with CSS in chapter 4. Tables are covered - but in a chapter about managing data in tables, just where they should be .

In short, it’s a book that aims to teach complete beginners how to build web sites that conform to web standards such that they won’t need to unlearn bad practices at a later date, or even know that those bad practices exist.

Well, I’ve talked it up so much, about time I provided a link:

Build Your First Website The Right Way Using HTML & CSS

Publication date is March/April (I believe the latter ismore likely). If you think you know someone that this could be of benefit to, please do add your name to the notification list (by joining the Sitepoint Book Buyers’ Club). I am looking forward to seeing the finished result … and I really do wonder what bizarre and completely off-topic picture this book will have on the cover!

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Thursday, March 2, 2006

Big Button Report misses the point?

Via a discussion over at the Accessify forum I stumbled across an article on the British Dyslexia Association site entitled Big Button Report: FTSE and Fortune 500 review.

The report by Serena Thomson - a degree student at the University of British Columbia - attempts to give a fairly reasonable overview of the issues surrounding users with disabilities and corporate web sites. However, already from the summary, the report itself is based on fundamentally flawed assumptions. To pick out a few choice passages:

The Big Button Report, sponsored by the Communication Foundation, highlights just four companies which meet the minimum requirements of text size button which dyslexic people need. This means that the other 96 organisations are failing to meet the legal obligations of the 1995 and 2004 Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) which requires companies to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help people with disabilities.

Minimum requirements of text size button? Text resizing is a function of the browser / user agent. Web sites should be built according to best practices, separating content from presentation, thus allowing users to set their own preferred text size, foreground/background colour combination etc in their browser. Not implementing a site specific text resize button or widget is certainly not a failure to meet the obligations of the DDA, and claiming so in the opener to the article is a dangerous piece of misinformation.

The “Americans with Disabilities” Act requires that businesses and organizations make “reasonable accommodations” to provide equal access for customers and employees who have disabilities. To reconstruct a website to make it fully accessible - by giving the option available to increase the font size, or by providing text equivalents for visual content - is certainly “reasonable” when one considers the business itself will benefit from this consumer.

If a site avoids the use of absolute and pixel-based font sizes (which cannot be resized in Internet Explorer), users can employ their browser’s built-in functionality to resize the text size to best suit their needs, without the need for a site-specific option available to increase the font size. Putting text size widgets on par with such a fundamental requirement as the provision of text equivalents is, once again, dangerously misinformed.

The presentation of logical arguments is only so effective in convincing a person to carry out an action. More often the threat of a hefty lawsuit upon his or her failure to execute said action does a better job in half the time. Such was the case in the UK when after years of waiting, consumers who had struggled with inaccessible facilities - both concrete and electronic - celebrated the last part of the Disability Discrimination Act coming into force on 1st October 2004.

A fairly common mistake, but: the often quoted October 2004 deadline related to the provision of physical adjustments (access ramps, for instance). The web was already covered by the DDA prior to that, as it’s arguably not a physical premise.

In the near future a high level of accessibility will be standard in all new technology. It will be integrated into the experience of everybody who uses the internet, instead of added as an afterthought or allocated to a separate page.

The author seems to be confusing the technology (read: browsers) used to deliver web content and the web content itself here.

There are many more inconsistencies and slight errors, but in conclusion, the author’s intentions are obviously valid … however, this report seems to be drawing conclusions based on a set of flawed criteria which make me question the validity of the results.

And certainly only the most cynical among us would draw any conclusion from the fact that the article’s author, and indeed the Communication Foundation itself, has direct ties with Textic, the company whose web based toolbar product provides the text resize widget functionality on the BDA web site itself…(hat tip to Torsten for a bit of web based investigative research)

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Wednesday, March 1, 2006
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