I almost forgot to put a mention on this site about something that I have been working on over the last few months, namely SitePoint’s HTML Reference. While it is not specifically an accessibility resource it does cover the basics of accessibility, highlighting the various HTML elements and attributes that were introduced to improve the accessibility of web pages. With that in mind, I’d like to invite readers of this site to take a quick look and let me know if there’s anything that I’ve missed. The beauty of this HTML reference being an online resource is that you can leave comments on the site (assuming that you have a SitePoint account) and if the comment/suggestion is a sensible one, the amendment will be integrated into the reference. So, have I missed highlighting any accessibility features?
Latest Accessibility News on Accessify
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.
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.
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.
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.
I simply have to draw attention to an idea that Molly has come up with and posted about on her site today. She’s offering to teach 6 people at a time on a 2-day training session at her place, and all free of charge. Naturally the topic is standards (I know this is an accessibility site, but it’s still relevant), but ther are conditions to this great offer:
You demonstrate to me that you will take your knowledge forward to other educators, students, trainers and evangelists who can and will talk to their students and/or companies about standards.This is a MUST. I only will train people for FREE who can prove they are in education, technology training, or work with a company where they can provide in-depth training for their teams.
How awesome is that? But there’s another line that caught my attention:
I also challenge my colleagues to do the same formally.
So anyone up for that challenge on the accessibility front?
I’m just back from the annual pilgrimage that is the South By South West Interactive festival/conference and wanted to highlight something that may be of interest to readers of this site.
During the annual Web Standards Project (WaSP) face-to-face meeting, questions were taken from the audience and one that came up was one that WaSP members hear a lot:
“How could I become a WaSP”
The answer was that people are invited, so if you’re doing something good, making a name for yourself and getting noticed, you stand a better chance. That said, WaSP was able to offer a another possible avenue for people to explore, should they wish to contribute, and that is the WaSP Street Team.
The idea is one that is not uncommon in the music industry, whereby the fans do some of the grassroots publicising on the band’s behalf, and with the Street Team, WaSP is hoping to get more people to spread the word through specific campaigns and promotions.
So if you want to get involved and do your part to further the cause of web standards, go on over to the sign up list - WaSP will be getting back to all those who sign up with ideas and tasks soon.
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!]
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.
In the accessibility world, a lot of us bemoan that fact that despite the various different pieces of legislation and the guidelines around web accessibility, there are very few examples of any company or organisation ever really being screwed for not complying. Sure, there was the Sydney Olympics case and there was the … uh. Um, nice weather we’re having, isn’t it? Anyway, the point being that we as an ‘industry’ (if that is the right term) have been saying for years that if you mess up on accessibility you could be sued, but the longer it didn’t happen, the more people thought it was a case of ‘cry wolf’.
I certainly don’t want companies to be unfairly vicitimised or for individuals in these companies to be picked out for criticism just to prove a point, but likewise the legislation is there for a reason. One company has just found that, in the US at least, the legislation may yet have an affect - in California, the Target.com case has entered a new stage. In this case, the plaintiff is ‘all blind Americans’ - it’s a class action with Bruce Sexton, a college student, the NFB (National Federation of the Blind) and NFB California as named plaintiffs - and the case has resurfaced because Target’s request for the case to be thrown out has been rejected.
The NFB’s press release suggests a victory for the plaintiffs, but it’s not a clear victory:
Explaining the ramification of the ruling, Mazen M. Basrawi, Equal Justice Works Fellow at Disability Rights Advocates, noted that: “the court clarified that the law requires that any place of public accommodation is required to ensure that it does not discriminate when it uses the internet as a means to enhance the services it offers at a physical location.”
It doesn’t say “the ADA must include web sites” but rather (paraphrasing here) “it should not exclude outlets other than the physical premises”. This is a bit more woolly than the press release might have you believe.
So, the case is not over yet. Target may not have had it thrown out, but they have not yet lost the battle overall. Regardless, there’s a lesson for any US web site owners who may have uttered statements like “Ah, they’re just full of hot air - no-one’s ever actually been sued for this” in the past. I imagine that the big retailers’ legal departments are, right now, preparing some fairly detailed question sheets for their web teams to find out just how vulnerable they are.