June 25, 2008
It almost slipped my mind - I was too busy marvelling at the speed and efficiency with which Firefox 3 handle multiple open tabs compared to Firefox 2 - but with that browser’s v3 release last week came a big accessibility enhancement in the form of WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications) support. As stated on RNIB’s Web Access Centre Blog:
This is an exciting time in the browser area as support for the Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) suite gathers pace in the next generation of browsers. Browsers with support, partial support and planned support for WAI-ARIA include Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3, Opera and Web Kit based browsers including Apple’s Safari.
Things are looking better and better on this front, and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming articles on WAI-ARIA that WACblog promises.
There are some web sites that, when they start to use certain certain technologies, it becomes a ’seal of approval’. When a massive site like the BBC starts using technology X, it’s a fairly good indication that the technology involved has gone through various assessments before being declared safe. The Microformats team have probably (and this is just an assumption, don’t shoot me!) used said web site as an example of adoption of the hCalendar Microformat (for marking up event dates/times), but now it seems that the BBC are having second thoughts.
The announcement on Monday that the BBC is withdrawing hCalendar markup from its schedules must come as a blow to the Microformats supporters. For the accessibility community as a whole, it must be a good thing. On numerous occasions, accessibility experts have pressed for changes to the ABBR design pattern - the underlying source of the problem - such that screen reader users are not subjected to incomprehensible information when coming across the abbreviated (or rather machine-readable) version of the date/time.
Let’s hope that the BBC’s withdrawal of hCalendar as a whole, for the time being, spurs the Microformats group into coming up with a workable solution to the problem once and for all, rather than sticking to their guns and hoping the protests will simply go away.
[View Patrick's post on the topic - and comments - at WaSP]
June 23, 2008
The RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People), in conjunction with The Paciello Group (pronounced ‘pass-ee-ello’, not ‘patchy yellow’ as I’d always assumed!), has announced a beta release of the Surf Right toolbar, an addition for Internet Explorer that reveals numerous settings that are tucked away in various options in the browser and places them right there, right in your face, big button style.
The Surf Right Toolbar is really for anyone who wants to adjust the way they view content on the web to make it easier to read. This could include people with mild disabilities, the elderly, people with reading problems, cognitive problems, using dial-up, photosensitivity and so on.
It will certainly find some receptive fans, although I’m still dubious whether someone who does not know where to change the settings in the browser as-is will be likely to download and install a toolbar like this (on the basis that if they don’t normally tinker with settings, they’re not likely to install this kind of thing) but I am happy to be proven wrong; besides, the RNIB are in an ideal position to promote a tool like this.
You can download the Surf Right toolbar here; more details about the toolbar on RNIB’s blog here.
June 16, 2008
If you happen to find yourself in the lovely surrounds of Boulder, Colorado in November, you may want to make a note of this event taking place (details quoted from press release with some minor editing):
The 11th Annual Accessing Higher Ground: Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference for Education, for Businesses, for Web and Media Designers (In Collaboration with AHEAD, EASI, ATHEN and CSUN ATACP)
November 11 - 14, 2008, University of Colorado-Boulder
Accessing Higher Ground focuses on the implementation and benefits of Assistive Technology in the university and college setting for sensory, physical and learning disabilities. Other topics include legal and policy issues, including ADA and 508 compliance, and making campus media and information resources - including Web pages and library resources - accessible. Dozens of workshops, lectures, hands-on experience in beautiful Boulder, Colorado.