Latest Accessibility News on Accessify

Introducing The John Slatin Fund Accessibility Project

John SlatinIt was not long ago that we learnt of John Slatin’s passing. As a long-time active member of the accessibility world who worked with the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative and co-authored a book on the topic, John was passionate about the topic. In his memory is a great service for companies that want an accessibility review from experts in the field, appropriately entitled The John Slatin Accessibility Fund Project.

For a minimum donation of $500 US, the project will put the company requesting the review in touch with one of the experts (who have volunteered their time for free) and the funds will go towards the (not inconsiderable) medical costs that were incurred during John’s long illness. They aim to raise $25,000 from the project but the donation is a minimum suggested, so with hope this will not be difficult to achieve. And even if people do only donate the minimum, then there are good things that can come from that too – that’ll be another 50 web sites whose accessibility will be improved in John’s name.

If you are looking for an accessibility review, please do consider using this outlet, and if you consider yourself an expert and have some time that you can donate, contact the project to offer your services.

Comments Off Posted by Ian on Thursday, April 3, 2008

From PAS 78 to a full British Standard

British Standards Institution (BSi), the UK’s national standards body, now in the process of establishing a new technical standards committee to oversee the development of a standard which all organisations will be able to follow in procuring or developing an accessible website.

[...]

[Julie] Howell says BSi would like the standard to be based on PAS78 but she is also keen to widen it to embrace some of the new types of web service that were not around just a couple of years ago when the PAS was drawn up.

Read the full story on the E-Access Blog: Raising the standards.

Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Review WCAG 2.0 Last Call Working Draft

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group invites you to review the second WCAG 2.0 Last Call Working Draft published on 11 December 2007. WCAG 2.0 explains how to make Web sites, applications, and other content accessible to people with disabilities. Please submit any comments on the following document by 1 February 2008: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 - W3C Working Draft 11 December 2007

See the complete call for review: WCAG 2.0 Last Call Working Draft for further details.

Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Using Videos to Influence and Change Perceptions

I’ve just come back from speaking to a lady who works in the same company that pays my wages and who has rapidly diminishing eyesight - a rare eye condition has left her with something similar to cataracts, and a feeling of seeing everything through a heavy white curtain. The reason for my visit was to interview her and capture it on video, and ultimately the edited clip will be used in presentations that I’ll be doing within the company. Because it’s all well and good to talk about accessibility affecting people ‘out there’ but for many people these kinds of people are ‘mythical beasts’, so what better way than to show that "these people are here, working under the same roof as you - and they won’t thank you for not making your web pages or web apps accessible".

So it’s fantastic that as I sit here, with freshly videotaped evidence in hand, that I discover this set of videos on the web. Admittedly, these are promotional videos for AssistiveWare’s technology rather than a general collection of videos of people using other assistive tech, but it’s still darned useful for the likes of us who sometimes need to demonstrate to people the various ways that disabled users interact with web pages. I’d be more than happy for the likes of Freedom Scientific or GW Micro to take the same approach. More video resources are very welcome indeed!

[Note - I know that this is not a new resource, just new to me, as it was new to Roger. That's the beauty of using del.icio.us - I found it in the popular page for the accessibility tag]

Comments (3) Posted by Ian on Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Is this the test case we’ve all been waiting for?

Summary: Target case now open for class action and every blind person in the U.S. who has tried to access Target.com can become a plaintiff.

Summary of summary: Target, you’re screwed.
[Well, maybe … possibly, but I am not a lawyer, usual disclaimers apply]

Many times in the past when explaining to people why accessibility is important, I’ve rolled out the legal argument – why it’s something that you should do if you want to be on the right side of the law, whether that’s the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the States or the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in UK. But when asked for examples, I’ve always had to pull out the Australian Sydney 2000 Olympics case .. and that’s about it. The legal threat has always felt just that – a threat, not a reality. To that extent, I don’t tend to lead with the legal reason now, instead focusing on the business benefits of getting accessibility right and the moral reasons. But that may be about to change.

Early last year, a California resident brought a legal case against Target.com because of their web site’s inaccessibility. It looked for a while like it might ‘quietly go away’ as has often happened in the past, mainly because Target made some changes and also Amazon announced that it would be working with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a move which seemed out of character to many - and the significance of this is that Amazon, often touted as an example of inaccessible page design, is powering Target.com’s e-commerce capabilities. In short, it looked like Amazon might be cozying up with ‘the enemy’ to appear to be doing the right thing. Well, that’s largely irrelevant now, as it doesn’t appear to have helped in the long run.

The Target case has reared its head once more and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has certified the NFB lawsuit against Target as a class action and ruled that websites like Target.com are required, under California state law, to be accessible. This means that any blind user in the states who has tried to access Target.com can join the class action which must, surely, spell a whole heap of trouble for Target. It’s the test case that the accessibility community knew had to happen one day – and indeed were welcoming it – while the business world tried the old emu avoidance method by sticking their head in the ground and hoping they don’t get caught. Or is that ostriches? Matt May wrote the following on the topic in February last year:

But I’ve also seen cases where it’s a legal game of chicken: some companies refuse to comply with a legal mandate that they feel doesn’t clearly apply to them. They’re gambling that the cost of being found guilty of non-compliance is lower than that of conforming to a standard that may not apply to them. This strategy falls apart like a house of cards as soon as one of them is found liable. And it’s a tactic I find particularly odious when they’re consciously acting to keep users with disabilities out.

So this one looks like it’s going to run and run and not, as Target might have hoped, quietly go away. One question to ask at this stage is how this might spill over to other countries – will UK look at this case and take it as a precedent? Like I said, I’m not a lawyer, so if you are please add your thoughts in the comments.

Comments (11) Posted by Ian on Friday, October 5, 2007

Web Axe podcast 2 year anniversary

Congratulations to Dennis Lembrée and Ross Johnson for the 2 year anniversary episode of Web Axe - Practical Web Accessibility Tips.

For a special feature, the following web experts were gracious enough to send me input on their thoughts about recent events and trends in the world of web accessibility:

  • Mark McKay
  • Joe Dolson
  • Roger Johansson
  • Patrick Lauke
  • Jared Smith
  • Ross Johnson

And here’s the transcript of my portion of the podcast:

Hi, this is Patrick Lauke for Web Axe.

For me the most significant development of the last year has been the way in which accessibility discourse in general has widened beyond the narrow confines of WCAG 1.0.

Although for very simple sites WCAG 1.0 is still quite valid, it’s ill equipped to deal with the reality of today’s web.

Rich internet applications, flash sites, complex javascript and AJAX, even widespread use of PDFs…as a developer, if you’re just sticking with WCAG 1.0, most of those are simply out of the question.

It’s true that in most situations you should really try to offer simple HTML/CSS based alternatives…but it’s not an either/or proposition anymore. For instance, it’s not purely a case of having a non-javascript accessible version of your site, since screen reader users don’t necessarily have javascript disabled by default. And in fact, judicious use of javascript can enhance the usability and accessibility of a site, even for these users…if it’s done properly.

I’d say that the development of technologies such as ARIA plays a key role here. As more and more browsers and assistive technologies take advantage of ARIA, we’ll hopefully see some of the major problems that javascript and AJAX can cause for particularly screen reader users being mitigated or maybe even completely eliminated.

Underpinning all of these developments, I would say that WCAG 2.0’s tech-agnostic, results driven approach, which ditches the “only use W3C technologies” dictum in favour of “accessibility supported technologies” holds great promise. It can provide a solid, extensible framework that’s valid today and in the future.

Based on the latest draft, WCAG 2.0 is indeed moving in the right direction…so my wish for this coming year is to see a stable version of the new guidelines.

And to really help web authors understand how WCAG 2.0 can be applied in practice, I also hope that the technology-specific, non-normative supporting documents for WCAG 2.0 will get some much needed attention…as that’s what most web authors will need, and refer to, in their practical day-to-day work.

And with that out of the way, I just want to say congratulations on your two year anniversary and keep up the good work. Cheers.

Filed under: AJAX, Accessibility, Standards, W3C
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Sunday, September 23, 2007

Click Here? No thanks. I have a Better Idea …

So I was reading this post on copyblogger entitled Does Telling Someone to Click Here Actually Matter? and I could feel the old blood a-boiling as the article dismissed all the work that many people in the accessibility circuit have put in so far in trying to get people not to use the damn phrase. Now, I could have vented off in the comments section, but then I decided to do something more constructive.

If you absolutely must use the phrase ‘click here’ because all your evidence or beliefs or hunches suggest it has the greatest effectiveness for click-through, please don’t do it at the expense of accessibility (that is for screen reader users as well as the obvious search SEO/advantages). You can use CSS to achieve your aims and keep the link phrase as something useful for screen reader users and search.

The solution is basically this:

<p><a href="#" class="clickhere"><span>Click here</span> to learn about widgets </a></p>

… using this CSS (or variant thereof):

body {color:#000;}
a{color:#006;font-weight:bold;}
a:hover,a:focus{color:#090;}
a.clickhere, a.clickhere:hover, a.clickhere:focus {text-decoration:none;color:#000;font-weight:normal;/* to match body color and weight */}
a.clickhere span {text-decoration:underline;font-weight:bold;color:#006;}
a.clickhere:hover span, a.clickhere:focus span {color:#090;;text-decoration:underline;font-weight:bold}
code {color:#00FF33;background:#000;padding:2px;}

It will produce a visibly underlined click here but the rest of the text ("to learn about widgets") will match the body text. This will not help fully sighted users who are just scanning through the document picking out links visually, though - they will still see only ‘click here’, ‘click here’. So it’s a compromise, but sometimes that’s what you have to do in battle!

You can view a page with a working example (that does not clash with this site’s own style sheets) here. Or perhaps I should write click here to view a working example.

Filed under: Accessibility, Techniques
Comments (20) Posted by Ian on Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Teach a Man to Fish (or How to Resize Text)

My esteemed colleague Patrick Lauke is a firm believer in not providing widgets on individual web pages to do things such as resizing text on a page - on the basis that it’s site-specific and doesn’t teach the user how to change the font size for other web sites that don’t provide these controls.

This issue pops up time and time again, and it has done again on another forum where the phrase ‘teach a man to fish’ has appeared once more. It got me thinking, maybe it would be best to show the user how to change the font size rather than simply describe it. With that in mind, I put together some video clips, joined them together in iMovie and did a voice-over to explain how it’s possible. Here’s the end result (actually, this is version 2, which takes on board some of the comments in this post):

I’m interested to hear your feedback. Is this useful? Could you see people wanting to embed this on their accessibility page?

So, if you like this, blog about it, link to it, embed it in your accessibility statement if you think it could be useful to the user.

<object width="425" height="350"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/54iSS7KVcos"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/54iSS7KVcos" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350"></embed></object>

And if people do think a video tutorial for this kind of thing is useful, what else could we cover off on the accessibility front, specifically how the user can change their browser without requiring site-specific page widgets (e.g. teach the user how to change background and foreground colours). Over to you for any suggestions you may have on that front.

A transcript of the video is available here.

Comments (34) Posted by Ian on Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making PowerPoint Presentations Accessible

Just a quick mention for something spotted today at RNIB’s Web Access Centre Blog: Reading and presenting with PowerPoint if you are a screen reader user. Some good advice here, nothing too surprising - much of it is equivalent of how you’d treat HTML pages. I have to say that this is not a format that I’ve ever bothered to look into in terms of making accessible. Heck, I use Keynote on the Mac for my presentations, which renders my presentations much less accessible, but the next time I have to export my deck of slides to PPT format, I’ll have a fighting chance of making it more accessible using these tips.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (1) Posted by Ian on Thursday, August 23, 2007

AJAX AtMedia - To Include Accessibility

AtMedia AjaxIf you’re going to run a 2-day conference on AJAX and JavaScript, it’s got to be a good thing if you have the inventor of JavaScript speaking, right? But this AJAX, that nasty enemy of accessibility, right? Shouldn’t we, as the accessibility community, be holding protests at the front gate? Well, no … we have a man on the inside! His name’s Derek and he’ll be doing his best to make sure that those attending get the message about accessible JavaScript/AJAX.

Being serious, though, there are no shortage of conferences bandying the AJAX word around, but the speakers at this gig really are top-notch and I know that many of them, aside from Derek, are also very knowledgeable about the worlds of accessibility and standards in general, so this bodes very well.

Early bird registration is on now (ends 31st August).

Comments Off Posted by Ian on Tuesday, August 21, 2007
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