Accessibility and Content Management

September 4, 2006

Everytime I touch this subject – I am confused on what to do. Should I be happy with accessibility tools ( like magnifiers) ? Should I do more ? Has someone really been sued for not following accessibility guidelines and what kind or law is that.

To get an answer to that – I studied some sites and did some “googling” and my observations are below:

1) XHTML compliance is universal in all Accessible sites. The idea is probably to support current or future browsers and other accessibility tools to work properly.

2) Information as colour: If colour is used to convey information, contrasting colour, shade and patterns are used. Reason: Colour blindness is recognized to be the ONLY condition which we encounter in our workplaces frequently. This has not led however to completely eliminate use of colors, it has just led to limiting the colors to a small – high contrast set, possibly with different patterns as well. Tools like http://www.etre.com/tools/colourcheck/ are used to determine the contrast.

3) Magnification: Sites support varying text size by browser settings, however they dont do anything about images/buttons/icons. I think it is considered that magnifiers are good enough and well advanced. I am actually amazed by the magnifiers, Windows XP does a much better job of magnifying an image than many specialist imaging tools do!

4) pointer free navigation: Most sites fare badly here. Usually the navigation links on the left forces 20-30 tabs before focus moves to the content. I think these sites consider that a combination of magnifier and settings in pointing devices are good enough – and I tend to agree. However, i think that world needs to standardise on some other forms of keyboard navigation – Like possibly tab navigating to first link/button from selected text in the screen, instead of starting from the begining. Possibly Alt-B before tab press navigates only on buttons. Possibly windows like keyboard shortcuts to web menu.

5) Language Fluency: I am yet to see any evidence on any site that they are designed to help the online translation tools. I have seen experts commenting on the writing styles to make translation easy ( like using smaller sentences, using complete grammar instead of shortcuts ), but no adoption of the same.

6) Alt Text for images: Alt text for images are there, and many have good description as well.

7) Support for screen readers: Not many seem to care about screen readers. The pages are a jumble of tables and the readers read 200 menu items before reaching real text.

8) Text only version: Some sites provide a Text only version as a one suit fits all for accessibility and heavily hack the nomrmal version to optimize for fully able user. This trend is growing everyday and with Ajax, speaking browsers find it hard to figure out what to read. I am sure the accessibility technology will catch up and will possibily be aided by these Ajax implementations as they will know which part of the screen is fresh and needed to be re-read.

9) Image Maps: Thankfully, Image maps seem to be used infrequently. However they are replaced by Flash  – I am not sure how well flash fares in terms of accessibility. Maybe I will read about it later and post it here. Nick in his article at http://contextia.blogspot.com/ “Flash – 10 years of wow-wee ” seems to indicate that they are as bad.

10) Accessibility checkers: Most accessibility checkers fail miserably on running applications ( on Deep web), so the only way to check accessibility they leave is to make HTML pages based on same templates and verify the same.

Guidelines to developers and architects:

– Use XHTML

– Avoid colour as the sole mean of displaying information – Use high contrast colors or patterns.

– possibly Plan for text-only version of pages

– Verify tab navigation to work and to have good tab order

– Tidy the HTML.

Follow these guidelines from http://netjmc.typepad.com/globally_local/2006/05/be_a_white_hat_.html – Quote

  • The pages should be focused on a single topic or single aspect of a topic so that they are relevant to specific search words. This makes them more relevant for users when they show up in the results page.
  • Every page should have a unique, relevant title in the html coding and on the page itself
  • Styles should include “title”, “heading 1, “heading 2” and so on so that relationships and relative importance of blocks of text on the page are clear

Desperately wanted accessibility changes:

World can do with better accessibility guidelines and tools. Technology will define better visual experience and non-standard markups – we cant limit users to not using divs etc just so that reading browsers find it easier. The two which in my opinion are most desperately needed:

1) Standardization on keyboard shortcuts or some other way of making web menu atleast as accessible as that of windows.

2) Better reading tools – possibly using OCR – so that the reading tools dont have to keep up with ever changing markup technology.

Advertisements

One Response to “Accessibility and Content Management”

  1. apoorv Says:

    Very cool post and an even nicer blog.

    With many CMSs providing rich text entry and business folks demanding content entry thru MS Word or other rich text editors, i think XHTML compliance becomes more difficult as compared to using a more desciplined form based content entry.

    /a


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: