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Book Review: Just Ask

A quick mention - there’s a new book review for Shawn Henry’s excellent ‘Just Ask’ that I’ve just added:

This, however, is a joy to behold - Shawn has created an excellent book that is well presented, clearly laid out and notated, nicely designed and just looks extremely sleek.

Definitely worth checking out if you are in the field of accessibility, testing or are outside of those disciplines and want to have a better understanding of them. Top work, Shawn!

Filed under: Reviews
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Monday, April 30, 2007

What Next? Blind people driving cars?

Yes, we’ve all heard a variation on that theme when someone questions why it’s necessary to make such adjustments to web sites for blind users. Would we do the same for cars to make them driveable? The answer is, of course, no - people realise that would never happen. But what about flying machines?!

Well, this news just in - a blind pilot has flown from England to Australia:

Miles Hilton Barber story in the BBC News web site

So, time for a disclaimer- he was flying with a fully sighted co-pilot! All the same, it’s a massive achievement but not the first one that Miles Hilton-Barber has had. Among the list of achievements, he has:

  • Completed”The Toughest Foot-race on earth” - 150 miles across the Sahara Desert in the Marathon des Sables
  • Climbed to 17,500 feet in the Himalayas
  • Climbed Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt. Blanc- Africa’s/Europe’s highest mountains
  • Circumnavigated 38,000 miles around world using 80 forms of transport
  • Set the Malaysian Grand Prix lap record for blind driver in 200kph Lotus

Not a bad list of achievements, eh?

Apparently the microlight aircraft is equipped with ’speech-output technology’ (as BBC News put it) to enable him to pilot it. Amazing stuff, but I was a little surprised to see this:

Click here link to Seeing is believing

Did Miles write this page himself or did someone else do it for him? I suspect the latter, as Miles would almost certainly balk at the idea that ‘click here’ links were in use on his own site (why ‘click here’ links are bad). Kind of ironic that the ‘click here’ link goes to a site called Seeing is Believing.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (2) Posted by Ian on Monday, April 30, 2007

microformats’ ABBR design pattern raises accessibility concerns

Fellow WaSP ATF members James Craig and Bruce Lawson deliver a timely article on microformats and the problems related to the (ab)use of the ABBR element as a design pattern for machine-readable data.

Most of the time, Microformats and the principles of accessibility coexist harmoniously.

[...]

The creators of Microformats strayed from their accessible, semantic intentions when they extended the abbr-design-pattern to the datetime-design-pattern. This idea, though paved with good intentions, was a workaround for a browser bug and, like many others, has unintended, harmful side effects.

Personally, I’ve also raised concerns a while ago about the use of ABBR for geocoding content, such as:

<abbr class=”geo” title=”30.300474;-97.747247″>Austin, Texas</abbr>

To be clear, this isn’t a slamdown on the concept of microformats as a whole, but just on the way ABBR may not be the most suitable candidate for certain patterns.

The discussion is already in full swing, with some good arguments on either side of the fence…so head on over to read the full article hAccessibility and join the debate.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (2) Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Friday, April 27, 2007

Working Draft: Implementation Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group has published a Working Draft of Implementation Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. These techniques, sample strategies and resources are an aid for developers who wish to satisfy the checkpoints in Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (ATAG). ATAG helps developers design tools and authoring interfaces that are accessible to users including those with disabilities, and that produce accessible Web content. Resulting content can be read by a broader range of readers. Learn more about the WAI Technical Activity

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (2) Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Tuesday, April 24, 2007

People don’t give a rat’s arse about usability and accessibility (at Xmas time)

This news just in, courtesy of the wonderfully educational Google Trends: people could not give a monkeys about usability or accessibility at Christmas time. We now have the proof, as this graph shows:

People don't give a rats arse about usability and accessibility (at Xmas time)

That is all.

Filed under: Accessibility, Humour
Comments (2) Posted by Ian on Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A List Apart article on WAI-ARIA

In this month’s issue of A List Apart, Martin Kliehm gives us a peek at the potential of Accessible Web 2.0 Applications with WAI-ARIA:

Web 2.0 applications often have accessibility and usability problems because of the limitations of (X)HTML. The W3C’s standards draft for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) addresses those limitations. It provides new ways of communicating meaning, importance, and relationships, and it fills gaps in the (X)HTML specifications and increases usability for all users by enabling navigation models familiar from desktop applications. Best of all, you can start using ARIA right away to enhance the accessibility of your websites.

[...]

Currently only Firefox 1.5 or later and three major screen readers (Window Eyes 5.5+, Jaws 7.0+, ZoomText) support them, but the extra attributes won’t hurt other browsers.

Filed under: Accessibility, WAI-ARIA
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Thursday, April 12, 2007

RoboBraille - braille and speech converter

A free service that provides automatic Braille conversion is proving popular despite still being in test phase.

RoboBraille was started by a Danish organisation and now has partners in five other European countries.

Anyone wanting to use the service, which is partly funded by the EU, can send plain text, rich text, html or Word documents by e-mail.

Within a few minutes they receive their document either as an MP3 audio file or as electronic Braille.

[...]

With the second phase of testing about to begin, RoboBraille’s developers are now keen for more people to test the service ahead of its planned launch next year.

Looks promising, but I’d be interested to hear feedback from actual users. Read the full article on RoboBraille in the BBC Technology news section.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Thursday, April 12, 2007

WCAG 2.0 - Finally Here! [April Fool!]

[Update: Yes, it was an April Fool's joke as most people had worked out, but we're keeping it here with this disclaimer rather than removing the post.]

Well, it’s certainly caught a few people by surprise. It may seem like we’ve been all been going around in circles for a while on this, but the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 finally became a candidate recommendation on Friday. This was despite the last draft having a large number of
comments that were, apparently, still not addressed. Looking at the WCAG mailing list, it seems that much of the clearing up of these sticking points was largely down to the concerted efforts of invited expert Olivier Farlop (or Oli to his friends). So, after what has seemed like an absolute age, it seems like the joke’s on us - all that deliberation and argument, disagreement and opinion has been made a mockery of with this surprising announcement.

Filed under: Accessibility, W3C
Comments (12) Posted by Ian on Sunday, April 1, 2007