Latest Accessibility News on Accessify

So near to the finish line …

No, I’m not referring to the election (even though that’s technically correct), nor am I referring to the Accessify redesign/rebuild (which is almost as correct!), rather the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 which have now moved to Proposed Recommendation status.

Comments on this version are open only until 2 December, so if there are any burning issues that you still feel strongly about, you have just the slimmest of chances to get them addressed (although those chances may be about as slim as the chances of a McCain win by the end of today … but stranger things have happened. Basically, the focus of review comments at this stage will be those by W3C members, but anyone can try submitting comments).

Here’s what the W3C had to say (complete with the appropriate links for your browsing pleasure):

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group has published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 as a Proposed Recommendation, and published updated Working Drafts of Understanding WCAG 2.0, Techniques for WCAG 2.0, and How to Meet WCAG 2.0. WCAG defines how to make Web sites, Web applications, and other Web content accessible to people with disabilities. Comments are welcome through 2 December 2008. Read the announcement, Overview of WCAG 2.0 Documents, and about the Web Accessibility Initiative.

In case you were wondering, ‘Proposed Recommendation’ means that the technical material of WCAG 2.0 is complete and it has been implemented in real sites, so we’re talking real-world scanarios, not theoretical.

Filed under: Accessibility, W3C, WAI, WCAG
Comments (2) Posted by Ian on Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ARIA on the fast track?

As Birmingham bruiser Brucey pointed out over the weekend, the W3C are keen for web developers to start embracing WAI-ARIA techniques now. As he said:

The Web Accessiiblity Initiative’s Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite, WAI-ARIA is a simple way to add information to HTML that can make Ajax applications accessible. It’s being supported by all the big four browsers and screenreaders are starting to support it. … Therefore, although the specification is still formally in “Working Draft” status, the W3C are encouraging authors to use it now.

This is excellent news, although he raises the issue that to use ARIA you do have to add in non-standard attributes that will then trigger HTML validator failures. But, as one commenter pointed out, ARIA techniques assume use of JavaScript therefore you may as well add them in using JavaScript which will then stop the validator bitching about your errors.

I’m keen to put this in to use with something, but have been so careful to avoid AJAX and the like for some time that it’s actually quite a difficult thing to break out of that mindset. But the moment that I do see an opportunity, I’ll be implementing ARIA.

Filed under: Accessibility, WAI-ARIA
Comments (1) Posted by Ian on Monday, September 29, 2008

Adding to the chorus: Save the UT Accessibility Institute

Apologies for those who’ve already seen this posted elsewhere (lateness excuse: on holiday, no internet etc etc). It should be no surprise that it’s getting so much coverage, though - the Accessibility Institute at the University of Texas has been a leading light in this field of research. When I think of the people whose opinions I value the most with regards web accessibility, a large number of them came from this very place (including, of course, its founder Dr John Slatin who recently passed away). If the institute were not able to open its doors in future, I strongly believe that web accessibility as a discipline would suffer. If accessibility is important to you, I encourage you to go sign the petition now. All it takes is a moment of your time.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Monday, September 8, 2008

Does Target Settlement Really Hit the Target?

Following coments on Twitter, one might think that the case of the National Federation of the Blind v. Target lawsuit ended up with a big win for accessibility. On the face of it, this may appear to be true - sure, it’s cost Target $6 million to finally put this case to bed. That’s not an insignificant amount of money by most people’s standards, but by Target’s measures it’s still small change.As Bruce Lawson points out in his post on the topic, Target gives away $3million every week to its local communities through grants and special programs.

Looking at the positive: they’ve agreed to remove the accessibility barriers that were identified by February 2009. That’s something, at least. They could have just done that a couple of years ago, at a significantly smaller cost, mind. If it were my business, I know I’d much rather spend $50,000 and get it right than have the company name dragged through the mud for a couple of years and at a cost of $6m. But hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing, right? And Target is not a one-man business.

The downside (aside from the comparitively small amount of payment in settlement) is the lack of admission on Target’s part that they did anything wrong. If that were truly the case, though, and they really were ‘whiter than white’, how did they end up with the conclusion that they did? Surely the result alone indicates culpability? Bet then, like so many other commenters have said since reading this, "I’m not a lawyer", so perhaps I’ll never truly get the fine details.

What does this mean from here on in? Well, we still don’t really have the perfect test case (or ’scare case’) that we can refer people to: "Don’t do x and the accessiblity boogeyman will come get you, oooooh!" That said, most people that you might be creating web sites for are also not lawyers and won’t get the fine details - they’ll just see that a big corporation had to pay out a large sum of money for not doing basic housekeeping. And perhaps that’s all we need for the time being?

Filed under: Legal/Legislation
Comments (6) Posted by Ian on Friday, August 29, 2008

Firefox 3’s Lovely WAI-ARIA Goodness

It almost slipped my mind - I was too busy marvelling at the speed and efficiency with which Firefox 3 handle multiple open tabs compared to Firefox 2 - but with that browser’s v3 release last week came a big accessibility enhancement in the form of WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications) support. As stated on RNIB’s Web Access Centre Blog:

This is an exciting time in the browser area as support for the Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) suite gathers pace in the next generation of browsers. Browsers with support, partial support and planned support for WAI-ARIA include Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3, Opera and Web Kit based browsers including Apple’s Safari.

Things are looking better and better on this front, and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming articles on WAI-ARIA that WACblog promises.

Filed under: Accessibility, WAI-ARIA
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BBC Withdrawing Some Microformats over Accessibility Concerns

There are some web sites that, when they start to use certain certain technologies, it becomes a ’seal of approval’. When a massive site like the BBC starts using technology X, it’s a fairly good indication that the technology involved has gone through various assessments before being declared safe. The Microformats team have probably (and this is just an assumption, don’t shoot me!) used said web site as an example of adoption of the hCalendar Microformat (for marking up event dates/times), but now it seems that the BBC are having second thoughts.

The announcement on Monday that the BBC is withdrawing hCalendar markup from its schedules must come as a blow to the Microformats supporters. For the accessibility community as a whole, it must be a good thing. On numerous occasions, accessibility experts have pressed for changes to the ABBR design pattern - the underlying source of the problem - such that screen reader users are not subjected to incomprehensible information when coming across the abbreviated (or rather machine-readable) version of the date/time.

Let’s hope that the BBC’s withdrawal of hCalendar as a whole, for the time being, spurs the Microformats group into coming up with a workable solution to the problem once and for all, rather than sticking to their guns and hoping the protests will simply go away.

[View Patrick's post on the topic - and comments - at WaSP]

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (1) Posted by Ian on Wednesday, June 25, 2008

RNIB Release ‘Surf Right’ Toolbar

The RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People), in conjunction with The Paciello Group (pronounced ‘pass-ee-ello’, not ‘patchy yellow’ as I’d always assumed!), has announced a beta release of the Surf Right toolbar, an addition for Internet Explorer that reveals numerous settings that are tucked away in various options in the browser and places them right there, right in your face, big button style.

The Surf Right Toolbar is really for anyone who wants to adjust the way they view content on the web to make it easier to read. This could include people with mild disabilities, the elderly, people with reading problems, cognitive problems, using dial-up, photosensitivity and so on.

It will certainly find some receptive fans, although I’m still dubious whether someone who does not know where to change the settings in the browser as-is will be likely to download and install a toolbar like this (on the basis that if they don’t normally tinker with settings, they’re not likely to install this kind of thing) but I am happy to be proven wrong; besides, the RNIB are in an ideal position to promote a tool like this.

You can download the Surf Right toolbar here; more details about the toolbar on RNIB’s blog here.

Filed under: Tools
Comments (5) Posted by Ian on Monday, June 23, 2008

Accessible Media Conference in Boulder

If you happen to find yourself in the lovely surrounds of Boulder, Colorado in November, you may want to make a note of this event taking place (details quoted from press release with some minor editing):

The 11th Annual Accessing Higher Ground: Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference for Education, for Businesses, for Web and Media Designers (In Collaboration with AHEAD, EASI, ATHEN and CSUN ATACP)

November 11 - 14, 2008, University of Colorado-Boulder

Accessing Higher Ground focuses on the implementation and benefits of Assistive Technology in the university and college setting for sensory, physical and learning disabilities. Other topics include legal and policy issues, including ADA and 508 compliance, and making campus media and information resources - including Web pages and library resources - accessible. Dozens of workshops, lectures, hands-on experience in beautiful Boulder, Colorado.

Comments Off Posted by Ian on Monday, June 16, 2008

Captioning Sucks

So, I’m a bit late in posting about this, as the site was launched earlier in the week, but you still may not know that Captioning Sucks. Joe Clark would like you to know why this is. The site itself looks like an explosion in a paint factory - something that Joe admits is garish and vulgar, intentionally - so you can’t help but remember it! But the information contained is very readable and informative, explaining what the issues are and why they exist. The aim of the project is described here:

This is the real reason why everything else we’ve mentioned here is happening. We want to write and test a set of standards for captioning (and more) – independently, honestly, and out in the open. We need your help.

Filed under: Announcements
Comments (3) Posted by Ian on Friday, April 4, 2008

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
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