May 21, 2003
Interview with DMXzone’s Bruce Lawson
Bruce Lawson is not a techie - he does not teach people how to make the best use of CSS, nor does he post daily thoughts on his personal web log about the latest ingenious accessibility technique. So, why did we deem Bruce worthy of closer scrutiny (even if he did stipulate up front that he won’t entertain questions about him and Britney)? Read on and find out why self-confessed non-techie Bruce has been winning friends and influencing people.
May 20, 2003
Maximum Bob at Sitepoint
Nigel Peck interviews Macromedia’s Bob Regan about the company’s approach to web accessibility. Whatever your thoughts about Flash and accessibility are, you cannot argue that few software companies make as much of an effort to support accessibility or are open and willing to accept other ideas and initiatives that other software companies won’t even give the time of day. Go on over and find out why I like Macromedia.
Hello Mrs Zeldman
Congratulations to Jeffrey and Carrie who will tie the knot in June. I
was thinking of doctoring some kind of image in Photoshop, and did a search for Carrie. Just look what came back - two images only: one of Carrie, and one of Jeffrey. Altogether now, aaaaahhh!
May 15, 2003
day at the W3C
Wow. It’s a bumper bundle of news at the W3C - no less than four new or updated CSS3 Candidate Recommendations were published yesterday (thanks to Tantek for notifying). Now, I appreciate that not everyone who has an interest in web accessibility has the same level of interest in W3C documents. However, as I always do when I post something that’s a little technical, I must make my apologies! For anyone still reading, here is the news:
- CSS3 Text Module
- This must have taken a lot of work. The new features here are all about supporting different written languages and beefs up CSS support for layout and presentation of, say Arabic characters or Chinese, Japanese and so on. Read this and you will proudly be able to say “I know what the ‘text-kashida-space’ property does …”
- CSS3 Color Module
- Oooh, there’s an opacity property. This is good! The color properties of previous CSS Recommendations are merged with features found in SVG 1.0 to give us this new recommendation
- CSS3 Ruby Module
- If you thought the Text Module for CSS3 was quite something, Ruby will knock your socks off. The basic notion is to improve support for simultaneous translation of text, where the explanation runs alongside (either above, below or to the side, depending on the language orientation):
- CSS TV Profile 1.0
- Not a new recommendation, but updated and covering how TV devices should render CSS (one day … one day)
Also published are two new working drafts and these are the CSS3 Generated and Replaced Content Module, which covers such things as “how to insert and move content around a document, in order to create footnotes, endnotes, section notes” and the CSS3 Speech Module, which is very interesting in terms of what it can offer in improved accessibility.
There are a number of features that could potentially be very useful - such as ‘voice-volume’ (I can already image a CSS class of legaldisclaimers that would use this!), ‘pause-before’ and possibly most useful of all ‘interpret-as’. This property aims to provide instruction about what some particular text should be interpreted as (surprise surprise) from the following list:
- net (URL or e-mail address)
The idea that a speech synthesizer could understand from CSS that a telephone number was just that would make a big difference - actually, all of them would help remove ambiguity. My only concern is that, unlike the screen-based CSS recommendations, the audio side of things has been woefully neglected to date, and these new features could take years to be implemented, which is a shame. That’s not to say that we should disregard the new working draft on the basis that it will never happen. A lot of work goes into these recommendations, and they are done for very good reasons - if only the people making the software and hardware that could tap into it would give it a go.
May 14, 2003
not what this site can do for you …
… but what you can do for this site. OK, done that? Come up with anything? Yes? Great! Then drop us a line, because we really want to get some fresh content on the site from some budding authors. I know that there are visitors to this site who have opinions - I get them quite regularly! - but it would be great if these could form the basis of an article rather than a closed conversation. So, if you have something to contribute, please get in touch.
Free CSS reading material
While this site is not actually a technical site covering coding issues, occassionally we cover the topic in passing, because as people who want to support web accessibility (that’s you … that’s why you’re reading this, right?) you may be interested to learn about some new CSS technique. Well, Sitepoint have a new book on the topic coming out that may be worth a look, as it’s focused on using CSS for page layout instead of tables. I mean, what else could a book entitled Designing Without Tables Using CSS mean? Designing sites without tables is definitely an accessibility aim, as it allows your web pages to be viewed on a far wider range of devices and allows for greater customisation. But you knew that already. Sitepoint are offering the first four chapters for free download, so go check it out.
And more free chapters to digest …
Jeffrey Zeldman’s new book is gonna be corker, too. Anyone who visits his site should know that it’s coming out soon - very soon, actually, so it seemed like an appropriate time to mention it on this site. The book is entitled Designing with Web Standards and publishers New Riders are also offering sample chapters for free download. A bigger supporter of web standards you will
not find have difficulty finding, and I look forward to finding out what this bullet point on New Riders’ site translates to in print: ‘Stay on the right side of accessibility laws and guidelines’. Knowing Jeffrey’s approach, I think we can expect a realistic, practical and achievable guide. Amazon is taking pre-orders now, so you know what to do.
May 8, 2003
A little bit of Zen for you
Spotted on Doug Bowman’s site today - a link to the CSS Zen Garden. Intrigued by the title and Doug’s write-up, I went to take a look and found a really great practical demonstration of CSS in action. The page explains its purpose like so:
Littering a dark and dreary road lay the past relics of browser-specific tags, incompatible DOMs, and broken CSS support.
Today, we must clear the mind of past practices. Web enlightenment has been achieved thanks to the tireless efforts of folk like the W3C, WaSP and the major browser creators.
The css Zen Garden invites you to relax and meditate on the important lessons of the masters. Begin to see with clarity. Learn to use the (yet to be) time-honored techniques in new and invigorating fashion. Become one with the web.
Site creator Dave Shea has come up with a nice range of varied styles that demonstrate the concept of separating presentation from content perfectly. This is precisely what’s needed. I am firmly in the same camp as Doug and Dave (and numerous others) in believing that CSS-based (and in my case, totally accessible) designs do not have to be dull. As I wrote in an article for Made For All:
“I sat there thinking “Oh yeah, so why do most accessibility evangelists’ sites look so flaming dull and uninspiring” at which point Joe read my mind and said something along the lines of “of course, if you look at many of the sites that promote accessibility you might think otherwise”. The problem here is that most accessibility advocates fail badly in the design area and find it difficult to do something visually inspiring. My personal opinion is that the really good designers and coders who are now adopting accessibility and managing to work it in to their sites seamlessly are making accessibility a viable option. This is precisely what we need to get others on board, not accessibility gurus trying to make their accessible/functional sites look pretty. There is a clear distinction, I believe.”
This site you are looking at right now is table-free (with one small exception - the search area) and as such can easily be re-styled using CSS. My CSS designs for this site so far have all been fairly business-like, but I’m feeling inspired by the CSS Zen Garden, so expect something more arty-farty in the future. Dave is also interested in getting other people to contribute their own CSS designs for the CSS Zen Garden - so if you are feeling artistic and want to show what you are capable of, go on over there and start downloading.
May 6, 2003
I am happily surfing away this afternoon when Kynn Bartlett sends me an MSN message. Nicky, he says, go have a look at this!
So I trundle along to Kynn’s MacAccessibility website to have a read at whatever it is he is sending me to. As it turns out it is a very interesting link to The Eater of Meaning. The Eater of Meaning is a tool for extracting the message from the medium. Format and presentation are unaffected, but words and letters are subjected to an elaborate nonsensification progress that eliminates semantics root and branch. Go try it out!
The W3C has published a Working Draft for version 2 of their widely referenced Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Working Drafts are generally unstable and subject to change, so you should not start adjusting your accessibility techniques until it becomes a recommendation. The current recommendation is WCAG 1.0.
However, the Working Draft does give developers an opportunity to review possible advancements in the field of web accessibility and welcomes feedback on the document to firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 1, 2003
New articles, new features, new shoes
Some minor updates to let you know about. First of all, Acrobot has a new option now. Because IE does not support the
<abbr> tag, you can now get the tool to automatically write in an additional
For more information about why you would do this, read the notes on this site or for more detailed notes (and an alternative solution that removes the need for separate
<span> tags) read Marek Prokop’s article ‘Styling <abbr> in IE‘.
Secondly, we have a new article on the site. Well, I say new, but it’s actually republished now that the six month quarantine is up! If you haven’t read it before, I hope you enjoy Nigel Peck’s Introduction to Accessible Web Design.
Oh, I lied about the new shoes bit.