Latest Accessibility News on Accessify

Browsealoud respond

Many thanks to Martin McKay, Technical Director and one of the founders of Texthelp (developers of BrowseAloud), for responding to my previous post All aboard the PAS 78 gravy train.

In a refreshingly sincere and straightforward email Martin reassured me of his personal commitment to the cause of accessibility and literacy. He informed me that the “Dyslexic Duncan” issue two years ago was caused by an employee acting on their own accord, against company policy, and that Texthelp acted swiftly and decisively immediately following the incident. He also told me that the news item - erroneously claiming that Texthelp is recommended in PAS 78 for their text-to-speech software product Browsealoud - has since been removed and procedures have been put in place to avoid such mistakes in future.

I would like to thank Martin for his candid response and for addressing the issue so quickly.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Saturday, May 27, 2006

WCAG 2.0 Last Call - extended deadline 22 June 2006

Please note that the deadline for comments on WCAG 2.0 has been extended by three weeks. The new deadline is now Thursday 22 June 2006 instead of 31 May 2006, to allow more time due to the wider attention that this Last Call Working Draft is receiving. We thank early commenters for the numerous constructive comments that the Working Group has already received; the Working Group is already working on your comments. Please also note the following clarifications with regard to the review process.

  1. The deadline for comments on the Last Call Working Draft only applies to the Guidelines document itself. The supporting documents (”Understanding WCAG 2.0″ and “Techniques for WCAG 2.0″) do not have a deadline for comments, though you may find them helpful in understanding or implementing the provisions in the guidelines. We welcome comments on the supporting documents in addition to comments on the guidelines, but we encourage you to focus your attention on the relatively short guidelines document itself during the review period.
  2. While the Working Group has provided a form for comment submissions, you may also email comments directly to the comments list without the form. Some commenters have already done this; we’ve now made this more obvious in the commenting instructions [1]. However, if you do use the comments form, it will give the Working Group consistent and specific information that can help them better understand and address the issues that you raise.
  3. Under W3C Process, a “Last Call Working Draft” is not the last step before the document is finished; neither is it the beginning of the review process. This Last Call Working Draft follows a series of Public Working Drafts that have been previously circulated for comment, and the Working Group has already incorporated extensive contributions from those reviews. Last Call Working Draft is one of the most important stages at which to comment; however it is followed by another stage, Candidate Recommendation, where reviewers can submit comments based on implementations of WCAG 2.0; then by Proposed Recommendation, when W3C Members review it for approval as a Recommendation. Please see the “Instructions for commenting on WCAG 2.0″ page, which provide more information on these stages.

Review comments are extremely valuable to W3C/WAI. One of the strengths of W3C/WAI’s process is that it encourages broad public review and participation from many different perspectives. We have received contributions throughout the course of developing WCAG 2.0 from individuals and organizations around the world, including disability organizations, industry, Web developers research, education, government, and other areas, as well as contributions throughout the process from the diverse membership of the WCAG Working Group itself.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read the guidelines while they are in Last Call Working Draft; evaluate them against your own needs and expectations; then share with the Working Group your comments on what you think needs to change in the document. As with any W3C group during Last Call, the WCAG Working Group will review and respond to all comments received on the Last Call Working Draft. Your comments help us to create the best and most usable document that we can.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Saturday, May 27, 2006

Joe Clark on WCAG 2.0

Never one to mince his words, Joe Clark braves the near impenetrable language of the current WCAG 2.0 documents to tell developers what’s really going on under the hood in his latest article To Hell with WCAG 2.0.

While WCAG 2 calls for all manner of unrealistic and unproven features, those are not what?s going to sink the guidelines. Something as mundane as definitions will take care of that.

Absolutely essential reading! Can’t wait to see the planned errata for 1.0 from the WCAG Samurai.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Good Luck John

While it might be all to easy to criticise, moan and bitch about the vagaries of WCAG 2.0 (and even easier to do that rather than contributing - remember, folks, last call on WCAG 2.0!) , the fact is that there has been an awful lot of work put in by a lot of very hard-working people. One such person is Dr John Slatin from the University of Texas, a blind accessibility expert whom many of the readers of this site either know of or have met personally (possibly at SXSW). It was with great sadness, therefore, that I learned today that John is very ill with leukemia, an illness that he believed he had beaten back in December last year.

"The reason I had the brain scan is that I noticed what seemed like a significant increase in the number and type of errors I made while typing; it just seemed that signals were getting crissed somehow between the words that formed in my mind and the words that came out through my figers."

Note that the typo in that last sentence was Johns’ and he’s decided to leave them in on the basis that there may be something that could later be gleaned from any patterns in his errors (which makes it all the more difficult to read - not from a technical point of view, rather an emotional one - when it appears that the typos appear to be getting worse).

There’s a support group on Yahoo that Gordon Montgomery has set up for John and Anna, including this very touching note from John, while John continues to blog about his experiences here.

I’m sure I speak for all the readers of Accessify when I say that our thoughts are with you and your family, John.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Monday, May 22, 2006

Scottish UPA event: Web Accessibility Primer on WCAG 2.0 and Including Users with Disabilities, 23 May

At our May event we are pleased to welcome speakers from the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), who will introduce us to several new resources to help make your Web site accessible. The buzz for 2006 is WAI’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0; and in the UK, also PAS 78. You’ll learn how WCAG 2.0 fits in the big picture, and get a jump start on using WCAG 2.0 effectively. They’ll also talk about including people with disabilities throughout a human- or user-centered design process (UCD). Julie Howell from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) will overview PAS 78, including the role of guidelines and users. Join us to understand the strengths of combining guidelines, user involvement, and evaluation tools to efficiently develop effective accessibility solutions.

The presentation will cover:

  • W3C WAI intro & new WAI resources
  • Components & WCAG 2.0
  • Including users with disabilities throughout UCD
  • PAS 78 and including disabled users as test participants
  • Discussion panel, questions and answers

This session, featuring some of the leaders of the web accessibility movement from around the globe, will be a unique opportunity to hear the latest on the revision of the WCAG, the de-facto standard for web accessibility, as well as guidance on meeting the recent PAS 78 guidance, so please book early to ensure your place at this informative event. We will also be joined by attendees of the WWW2006 conference which is being held in Edinburgh that week Its a great chance to meet leaders in accessibility and network. The Scottish Usability Professionals Association (SUPA) will be providing a buffet, beer, wine & refreshments.

About the speakers

Judy Brewer is Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) International Program Office. Judy is W3C’s chief liaison on accessibility policy and standardisation internationally, promoting awareness and implementation of Web accessibility, and ensuring effective dialog among industry, the disability community, accessibility researchers, and government on the development of consensus-based accessibility solutions.

Julie Howell is the Digital Policy Development Manager for the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB). She is a well known promoter of web accessibility, working with policy makers, software developers, business sectors and the Government to ensure that digital information, products and services are usable by disabled people. She is the Technical Author of Publicly Available Specification 78 (PAS 78): Guide to Good Practice in Commissioning Accessible Websites (published by BSI in March 2006). In 2005/6 Julie received the New Media Age ‘Greatest Individual Contribution to New Media Award’. Julie’s spare time is dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with multiple sclerosis and she runs an award-winning online community of people with MS, Jooly’s Joint.

Shadi Abou-Zahra is a Web Accessibility Specialist for Europe with the W3C WAI. His responsibilities include editing and developing resources for the WAI Education and Outreach Working Group; serving as a representative for W3C/WAI in Europe to help coordinate with disability organizations, standards bodies, policy makers, accessibility research organizations, and other stakeholders; and chairing the WAI Evaluation and Repair Tools Working Group which develops techniques to evaluate and repair Web content for accessibility.

Shawn Henry is the Outreach Coordinator with W3C WAI. With the WAI Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG), Shawn helps coordinate the WAI Interest Group (WAI IG), and works with the WAI Steering Council. Prior to joining W3C, Shawn worked as a consultant with international standards bodies, research centers, government agencies, non-profit organizations, education providers, and Fortune 500 companies to develop and implement strategies to optimize design for usability and accessibility.




Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, Apex House, 99 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5HD

Directions to venue.

See the Scottish UPA events page for booking details.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Friday, May 12, 2006

All aboard the PAS 78 gravy train

With the extensive media coverage following its launch, a large number of businesses, education establishments and government agencies with a stake in the UK online market should be aware of PAS 78 - Guide to Good Practice in Commissioning Accessible Websites. Partly due to the cost associated with this document, though, they may not have actually read through it…which is probably what the PR office of BrowseAloud are counting on - otherwise it would be blatantly obvious to any reader that this little news item on the BrowseAloud site, issued two weeks after the official launch of the PAS, is somewhat stretching the truth:

Texthelp is recommended in PAS 78 for their text-to-speech software product Browsealoud, that addresses those with Cognitive & Learning Difficulties.

Now, try as I might I cannot find any particular endorsement or recommendation of their product in the PAS - and rightly so, as it’s meant to be a fairly neutral, non-vendor specific document. There is only one passing mention of Texthelp (developers of BrowseAloud) in Annex A (informative)- Suggested user profiles under the Cognitive and learning section (page 36):

Users with medium dyslexia, eg users who might change site colours and text formatting, and who in many cases might supplement this with text to speech software for reading sections of text (such as TextHelp).

So, is this going to be the new trend for marketing accessibility products and services in the UK for the coming years? Boosting one’s credibility by making references to the PAS, even going as far as claiming a recommendation? Well, I guess it’s a bit more respectable than planting fake users such as Dyslexic Duncan on forums to extoll the virtues of your product…

Incidentally, on both occasions I’ve contacted BrowseAloud for an official response…but to no avail.

And while we’re on the topic, a word of advice to web design agencies: you can stop amending your lists of services to include “websites that are PAS 78 compliant”. The PAS is not a new set of accessibility guidelines. It’s a document aimed at people who commission websites. It’s completely nonsensical for a company that develops websites to claim that their products and services comply with the PAS. At a pinch, you could say that your development processes are in line with some of the recommendations of the PAS, particularly the user testing aspects. But even that is really stretching it, in my not so humble opinion. Stick with claiming WCAG compliance. Heck, the PAS itself has the following to say about companies claiming to create sites that are “DDA-compliant”:

9.1.1 It is not possible to provide a definitive specification for a fully accessible website which will satisfy the requirements of the DDA. Website commissioners should therefore be sceptical if contracting companies declare that they will create websites that are “DDA-compliant” or “compliant with the law”. Conversely, website commissioners should not require a web designer to design a website that is “DDA-compliant” or “compliant with the law”. Until case law has been established such claims cannot be made or honoured.

If that is the general advice given with regards to companies claiming “DDA-compliance”, I’d imagine that site commissioners should be even more skeptical of companies claiming “PAS 78 compliance”.

Cross-posted over on the WaSP. Please comment there.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Friday, May 12, 2006

WCAG 2.0 at @media

Just a quick heads-up - as readers of this site may be (or, more hopefully, are) aware, Patrick, myself, Gez Lemon and Andy Clarke are hosting a panel on WCAG 2.0:

In this panel, we’ll try and get to grips with the philosophy, the content, the good, the bad, and the controversies of the second edition of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and look at how they impact on areas such as design, or the use of widgets.

Well, that’s what the blurb says, and we’ve certainly got our ideas about what to cover but we’re interested to get some feedback in advance - or rather some questions in advance - that you might like to hear us cover on the day itself. If you have a comment, be that a simple question, something that you’d like clarifying or a rant about your personal pet hate with WCAG 2.0, please add it here and we’ll do our best to incorporate it on the day. Over to you …

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Scared of the Dark?

Just a ‘micro-posting’ from me on the topic of Ajax and Accessibility. With the recent research presented by fully-sighted gurus James Edwards and Joe Clark, many of us have been enlightened once more to the need for creating accessible web applications in the face of new techniques that update page content without a page refresh. This quote, from an article in Computerworld, really brought home the impact of not paying heed to to this and just how confusing some of the new web applications can be for blind users. Note that the person quoted is blind and emphasis added is mine:

“It’s very, very, very scary,” said Jeff Bishop, an application systems analyst at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Before, so what? You had a missing [alternative-text] tag, but at least you knew there was an image. You could click on it, and maybe you could figure out what it was. Now, you don’t even know where to click. You don’t know how to interact.”

That’s a pretty strong statement, but you cannot argue with it really - this is a blind user saying what he thnks of the whole web 2.0/ajax implication for him as a user. A strong case, surely, for the assistive technology vendors to start seriously addressing this issue, no?

This is cross-posted at Please add comments over there

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Joe Clark on AJAX

On 2006.04.28, I had the honour of addressing Iceweb 2006 in Reykjav√≠k, Iceland’s first Web-development conference. My topic was Ajax accessibility. I knew nothing about it, so I ran some user tests and presented original research.

See Joe Clark’s Iceweb 2006 speaking notes and user testing results.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Friday, May 5, 2006

AJAX, Accessibility & Screen Readers

There’s something of an oxymoron going on there in the heading. Can you spot it? The words ‘accessibility’ and ‘AJAX’. They really are not the best of bed fellows, as many people have discovered. However, although many of us web professionals just ‘kinda know’ that AJAX is bad for web accessibility, when pushed many would not be able to say exactly why or how certain screen readers cope with content that’s been changed using AJAX (or using DOM Scripting methods that don’t make use of AJAX at all). One man who can claim to know a bit about it is James Edwards (aka Brothercake):

Over the last few months (and earlier) I’ve been involved in researching how the leading screen readers and other assistive devices respond to JavaScript: what kinds of events they generate or respond to, and under what circumstances. The research is based at Access Matters , and coordinated by Bob Easton, Derek Featherstone, Mike Stenhouse and myself.

In addition to that, I did a great deal of primary research for my recently published book, The JavaScript Anthology . The research was designed to find out how assistive devices respond to scripts that update the DOM periodically or asynchronously, such as the items in a scrolling news-ticker, or responses to an XMLHttpRequest.

The above is an excerpt from an article that James has published on Sitepoint entitled AJAX and Screenreaders: When Can it Work? which I strongly advise all web professionals to read and absorb. Even if you’re not currently doing ‘cool’ things with AJAX, you should read it so that you are aware of the impact of any future development work, should you choose to go down that road. Top work, James.

This is cross-posted at If you have any comments, please add them over there

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Thursday, May 4, 2006