Sunday, January 30, 2005

web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities

Quite often with web accessibility the only thing that people focus on is visual disabilities. Some people think that if the images on their web sites have alternative text then their web site is accessible to people with disabilities.

The fact is that their are a whole host of disabilities and limitations to keep in mind when developing a web site.

One disability that gets heavily overlooked is cognitive and learning disabilities. Cognitive and learning disabilities is the largest disability community; yet, very little has been written about and very little research has been done about how to make a web site keeping in mind those with cognitive disabilities.

Juicy Studio has just published an excellent article called "Developing sites for users with Cognitive disabilities and learning difficulties." It sets out guidelines for your web site based on a much more detailed paper written by Roger Hudson, Russ Weakley, and Peter Firminger. I think this is a really incredible set of work. I hope that people will take this paper/article and use the observations and guidelines in the development of their web sites.

Juicy studio also has an online readability test that you can run on your site. It will give you a score about the reading level of the content of your web site.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

MSU Web Accessibility Roadshow

At Michigan State University, myself and about 5 other people are working on a little web accessibility "roadshow". We are going to be presenting to different groups on campus about why web accessibility is important and what services the university offers.

I am talking about the redesign of the MSU Web Accessibility site. For the last few months we have been putting together a vast array of resources that we want to make available.

I will also be demoing LIFT. Lift is a usability and accessibility evaluation & repair tool that the university bought a site license of for all university developers.

The first presentation is for the Advanced Data Users Group on February 7.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Google Video uses Captions

Google has just released the beta version of a video search engine. Google Video takes the video from about 8 different television stations and archives it.

Our mission is to organize the world's information, and that includes the thousands of programs that play on our TVs every day. - Google


It uses the closed-captioning from the video as a meta-data, to index it in the search.

I think this is exciting. Hopefully this will help push people to put captioning on their video. No captioning means that Google video search isn't going to be able to pick it up.

This goes along with the argument that when Google indexes web sites its a big blind user traversing the code. It is just looking to be able to get a sense of what your page is about so it knows how to rank it.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

something to ponder

On my W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Education & Outreach teleconference on Friday, we were talking about what accessibility is. Wayne Dick, a member of the working group, I thought gave a great quote.

He said, "Accessibility is that anyone who has the ability has the possibility."

I think it was amazingily well put.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

whitehouse.gov has a bad case of the "click here's"

I was on the White House web site this afternoon. There is a box on the web site that highlights Inauguration Day. They have a link that you can click on that will take you to video of the Inaugural Day festivites but the link is "click here." I would have expected better from the White House. That link is going to make absolutely no sense out of context.

Click here to watch the inauguration, view photos, and learn more.


The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are pretty specific about making sure that links make sense out of context.

WCAG Checkpoint 13.1


13.1 Clearly identify the target of each link. [Priority 2]
Link text should be meaningful enough to make sense when read out of context -- either on its own or as part of a sequence of links. Link text should also be terse.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Aesthetically Pleasing and Accessible; Why doesn't it happen more often?

One group that web accessibility advocates often have a harder time getting the message across to is web & graphic designers. Web accessibility is often seen as a gigantic creativity kill joy for designers. They don't want to take the time and the energy.

How do we get our message across? How do we get them to understand that their needs to be a change of mindset, where accessibility becomes part of the development and design proccess?

CSSZenGarden.com is a great example of the celebration of the use of standards compliance and attractively designed web sites.

Bob Regan of Macromedia gave a presentation called, "Web Accessibility and Design: A Failure of the Imagination", at the Designing for the 21st Century Conference. He examines the gaps or disconnects between the message of accessibility and web designers. He also looks at what we can learn and do better.

"The hardest part of Web accessibility, in my opinion, is the stuff outside the angle brackets." - Matt May

Matt May, Web Accessibility Specialist for the World Wide Web Consortium, has written an article for Digital Web Magazine called, Accessibility From The Ground Up.

It is a really good article to read for people that are new to web development or design. It goes over why web accessibility is important and how it fits into the various parts of web design development (i.e. flash, java script, tables).

"The hardest part of Web accessibility, in my opinion, is the stuff outside the angle brackets." - Matt May


He also talks about how it's important that the content needs to be accessible and easy to use. Some of the biggest usability and accessibility problems can run into having confusing and complex content.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

word count

Someone wrote a sweet little flash application that just takes in words and archives them.

Wordcount - Tracking the Way We Use Language

The Death of a Browser(Internet Explorer)

This sounds like it could be the title of a new Arthur Miller play.

There has been a big movement within the web development community to get users to switch from using Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox. The web site Digital Proof wants to do whatever it can to prove that Internet Explorer is the worst browser on the market. They have a collection of articles which further explain that dangers of IE.

In short, this site is here to persuade you not to use the Internet Explorer web browser. There are hundreds, probably thousands of articles and weblog posts around the internet which talk about Internet Explorer, and why it is more than necessary to use an alternative, more modern and secure browser. This site is a collection of links to these articles, and information about them.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Meaningful Markup

At work one problem that I saw pretty recurringly is that developers were making sites but were using the tags for their visual presentation and not for their mearning behind them. I wrote an article on our company blog called, Structural HTML.

It talks about how that HTML is their to provide structure and meaning to the data that you are putting on your web page. Each tag has some type of meaning and should be used for what it was intended.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Joe Clark - "Big, Stark & Chunky"

Accessibility guru, Joe Clark recently wrote an article of web standards magazine A List Apart called, Big, Stark & Chunky.

He highlights how the web standards community has slowly started to move towards embracing designing web sites for screen readers. Now we also need to start taking a look at designing for low vision users. Joe details how we can use alternative style sheets that will tailor to the needs of a low vision user.

I really think within the next year you will see site preference pages or style sheet switchers, as Joe talks about in his article, starting to pop up on pages. This will give people the ability to customize a page based on their needs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Testing in Internet Explorer

Today someone found a bug in one of the site's that we did in all css. Internet explorer 5 wasn't rendering the width of the box model like it was supposed to. It only did this in IE 5.5. I unfortunately didn't have IE 5.5 to test it on to see how I could fix it.

I submitted my problem to the css-discuss discussion list. They very very quickly got back to me with how to fix it. They also showed me a site where some one had links to places where you could get all the old versions of Internet Explorer. As much as I would love to see IE die, I have to test on it. The site is:

Skyyxz.com - Standalone Internet Explorer

Monday, January 10, 2005

CNN "sees the light" with RSS

CNN has finely decided to let users syndicate their news using RSS. This is an awesome move on their part.

Justin's Image Replacement Technique

In the redesign of my office's web site, our designer used an image to do some text. I decided to make my own spin off of the Fahrner Image Replacement. I think its more accessible then some of the alternative solutions that I have seen. Of course its ALWAYS better to use marked-up text rather then an image as text because you can't enlarge an image.

This the is the article I wrote for the MSU AP Development Blog - CSS Image Replacement. I details how I did it.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

color blender & layout maker

I love the internet. There is so many great tools and resources that people can use.

I am working on the redesign of my company's web site and I needed some help with the CSS design and found this great layout maker. It is Inknoise's Layout-a-matic. You stick in the statistics about how big of a layout you want and what type of layout you want. It then gives you the CSS and the HTML. It's a thing of beauty.

Then Eric Meyer made a online program where you take two colors and then it will give you a range of colors between the two colors. It's works wonderfully when your trying to figure out what the color scheme of a web site should be.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

paper prototyping

We are doing some paper prototyping in our office on a e-commerce product search that we are building from the ground up. I am leading the paper prototyping study and I guess I was looking for a little bit of online information to brush up on things.

Carolyn Snyder wrote this great book called Paper Prototyping, unfortuantely I don't have it.

I looked and Carolyn Snyder took some of the resources from the book and put them on PaperPrototyping.com. There is copies of scripts, consent forms, checklists, prototyping overviews. This site is a very useful resource.

Access keys is it worth it?

There has been a lot of talk about access keys for web sites and if they are worth the time they take. I think they are. If there is a good access key standard, then they can become effective. Richard Rutter wrote a great article on access key standards and how they are used throughout the world.

What do you think?

David Shea says that access keys aren't worth your time.

Do you use access keys?

bloggers coming together to make a difference

If you have a blog, pledge all of your ad money for the month of January to the Tsunami Aid relief.

BlogAid - Support the Asia Relief Effort

Hopefully someday I will have enough people that ready my blog that I can do this.

Making Forms Accessible

We need to make forms accessible. I know this is one place that can really trip up disabled web users.

Webcredible has put together a really good tutorial on how to make your forms a lot more accessible.

Making accessible forms part 1

Making accessible forms part 2