June 12, 2003
Made for June
There’s a new issue of Made For All for your viewing pleasure. Included in the new issue is an article I wrote about acronyms and abbreviations (largely adapted from another page on this site that acompanies the Acrobot tool - but somewhat tweaked, added to and generally refined). Also in the same issue, Nick Kew explains how to use mod_accessibility - an Apache plug-in that automatically generates accessible markup.
Made for All also hosts a forum - something that Accessify does not have - but it could do with a few more members. There are not many discussion forums out there which are looking specifically at accessibility issues, so why not go on over and register and see if you can help build up a community?
June 11, 2003
Need a lift?
There’s a well overdue
(as in I’ve had this for 3 months now) review added on the site today for UsableNet’s accessibility checker Lift. That is all.
UK Usability Professionals Association - Talk on accessibility
Next Tuesday (June 17th) I’ll be speaking with Peter Bosher at the UKUPA monthly get-together on the topic of accessibility. Peter Bosher worked with the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C in the early days of the web, and was Chairman of the British Computer Association of the Blind from 1999-2002. He will discuss some of the myths and reality around usability and accessibility, from the perspective of a real user with plenty of time for questions and discussion, to make sure that we cover issues that are of immediate concern to you.
As for me, I’ll be focusing on my experiences of web accessibility in the corporate environment - the challenges that this presents, the rewards of getting it right … and pretty much anything else related to accessibility that crops up in the time allowed. After that, it’s all off to the public house to quaff some ale.
Visit the events page of the UKUPA for more information about cost, location and other such details. Maybe I’ll see you there?
UK Web Accessibility Congress - University of Central England in Birmingham
The University of Central England in Birmingham is hosting a conference on
Web Accessibility during the weekend of 29th-31st August. The event promises an
international line up of speakers concerned with making websites accessible
for all users. Among those on the list are
Eric Meyer (unfortunately Eric cannot attend as planned) and Bruce Lawson, who should prove to be both entertaining and educational.
The conference cost is �240.00, including accommodation and all meals from
the Friday afternoon until departure on Sunday afternoon - which seems pretty reasonable to me, and as such I’ll almost certainly be attending.
Full details are on their website at http://www.cie.uce.ac.uk/ukwac, including a booking form and a full conference programme.
FrontPage 2003 to Improve Standards Support? The pigs are flying, you say?
There are semi-encouraging signs that Microsoft might be addressing one of the biggest problems with its FrontPage software - that being the dire quality of the markup that it generates. In a CNet news article entitled Microsoft aims higher with Web software, Melisa Samuelson, a Microsoft product manager is quoted as saying:
“We’ve heard in the past that customers felt our code wasn’t transparent enough, that we generated messy code … We’ve really focused on generating clean, industry-standard HTML code.”
Given the number of governmental and public offices that use FrontPage as the default web authoring tool (on the basis that it’s ‘free’ when bundled with the MS Office suite), it’s especially important that the tool generates markup that complies with W3C standards (that Microsoft itself helped to define). Add to this the fact that US government agencies - many of whom will be using FrontPage - are required to make web pages comply with Section 508 accessibility guidelines, and you have even more reason to expect that the markup produced is clean and compliant.
Personally, I doubt that the quote from this MS employee will hold much water in the end. I fully expect FrontPage 2003 to create exactly the kind of markup that it always has done - proprietary, MS-oriented markup that breaks in all manner of wonderful ways in any browser other than Internet Explorer. We shall see …
June 10, 2003
to re-release ‘Accessible Web Sites’
A few months back, a number of computer publishing houses went bust, among them Glasshaus, Friends of Ed and Wrox Press. One of the books that might have disappeared as a result was Accessible Web Sites, on the Glasshaus imprint, but thankfully this has been picked up by Apress who will be re-releasing it some time in July. The company already offers another book on the topic of accessibility - Accessibility for Everybody: Understanding the Section 508 Accessibility Requirements.
This is a good move, and certainly good news for all the authors concerned - Jim Thatcher, Paul Bohman, Michael Burks, Shawn Lawton Henry, Bob Regan, Sarah Swierenga, Mark D Urban and Cynthia Waddell. It’s also vindication for ex-Glasshaus boss Bruce Lawson who, when proposing the book, got the reaction: "What’s the second book - Web Sites for the Dead?". It just shows that there’s life in this topic yet!
June 9, 2003
join forces with Paciello Group
I nearly missed this one - and even if it is over a week old, it will still be news to a lot of people:
Watchfire Corporation has announced a partnership with The Paciello Group’s (TPG) accessibility consulting practice. Beginning immediately, TPG will exclusively use Watchfire’s AccessibilityXM as part of its Accessibility Audit practice. Meanwhile, Watchfire will make use of TPG’s training and consulting practice to complement its technology offering. In other words - a bit of collective back scratching.
This is a good thing - despite Watchfire owning Bobby, I think that they are still relative newcomers in the field of accessibility. I’ve met a few people from Watchfire, and they certainly seem like they are switched on, but you can’t beat practical experience. Hopefully working closely with Mike Paciello (author of Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities) and his team will enable Watchfire to improve the accessibility part of its product somewhat.
Personally speaking, I think that most of the current accessibility checkers have one common failing - and this is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 1.0. There are so many checkpoints in these guidelines - many of which are very restrictive (to the point of being laughable, in my opinion) or so out of date that they are largely irrelevent. However - they are the only ‘approved’ guidelines, and as such all these programs are based on that set of rules, and everyone suffers from information overload. Hopefully the final publication of version 2.0 of these guidelines will help resolve such issues (the working draft can be found here).
In the meantime, let’s hope that this partnership bears fruit - for both sides - and results in a better experience for everyone involved in wading through the mire of accessibility guidelines.
June 4, 2003
I’m looking for examples of web sites that are truly accessible and usable but that do not look either like a dog’s dinner or or so simple-looking that you die of boredom before leaving the first page. I know that there are plenty of web sites out there that comply to technical specifications such as CSS and XHTML, but I’m looking for examples that go beyond that:
- validate to W3C standards
- look darn pretty too
If you have some suggestions, please drop me line giving me the URL and why you think it’s so good. If I get enough, I’ll put together a piece about these sites - a collective critique. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Accessibility of UK government web sites investigated
The UK’s first e-Minister, Patricia Hewitt, gave a commitment in
February 2001 that all new government websites should be accessible.
Two years later, UK government sites are a long way from being
accessible, as Accessibility of UK government web sites investigated demonstrates. This article was originally published on Juicy Studio’s site but Gez Lemon has kindly let us reproduce it here for your pleasure.