November 30, 2006
You may recall that some months ago Bruce Lawson and Dan Champion brought to our attention the poor state of affairs with a recent web site update for the Department of Trade and Industry - as in, it had poor accessibility despite it being a key requirement in the tendering process. It’s still not resolved (although various letters have gone back and forth from Bruce/Dan and government types suggesting that it is being looked at/addressed) but perhaps you can do your bit to ensure that UK taxpayers’ money is not wasted again in the future on sites that fail to meet the accessibility levels that you should rightly expect them to pass.
If you believe that governmental web sites should pass WCAG AA (minimum), add your name to the list here.
Go on, it won’t take you a moment and you’ll be saving Bruce and Dan a lot of bother in the future
Note: you must be a British citizen or resident to sign the petition.
November 27, 2006
Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t - or at least not as well as you thought you did. Paul Haine is certainly hoping that you don’t feel in any shame in putting yourself in the latter category otherwise his hard work on HTML Mastery will be for nothing. The book, which is due out in January (but you can pre-order on Amazon), goes beyond the simple basics that many of use on a day-to-day basis, looks at some of the lesser-known HTML elements and their uses (and, indeed, the lesser-known ones that deserve to stay lesser-known!). It’s a great refresher for people who think they know HTML pretty well but would like to really master the craft, a task that is helped greatly by the chapters on Microformats and a look at the development of XHTML 2.0 and Web Applications 1.0. But what really makes this book a great read is Paul’s writing style - if you’ve ever read any of his blog entries you’ll know he has a great sense of humour, and this has translated well to the topic at hand, a topic that, in the hands of others, could have been a very stuffy affair.
So, congratulations on the book, Paul - it’s another great addition to the web standards armory.
Pre-order HTML Mastery from Amazon
[Disclosure: I provided the technical editing on the book, in case you're wondering how I know what it's like before its proper release!]
November 21, 2006
I’ve had a lot of things on the go recently and I’ve been remiss in not doing a bit of self-promotion (and promotion for fellow authors Dan Rubin and Jeff Croft) for a certain CSS book. Pro CSS is the title and it does exactly what it says on the tin - it teaches professional CSS techniques for web developers/designers who already have a good basic understanding of CSS and want to refine their skills even further.
The book’s publication date (as far as Amazon is concerned) is the 27th November, so hopefully I’ll be getting my hands on my copies very soon (and I can tell you from experience that it’s a great feeling, although probably not quite as momentous as the first time, so to speak).
I’m looking forward to seeing Jeff and Dan at next year’s SXSW Interactive where we’ll get the chance to raise a (no doubt Yahoo or Google-sponsored) pint for a real celebration.
I know, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for - the complete unabridged history of all things Patrick H Lauke for your listening or reading pleasure! OK, joking aside, Patrick’s been interviewed for Web Axe (actually back in October for a podcast) and the transcript is available now. In it he covers various activities with the WaSP Accessibility Task Force, his involvement with Accessify.com and the forum and hanging about with reprobates … I mean fine upstanding fellows …. like Bruce Lawson.
November 9, 2006
Or rather he will do as soon as I’ve made a donation via paypal and added a (semi) permanent link on these pags to his Micropatronage drive. What’s it all about then?
Joe Clark is looking to write/create some standards for captioning and dubbing (a real bugbear of his when people get it wrong, something with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation seem to do on a regular basis, much to his annoyance). He’s also looking to develop training courses for captioning and dubbing, as well as design and create new fonts specifically for captioning.
But all this takes time, and time is money. Joe’s estimating a $7 million price tag for this, but he’s not looking to raise all that money, rather he’s seeking patronage to pay him an income for a few months while he goes about seeking funding for the project.
Here’s a bit more detail about what Joe is hoping to achieve:
I’ve been working for four years to set up the Open & Closed Project, which will do a couple of rather big things:
- Write a set of standards (how-to manuals) for four fields of accessibility – captioning, audio description, subtitling, and dubbing. (This is not Web accessibilty except to the extent that Web sites use multimedia with one or more of those features.) The standards will be based on evidence and research. Where either of those is missing, we’ll carry it out ourselves. It will take four years to write the standards, which will be done in an open process. (Again, this is not Web accessibility. It also isn’t the WCAG Samurai.) Then we’ll test them for a year and fix whatever doesn’t work. The published standards will not be open-source or public-domain, but will be freely downloadable (and available in print and other formats at a cost).
- Next, we’ll develop training and certification programs. At that point, it will finally be possible to go to school to become a certified practitioner of captioning, audio description, subtitling, or dubbing, and it will also be possible for TV networks, movie studios, producers and distributors, and regulators to require accessibility services to be Open & Closed Project–certified.
- We’re also going to work on a universal file format for the four fields of accessibility, which has been attempted several times before with no success.
- We’ll design and test new fonts for captioning and subtitling. In fact, that activity is already underway and has been for nearly two years.
You can find out more about the Micropatronage here, learn more about the Open and Close project here, donate some funds to keep Joe in coffee for the next few months or grab one of the many banners to put on your site.
I don’t claim to know much (or anything, really) about this topic but wish Joe well with this. Maybe afterwards, we’ll all have a greater understanding about captioning and dubbing.
November 7, 2006
A few days back Roger Johansson contemplated the value of accessibility statements on web pages while, quit coincidentally, Accessify reader Rosie Sherry was having similar thoughts on the topic:
The use of web accessibility statements seems to be linked to the Code of Practice from the DDA . It appears that the fear of being sued over inaccessible websites led to the mass introduction of accessibility statements. This made it appear that people were making an effort to make accessible sites.
Word gets around easily on the web and this resulted in accessibility statements being implemented on many sites (probably around 12 million), usually copied and pasted from on site to another (as no official guidelines existed). The excuse was that they would help users, but time has proven that the actual practice of implementing accessibility statements has not gone according to plan.
You can read her thoughts here in the article Showing Web Accessibility Statements the Door
AKA ‘when will people realise that link text is usually enough by itself and titles only cause you headaches when you forget to update them’. The BBC manages to retain superfluous
title attributes for the completely wrong TV programmes. Oops.
November 6, 2006
From the developer who brought us Fire Vox comes a new fantastic extension for Firefox: CLiCk, Speak
Unlike Fire Vox which is designed for visually impaired users, CLiCk, Speak is designed for sighted users who want text-to-speech functionality. It doesn’t identify elements or announce events - two features that are very important for visually impaired users but very annoying for sighted users.
If you’re a sighted user who wants to have web pages read to you because you have cognitive issues (for example, dyslexia), because you have literacy issues (like me - I can understand spoken Mandarin Chinese just fine, but reading is difficult for me), because you want to reduce eyestrain and listen to a web page being read, etc., then you are likely to prefer CLiCk, Speak over Fire Vox.
Amazing work, and a real solid competitor to something like BrowseAloud (and, compared to the latter, it works on all sites, not just the ones that have paid to get their pages “browse allowed”).