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LSW

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  1. Well, you are likely thinking left or top of the page and you are correct, but you are thinking visually. In Accessibility we have to think outside of the box, and not always visually. The reason for this is not all user agents are visual. Text based browsers show only the text as you structured it. Screen readers read the text as you structured it, as you would read it. Other user agents may ignore the CSS as monitor browser sizes would not match a small screen like a cell phone. Now if you have built your web site using primarily CSS and DIVs, removing the CSS will make your site appear vertically structured much like a text document. Now ask yourself where would you wish the text to be? If you read your page again visually, you will likely skip the Navigation which is most likely at the top of the page. A screen reader reads everything... every time. Imagine of you were blind and had to listen to all 5 or 25 links of the navigation time and time again, it would get old fast wouldn't it? So there is a movement to place navigation at the bottom of the pages. Then using CSS you can place it at the left or top visually. One way to do this would be to place your content section and define it with float: right; and limit the width. By floating your navigation block right as well and as or slightly thinner than the content, it will the slip up next to the content. The advantages to bottom navigation: For the disabled, like visually impaired visitors, they get text rather than navigation until the end of the content when you then generally need navigation to the next page. Same goes for Search Engines, a SE will scan and index only a certain number of characters. This way it does not index any navigation links and has that much more content to decide where to list your site. Also some times a SE will show the first text available to the SE's user, this way it is useful text and not just like text. You are offering the SE quality text to offer their use... this can help improve your rankings. If CSS is disabled or not supportable, the navigation is available at the bottom of the page where they stop reading, no scrolling topside again to move on. The need for a redundant footer navigation falls away. So you have decided to add the text to the bottom of your code and have it up top visually. But what if we know this page? We are regular visitors and are not interested in this page (for instance the index page), we want your Navigation? Or maybe you have chosen against bottom navigation, or like my LSW, it simply does not work with the design (thanks again to IE for making me create pages to make you happy rather than what I wish to do just because you cannot support standards). In both cases you can and should use so called "Skip Links" or "Jump Links". This is simply a internal anchor pointing to the ID of your target block. Jump to Content - allows the user to simply jump over Navigation and such directly to the content they wish. Jump to Menu - allows the user to skip over the content and such directly to the Navigation. A note on wording, placement and use: This should always be placed as far up on the page as possible, these should be one of the first things in your code after the body tag allowing the user to jump where they wish immediately. I usually add them to a small Utility menu before my main menu or navigation where you may have things like languages choices or RSS links. Some designers choose to hide such links arguing that they are only needed for text and screen reader users who will see them when the CSS is not supported. If you are adding these after the after the site is finished, this is a option, if the site is new many of us believe there is no reason to hide such aids, both visual users may find them useful on long pages as well as some keyboard users (some older surfers may find keyboard navigation easier to use than a mouse if they have physical problems) and it makes it obvious to all that your site is created to be easily used for those with disabilities as well. But be warned, you should not e the code using the CSS tools for this. JAWS for instance is a screen reader that rides piggyback on IE, anything hidden from IE will be hidden from it as well. Best is to hide it by placing it off screen. As for the direct wording, studies have shown that many of the very users this is meant for did not understand what it was for when "Skip Navigation" was used. So it may be longer, but keep your wording simple. There is no default standard, I like "Jump to Menu" and "Jump to Content". But there are many different term combinations that can be used, just keep it simple for non-designers. Always keep in mind making your site more useful for those with disabilities. What might they wish to do? If you visit LSW you will see that I included skip links directly to the Blog Archive list on the page as well as directly to the Search to make it easier for them to go immediately to where they may wish to go. [Note 05/05/2006: Although I am not sure I completely agree, I feel this article should be included for balance - Source Order, Skip links and Structural labels ]
  2. I am not a fan of statistics, they are far to overrated. But people like them and it is hard to sell Accessibility without them. I will be posting links or quotes here I am finding as I get background info for a article that will be puplished in the Juneau Empire. So keep checking back as I will add to these as I find new ones. The problem is really that the web has no geographical boundries, you may have visitors from around the globe. But there is a use for local statistics for your area and country. US Census Bureau: To the right is a form you can place your local area in and get the stats for it. Juneau has 13.7% of its population has dissabilities, 3,881 of a population of 30,711 people. Microsoft: Research Studies About Accessible Technology Microsoft: Identifying Who Is Likely to Benefit from the Use of Accessible Technology Microsoft: Findings About Computer Users The National Society for Epilepsy WrongDiagnosis.com: Statistics about Epilepsy How do things look to colorblind people?
  3. They are back, the WCAG Samurai have come slinking out of their cellar into the light of day. The open question is: Will they change the wold? The WCAG Samurai are a semi-secret list of the worlds top Web Developers and Accessibility Gurus who, dismayed by the weak points of WCAG 1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and not impressed with WCAG 2 drafts, and blatantly unhappy with the bureaucracy and power mongering going down inside of the W3C working groups by international corporations, simply decided to do their own thing. So they packed up some junk food and beer, invited a few fellows they respected, walked into the cellar and shut the door on the rest of us for a year. Well they are back with sword in hand. This sword is what they have dubbed the "Errata." The WCAG Samurai Errata is a list of guidelines that are to be followed (if you choose to accept the mission) along side WCAG 1. Learn and follow WCAG 1 and then pic up the Errata and slice the needed corrections. The errata follows along WCAG lines but corrects some that never worked or are to old. In other places it deletes guidelines or check points or modifies them. Oh, and it executed Priority three completely. Now I am having a bit of fun with this. I also have my concerns about us being locked out... but then again democracy has it's limits and the larger the group the harder it is to get anything done. I have read the introduction to the Errata and it is drastic and severe, but hey, look at some of the garbage coming out of W3C these days. It will take some getting use to and I have my doubts on a few points. But I think I will build LSW following the Errata if I can. As I see it, it is like a big election. If you vote for some new upstart party, are they going to win? No, hardly. But the loss of your vote along with thousands to millions of others does send a note to the big parties that they are not doing what we the people want. So the Errata will not overthrow the W3C or likely change it. But it can send the message that: A) WCAG 1 is not bad, just update and modify it. WCAG 2, we are not impressed C) The web and accessibility is just not a play thing for big business. Remember the old saying "What if there was a war and nobody came?", well what if their was a WCAG 2 and nobody used it, or what if the W3C put out a new anything and nobody cared? We are not required by law to listen to or accept W3C or WCAG and WCAG is just guidelines. So I will not bow to the Samurai elite, but you have a nod of consent and I will be rooting for the Errata to make waves if not change. In the end accessibility is about the people and doing what is right, whether it meets WCAG or does not... or goes beyond it. WCAG Samurai Introduction to WCAG Samurai Errata WCAG Samurai Errata for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 Peer Reviews http://reviewsamurai.wordpress.com/ http://samuraireview.wordpress.com/
  4. A committee was created in September 2006 to review needed changes in Sec. 508 of the ADA. Not much info yet available other than some general meeting and membership info, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I contacted the 508 web site http://www.section508.gov asking about references to changes considering 508 is 7 years old and with the "eventual" completion of WCAG 2 and any future support of WCAG Samurai or other versions of updating or replacing WCAG could leave 508 points hanging in midair with no WCAG basis anymore. The reply was that yes indeed it is being looked at and sure enough they had neglected to link to it on the web site. So for anyone interested: http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/update-index.htm The membership is an interesting read, lot of European and other foreign agencies. Maybe aiming more for a DDA sort of thing?
  5. The following is something I wrote to get my thoughts together for a briefing on accessibility of Alaskan state web sites, I thought it worth noting here to help others perhaps better understand accessibility law. It can be found mirrored at LSW: Brief: What is behind accessibility law suits ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- The lawsuits filed so far have been based on these issues: Massive lack of accessibility resulting in the user not being able to use the web site at all to reach information or services. Complaints made and requests to correct the issues have been ignored. Law suites against the state would be made under Sec. 508 of the ADA. The only current lawsuit in progress is against the state of Texas from Feb. 2007 in which 3 state employees with visual impairments were not able to do their job which required working with Oracle Databases. Complaints were filed and software requested and nothing was done so they sued the state of Texas and Oracle for lack of accessible software under Sec. 508. This is not directly web related but shows how the system works. The state of Alaska would not be sued immediately for lack of a alt attribute. A user must complain first and then if we did not improve the site (which we would) a lawsuit could be filed. The court would decide of the case was warrented. The legal rule of thumb seems to be whether "reasonable attempts" have been made to make the web site accessible. Failing one minor issue on some (not all) pages would likely not justify a court case. I am, however, no legal authority. All other news worthy law suites have been brought against commercial sites, and as Sec. 508 does not cover commercial sites, these law suites in the US, and Australia under the British Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), have not been based on the web sites themselves, but on the fact that a service/product was not made available to those with disabilities in the same manner as those without. So those with disabilities were being discriminated against. Hence it is not the accessibility of the web site that was brought before the court but the discrimination against the disabled as they are not able to access the service/product over the net in the same manner as those without disabilities. The web site is not required by law to be accessible, but the service/product offered by the web site is required by law to be accessible to those with disabilities. One final note on the past law suites, in all but the first web accessibility lawsuit brought against Soutwest Airlines , the web site owners have lost the case. However in the instances of Ramada and Priceline , although they lost the case, almost no changes were required of the web sites as the court agreed that doing so would be to expensive and therefore an undue burden on the companies, also the suit only covers accessibility for the visually impaired and not all disabilities. They are wrong for not ensuring their services are available to those with disabilities however are not required to do much to correct the problem.
  6. The following points were written originally to pull my thoughts together for a accessibility briefing on the status of web sites belonging to the state of Alaska, I thought I would add them here for you to read as well. As usual they are mirrored under LSW: Notes on the alt attribute -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The issue here is as follows: Alt stands for Alternative text. This means a text alternative to the information held or represented by an image. The popular misconception is that you need describe the image or say what the image is. This is not quite the point. The text is meant as an alternative to inform the user of any info they may be missing. If the image has no informative value it need not have alt text. The alt attribute however is required on every image. If there is no information to be shared, it may be left blank, alt="". If an image has information like a "Pie chart" you would wish to offer the same info as an alt attribute. You would textually show the same info, you can decide if the fact that the image is a pie chart is of importance or not. If not, then simply add the % shown. alt="Jueau: Rainfall 70%, Cloudy 20%, Sunshine 10%". You would not describe the image as in alt="3D pie chart using the colors red, yellow and green. Green being sunny days, red rain and yellow cloudy..." Do not use alt text for decorative images. Common is alt="bottom right corner". Although correct, this has no informative value as it pertains only to the look of the site for visual users. In these cases having a screen reader notify the user during the flow of the information that it has reached an image representing the bottom right corner is of no importance and adds to the general "noise." By leaving the alt in place but empty, the screen reader will skip the image and the user will either not know an image is present or will understand that the image is of no real value and they are missing nothing. By default, the screen reader will read the name of the image if an alt text is not available. The user would hear "image snodgrass-sen-center.jpg." This of course has no value to them. By adding the alt attribute it will either ignore the image or read the alt text given. For the above image a correct alt attribute would be to describe the information in the image... not the image itself. In this case alt="Commissioner Snuffy Smith and Director Gomer Pile visit with seniors at the Snodgrass Senior Center on Wednesday, May 23, 2007.", no description of the surroundings or even in what position the officials are standing in is given as it is of no value for the visually impaired. Again the same image, if the image does however have a caption, in this case you would not want a caption and an alt text as this would result in the screen reader reading both and the information is doubled. You do not want the alt alone as the visual user will not have access to it. However the caption, due to it's positioning would be clear enough to a screen reader user that the two belong together. So in the case of captions, as there are no HTML elements to deal with captions, it is justified to leave the alt attribute blank as the caption text already describes the information of the image and you would leave the left and right specifications in place for the visual users to identify which person fits which name and title. So in closing, it is imperative that all images regardless are given a alt attribute, alt text should only be used if the image portraits important information. If the image is purely decorative the alt attribute is left empty and in the case of images with captions the alt attribute should be left empty. In her article "Reviving Anorexic Web Writing" Amber Simmons makes a very good point about how alt text can make even decorative images more interesting and give an emotional alternative meaning to the vision impaired. The "longdesc" is the big brother of the alt attribute. It stands for "Long description." The specs do not limit the length of the alt attribute. Usually the alt attribute is kept fairly short. Longdesc in unlimited, rule of thumb is that it would be more sentences. The issue here is the opinion of many in the community that if an image is of such importance and complexity to need a long description, then the content deserves a page itself or a description directly in the content of the original page with the image as a visual aid to the textual information. For years longdesc was not widely supported by user agents, I have heard comments suggesting it is still not well supported and from others that it is widely supported now. The longdesc is added as an attribute with the alt attribute and links to a separate file with the description. I discovered a interesting use for the "Longdesc" attribute in the Section508.gov FAQ : [Edited May 2008]
  7. The following points were written originally to pull my thoughts together for a accessibility briefing on the status of web sites belonging to the state of Alaska, I thought I would add them here for you to read as well. As usual they are mirrored under LSW: Notes on the alt attribute -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The issue here is as follows: Alt stands for Alternative text. This means a text alternative to the information held or represented by an image. The popular misconception is that you need describe the image or say what the image is. This is not quite the point. The text is meant as an alternative to inform the user of any info they may be missing. If the image has no informative value it need not have alt text. The alt attribute however is required on every image. If there is no information to be shared, it may be left blank, alt="". If an image has information like a "Pie chart" you would wish to offer the same info as an alt attribute. You would textually show the same info, you can decide if the fact that the image is a pie chart is of importance or not. If not, then simply add the % shown. alt="Jueau: Rainfall 70%, Cloudy 20%, Sunshine 10%". You would not describe the image as in alt="3D pie chart using the colors red, yellow and green. Green being sunny days, red rain and yellow cloudy..." Do not use alt text for decorative images. Common is alt="bottom right corner". Although correct, this has no informative value as it pertains only to the look of the site for visual users. In these cases having a screen reader notify the user during the flow of the information that it has reached an image representing the bottom right corner is of no importance and adds to the general "noise." By leaving the alt in place but empty, the screen reader will skip the image and the user will either not know an image is present or will understand that the image is of no real value and they are missing nothing. By default, the screen reader will read the name of the image if an alt text is not available. The user would hear "image snodgrass-sen-center.jpg." This of course has no value to them. By adding the alt attribute it will either ignore the image or read the alt text given. For the above image a correct alt attribute would be to describe the information in the image... not the image itself. In this case alt="Commissioner Snuffy Smith and Director Gomer Pile visit with seniors at the Snodgrass Senior Center on Wednesday, May 23, 2007.", no description of the surroundings or even in what position the officials are standing in is given as it is of no value for the visually impaired. Again the same image, if the image does however have a caption, in this case you would not want a caption and an alt text as this would result in the screen reader reading both and the information is doubled. You do not want the alt alone as the visual user will not have access to it. However the caption, due to it's positioning would be clear enough to a screen reader user that the two belong together. So in the case of captions, as there are no HTML elements to deal with captions, it is justified to leave the alt attribute blank as the caption text already describes the information of the image and you would leave the left and right specifications in place for the visual users to identify which person fits which name and title. So in closing, it is imperative that all images regardless are given a alt attribute, alt text should only be used if the image portraits important information. If the image is purely decorative the alt attribute is left empty and in the case of images with captions the alt attribute should be left empty. In her article "Reviving Anorexic Web Writing" Amber Simmons makes a very good point about how alt text can make even decorative images more interesting and give an emotional alternative meaning to the vision impaired. The "longdesc" is the big brother of the alt attribute. It stands for "Long description." The specs do not limit the length of the alt attribute. Usually the alt attribute is kept fairly short. Longdesc in unlimited, rule of thumb is that it would be more sentences. The issue here is the opinion of many in the community that if an image is of such importance and complexity to need a long description, then the content deserves a page itself or a description directly in the content of the original page with the image as a visual aid to the textual information. For years longdesc was not widely supported by user agents, I have heard comments suggesting it is still not well supported and from others that it is widely supported now. The longdesc is added as an attribute with the alt attribute and links to a separate file with the description. I discovered a interesting use for the "Longdesc" attribute in the Section508.gov FAQ : [Edited May 2008]
  8. No, nothing like that exists except in my own mind. But maybe it will catch on, let me explain. If you read the book or saw the movie "Jurassic Park" you may remember a scene where the Mathematician/Chaos expert played by Jeff Goldblum is arguing with the creator/owner of the park and states something close to "You are so busy asking yourself if you can bring the Dinosaurs back, you have forgotten to ask yourself if you should." Well that is a potent question. Being that - great, you can bring the dinosaur back, but should you bring back to life creatures who became extinct 56 Million years before man existed? So what does that have to do with us? Simple really, we forget to ask that same thing often enough in web design. The question is still legitimate "should we focus on doing something we can or ask if we should?" Let me give you an example. Beginners, all there sites look the same, I see it and hear questions asked all the time at a M$N Group for web design called Web Design . How do I play auto-play Music? How do I add a counter? How do I get big fat 3 level backgrounds to frame my text? How do I get a Flash Splash Page. When you ask why, they reply "I want my site to look professional and/or everyone else has these things." This is what I call the Lemming attitude, everyone else does something so I will too without understanding why or why not, now where is that cliff to run off? But how many professional sites really have the things they want.. very few, mostly it is just other lemming sites that have them. So doing my best (that means not good) Goldblum imitation... "You are so tied up about how you can have a flash splash page, you forget to ask yourself if you should have one." "You are so tied up about if you can have auto-play background music, you forget to ask yourself if you should have it" "You are so tied up about if you can have a counter (considering most normal web sites have statistics available) that you forget to ask yourself if you should have one" So I offer the net a new term, "Jurassic Web Design" to describe web sites by those people who stick everything possible into a site because they can without asking themselves if the should. I will now leave you with a wonderful quote I saw on a signature of a member of the Killersites Forum. "Perfection is not finding something else to add, perfection is finding nothing else one can remove." --------------------------------------------------------------------------- June 2007 - clearing out my bookmarks I came across "The HTML Hell Page ," it is quite a good read and lists allot of forms of Jurassic web design.
  9. This is meant to be a quick reference if you ever need examples of accessibility related court cases: Court Cases Access Now Inc. Vs. Southwest Airlines Co. Ramada.com and Priceline.com & Travel sites settle New York accessibility investigation Web accessibility litigation: it's not what we want Target sued over web accessibility & National Federation of the Blind v. Target : See below Martin Vs. MARTA (PDF) I have decided to add some writings on this subject that are about the cases and not about the case itself: Target Court Rules Against Target in Web Site Accessibility Lawsuits - Oct. 2007 update of the case, judge agrees target can be sued under CA law and as a class action law suit. Taking Aim at Target(.com) by Derek Featherstone - This is a excellent look at the Target case. Once you have read it, I strongly suggest you read the comments as well. There are many, but there are some wonderful points being made and you can learn allot there to. Some of the top names in web design, Isofaro, Andy Budd, Joe Clark, PixelDiva just to name a few. Target sued: website not accessible to blind NFB vs. Target in perspective - Commentary by Matt May *Accessibility, Law and Target.com by Jim Thatcher, expert witness for the NFB *On Handicapped Access, Target Fights the Wrong Fight for the Wrong Reason By Evan Schuman for eweek.com. Southwest Airlines Web accessibility: still waiting for a case NFB vs. Target in perspective - Commentary by Matt May General Commentaries Disabled access law does not cover web sites, says federal court The ADA and its application to World Wide Web sites Web accessibility litigation: it's not what we want - Commentary by Matt May
  10. In another posting I offered you a list of alternative browsers . But some people still say to me, "Great list ...but why should I change?" This of course a fair question, especially for those new to the net. So I will now try to offer some answers. I am known as a very anti-Internet Explorer person, so I will try to keep my rants out. It is my intention with this article not to sell you on any one browser, but to simply give you an idea of some of the problems and differences with different browsers so you can make a better informed decision to stay with what you use, change or simply know in what situation another browser may be better for any one site. I will mostly be concentrating on the big three, IE (Internet Explorer) from Micro$oft, Firefox from Mozilla and Opera. There are others of course, Konqueror for Linux and Safari from Apple for Mac. However I do not have these Operating Systems and can therefore no offer much of an opinion. I have left Netscape out as it is really just a slight variation of Mozilla, they are really the same browser, Mozilla I have left out as it is not much different then Firefox. Both use the same rendering engine. Just for your information: Mozilla was the project name for the Netscape browser. At some point Mozilla separated from Netscape and became it's own entity. When Mozilla was finally developed it was taken and changed slightly to become Netscape 6. In the meantime Firefox (under different names) was developed. The major difference being that Firefox is Modular. Where Mozilla is a suite of products including chat, e-mail etc., Firefox is just a browser, if you want e-mail you can download another product called Thunderbird, then there is a Calendar in development etc.. At one time Mozilla was to be replaced by Firefox, this may have changed now. There is also Mozilla's Camino for Mac, but I have met no Mac users who use it, most stick with Firefox which works on all OS's So what is the problem with IE? This has allot to do with what you do with it. As a designer my hatred for the browser stems from it's poor support for standards. Web standards are good, like any other standardized things. The standards are meant to define what can be used in a web page and how it is to be seen. When you build a web site using standards as I do, all web sites should show the design almost exactly the same. When standards are not used, or in the case of IE, not supported, a web site can look drastically different between IE and Firefox. If you are a designer this is a great frustration and slows down development. For a normal user, this means that you may not be seeing the site as it was meant to be seen, or a site may look bad or even be unusable depending on what browser you use. IE is the only major player that does not support standards well, however it is the browser used by ca. 80% of web surfers. IE is the first browser most people see and use, it is needed to get any other browsers. People then are used to it and compare all browsers to it thinking it is the best when it really is not. As with all Micro$oft products, IE is built to be very user friendly, a no-brainer you may say. It is meant for people who do not know what they are doing and made so easy that you never need to learn what you are doing. For this reason it uses questionable default settings is therefore prone to security problems. Most every other browser including some that use the IE engine are more secure then IE. Age is another problem, IE6 has been around for years and other than a odd security update nothing has been done. Where as other browsers have been continually updated. Later this year at least a public beta version of IE7 is expected to be released. Worth noting is that: IE7 was originally planned to only be included with the next OS (then Longhorn, now Vista). IE7 would only be available for those buying Vista, not as a update to IE6. This means you would be stuck with IE6 until you one day buy Vista. However Vista missed it's release date and Firefox hit the market and had Millions of downloads in just a few months and IE market share dropped. Now IE7 has been released to testers with XP and the Public Beta release this year will be for XP only. If the final release will be for XP or just Vista is unclear. It seems like this plan was ditched after Firefox took so much market away from IE and Micro$oft got nervous. IE7 main features seem to be a much improved standards support in the rendering engine. Also security has been greatly improved, but this is integral to Vista and it is questionable if the same security can be reached with XP. IE7 will not be available for anyone using Win 95, Win 98, Win ME, Win NT, or Win 2000 or Mac/Linux. IE development for Mac was stopped after IE 5.2. Other problems holding back web design are also not being improved with IE7, for instance XHTML Mime Type support. IE7 will finally offer pop-up blockers, skins and Tabs ... things that every other browser has been offering for years. IE6 still has bugs that have been in it since IE3 and have either been ignored or they have failed to fix. IE does not allow enlarging text sizes when the developer defined the text to a specific set size. Makes surfing difficult for those with poor eyesight. Most all screenreaders currently available to the visually impaired that ride piggyback on a normal browser only run with IE. So IE is finally being upgraded, but only for those with the two newest systems, everyone else will have to live with IE6 and it's bugs and poor standards support. In my Browser list , you will find however alternatives to IE. SlimBrowser, Avant, Crazy browser and Co. are all far better browsers, offer improved security, pop-up blockers, tabs and such ... yet all utilize the IE engine. This means you have more useful tools, however the sites will consider it IE when you visit, so you can still use sites like M$N Groups. On the bad side, they also inherit many of IE's security problems, though some have plugged some of the holes themselves. Then I should get Firefox? My gut reaction is yes, but not all like it. Firefox has some problems, then again it is only in version 1.5 compared to IE 6/7. Firefox is a hands on browser, you have more control over the settings to improve security or weaken it if you do not learn to use the browser correctly. Firefox expects you to think for your self and not wait for the browser to do everything for you. Also Firefox will resize the text in web sites regardless of the size set. This is better for the visually impaired, but can easily break a poorly designed site. No screenreaders that I am aware of at this time work with Firefox Firefox also offers skins, tabs, a good pop-up blocker and a large library of extensions that can help you do things the browser does not do by default. For web developers there are some great tools, but also many things that help normal users are available in extensions. A search field is offered and you can install any of a dozen search engines and databases to meet your needs. Google, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves... just type in the word and switch search engines as needed. Also available is Wikipedia, dictionaries like Webster, Leo German/English or the IMDB Movie database and Ebay just to name a few. Just type in the object and choose where you wish to look. Also included is RSS support. So called Live Bookmarks will allow you to track the newest postings in web sites or forums offering RSS Feeds. Another nifty feature is the ability to open multiple home pages, just separate your favorite sites with a | and all the pages will open when you open Firefox. Firefox supports standards better than just about any other. it is small and fast (depending on how many extensions you have), but does actually open slower than IE. You can run older versions of Firefox on your PC where IE always overwrites the older versions. However using Firefox on say M$N groups is a nightmare, you cannot use the tools offered by M$N, they are only supported by IE so you must write everything in pure HTML. What about Opera? No longer to be ignored, Opera went for years as the Swedish underdog with dedicated fans and as the fastest browser on the net. But it never really had a chance because it had no big organization to support it. So from it's earliest days it cost money and that kept it from ever really getting the market share it deserved. With Opera 6 or 7 it became freeware with adds and finally just recently with Opera 8 it is truly Freeware. I do not know if Opera still goes as the fastest browser, but it too opens faster than Firefox. It also offers skins, tabs, pop-up blocker and better security then IE. But Opera offers a few jewels that IE and Firefox do not. In the case of those with disabilities I would suggest Opera as the better browser. Under View / Style you can choose to view a web page with any number of Stylesheets that can offer you a way to view web sites better suited to you or if you are a developer to test you web site in many views. Then for developers there is the small screen mode, it can help give you an idea how your site would look in a small screen device like a PDA or cell phone. But Opera still has a couple of bugs when dealing with standards. But in the end it shows sites generally as Firefox would and far better than IE. Opera offers user programmable keyboard shortcuts to speed using the browser with a keyboard. No screenreaders that am aware of at this time will work with Opera. However for the visually impaired who just need a larger text size to read, you can adjust the text size, but Opera is the only browser to offer a built in Zoom that will not only enlarge the text but the images as well, so you can see more and it will not break the site. Also Opera is the first browser that can be trained to react to audible spoken commands. However this is still in development so you must speak slowly and clearly and it will not react to heavy accented english or any foreign languages this time. So in the case of disabilities, Opera is by far the better browser. Final thoughts ... So there you have it. I will not really tell you what browser to use, the decision is yours and I hope you have some things to consider. If you prefer IE or spend most of your time in sites requiring IE like M$N Groups, I would suggest you consider the IE spin-offs at least as an alternative. For general secure surfing and the use of sites offering RSS Feeds my general suggestion would be Firefox (or Mozilla, or Camino, or Netscape) If you do not like Firefox for whatever reason, or you suffer from some forms of disabilities, without a doubt you should give Opera a thorough check, it could change your surfing habits for good. If you really want my opinion (avoid the pure IE until at least IE7), install all of them. Different browsers are good for different places. My general browser is Firefox for surfing and testing. Opera for testing (just never took a liking to the interface, but it is a good browser) and Flash sites (I keep flash blocked on my other browsers to avoid all those silly flashing banners and pop-ups), but when dealing with M$N groups I use Crazy Browser or Avant as well as testing web designs. You need not dedicate yourself to one. Find one you like and then keep the others for those special sites. As for other OS's I have listed them in my browser listing as well. Firefox seems to be the main browser across Mac and Linux. Linux comes with Konqueror which is not bad but has standards problems. Mac is a close run between the delivered Safari which has a good standards and security record and Firefox. Camino just does not seem to have gone far there so far. There are other alternatives here as well but none strong enough to list here. I hope I have given you some ideas and info to help you choose. The bottom line is you have to choose the best browser for you and the best browser for you where you are surfing at this moment. If Firefox proved nothing else, as long as we just use the supplied browser like Lemming, nothing will change. But when a alternative browser starts getting to many new users, suddenly browsers start thinking security and supporting standards. UPDATE: To my embarassment it seems IE7 Public Beta 2 has been released already, during a time period I was offline shortly. You can download it here . It is also worth noting that the following can be found there as well, Guess it is now official that IE7 will be available for XP SP2 users. Highlights are from me.
  11. I recently was involved in a discussion among professionals preparing for a web accessibility training for the state of Alaska. I replied that we need to avoid speaking of only disabilities and also point out that we are speaking of people's habits and preferences as well as their needs. So the person in charge rewrote a question meant to gage their knowledge before and then after the training. What was in fact notable in this discussion was not that a change was made at my request, but the choice of words used in the rewrite. Specifically, they used the term barriers and barrier free. Talk about a "Eureka" moment. You see, we all easily forget our beginning days in this, how the terminology we throw around today was not so clear back then. Any web person, web designer or programmer knows what navigation means and it is perfectly clear and we expect users to understand as well as it is simply that clear. But studies show that navigation is not clear to beginners and average users and that menu is a better term. Now it seems that we in the accessibility movement have possibly forgotten our roots, that we have adopted this "Professional language" and become so use to it that we forget what others may think. What is an accessible web site? What does the term really suggest? To me off the top and ignoring what I know is meant? it means someone is able to get to the web site. The most inaccessible site is usually accessible to the user, maybe they cannot use it but they can get to it. So I wonder if our troubles convincing people to make their sites accessible may not stem from the very terminology we choose? My web site works so it is accessible to them, so leave me alone. Germany however used the term "Barrier free" and so that was the term I started with. Once I discovered that the "correct term" is accessibility that is what I adopted and forgot about "barriers" until it popped up again in this discussion. Is Barriers and barrier free not more understandable? Again, accessible is a simple true or false answer. Is your site accessible? Yes, they can get to it, next question. But barriers, barriers demand further info. Is your site barrier free? Hugh? Barrier free? Barrier suggests itself as a roadblock, something to be overcome. What do you mean by a road block in my site? What is there to be overcome? Barrier free lends itself not to further movement past the subject, but to a slamming of the breaks and further investigation as to what is meant, it demands further questions and details. Suddenly we have the person's attention. They want visitors, usually visitors who spend money. It is easy to skip over a suggestion when you know your site is accessible? it is not so easy to skip over the idea that your web site has barriers that by it's very term suggests something is stopping the user for fulfilling their quest and hopefully putting money I the owners pocket. Now the ears are wide open and the question is looming in the shadows, "what is stopping the user from buying my product"? No one wants to think that they are stopping potential sales and making users overcome something. No one builds an obstacle course with mines and tank barricades between the front door and the show room & the showroom and the cash register. But that is what many web sites do and now they are open to having that pointed out. Now they want to improve their site. So this is just a thought, but maybe we accessibility advocates have made accessibility inaccessible by a poor choice of terminology while preaching to the masses that they should use simple English as not to create problems for users. We have created problems for ourselves that make it hard for us to sell our movement. Maybe terminology is a barrier for us as well and it is time we open ourselves to simpler and better terminology so we can have a barrier free movement.
  12. Here are sopme links to documents that were passed to me as references, some of you may fnd them interesting, although generally a few years old. FINDING GOVERNMENTAL STATISTICAL DATA ON THE WEB: A CASE STUDY OF FEDSTATS http://www.stanford.edu/group/siqss/itandsociety/v01i03/v01i03a01.pdf THE IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION DESIGN FOR SMALL BUSINESS WEB SITES http://www.staff.vu.edu.au/johnbentley/publications/63BentleyTheimportanceofwebdesignfinal.pdf HELP! I'M LOST: USER FRUSTRATION IN WEB NAVIGATION (Final) http://www.stanford.edu/group/siqss/itandsociety/v01i03/v01i03a02.pdf USER FRUSTRATION IN WEB NAVIGATION (longer draft version with graphics) https://drum.umd.edu/dspace/bitstream/1903/1233/1/CS-TR-4409.pdf EXPANDING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE & FALLING BEHIND ON BROADBAND http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/digitaldivide.pdf DOES THE DIGITAL DIVIDE STILL EXIST? http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/DigitalDivideReport20020530.pdf An accessibility study of state legislative Web sites
  13. In the last year I have been active in a number of big web design oriented forums. My views on web design are known if you know me, this has led to me crossing sabers with many followers of old-school web design. If they do not like what I say they dance over to LSW and attack my design (EDIT: a design no longer in use but used at the time of this writing). No problem there, the design of a web site is based on personal taste and I get more compliments then complaints. But the fact is, the Nr. 1 accusation LSW gets is "The web site is to simplistic" or "Retro 90's". Is that a bad thing? I personally like simple web sites. I am a busy man, I want to come to a web site, get the info I want and move on. I do not go to look at pretty pictures. What a site looks like does not decide if I return, the content does. Are my web sites simplistic? Yes, and I am proud of it. So what is modern design if simplistic is old school? Modern web design seems to be when the web site is terribly complicated. People often point to the type of web sites like M$N or news agencies. People point to things like PHPNuke and Mambo CMS. This is what people want and this shows "professional design". Course of you check these sites for accessibility, standards, validation etc. they will likely fall through the floor. So modern web designs would seem to be what I consider "Jurassic Web Design ": 3 Million links per page. Now fine, BBC, CNN and the likes with really lots of categories and subcategories and news and entertainment and archives and ...and ... and ..., these pages really must be like this. But the average private web site? Small business? Middle business? We do not need every page on the site linked to the home page, that is what the sitemap is for. Do you need to send people away from your site by linking to dozens of affiliates and such things on your home page? Do you really need to offer a web search? People who go to your site want info from your site, so a site search is good. But just about every browser now has a built in search. Most searchers go to the search engines home page as well. So unless you search filed offers to search your site... does it really offer something that the user needs? Why advertise Google for free? Boxes, now this is popular isn't it? Lots of boxes holding lots of those 3 million links. Yes it is neat and tidy, but it takes us back to are those links needed? Would a logical step system of categoriesand subcategories not be better than a cluster of subcategories all on the home page? Clutter, this is really what it comes down too. Modern web design calls for lots of clutter on a page, no white space, no free room. Stuff as much info down our necks as you possiblly can in as small an area as you possiblly can, give us those boxes ... Just drop logic and plaster junk all over the home page. Offer us stock prices even if your site has nothing to do with stocks or we own none. Give me breaking news when you site is about beer can collecting. Tell me the weather in your part of Canada even though I live in Germany and do not care. Tell me what time it is in Japan. How many days till new year 2007? Tell me what number visitor I am to your site since 1 B.C. as if I care. Awards, newbies love awards. I should know I used to paste them on my home page too, got the idea from my host at that time who I thought knew what he was doing because he had a "Golden Web Award". Now maybe you have some awards you still think are worth something (I will go into awards in another rant one day). Do you have sport awards or awards that your dog won or your children? Do you plaster these awards on your front door? Or are they in a "Awards room" or "Awards corner" of a room? Well then pace them on a awards page of your site and anyone interested can look at them, do not paste them on the door of your site anymore than you would the door of your house. Badges, these are about the same as awards, but by this I mean more the Validation badges and such. Validation is easy to muck up, especially when you update pages. Fly a validation badge on a non-validating page looks bad. You page may validate now but what if you change or add something, you have revalidate If your page allows for comments by the readers ...forget validation unless you go through and can edit and correct all the mistakes people make in their comments. Most users do not even know what HTML 4.01 is or why it should validate. Those with disabilities will know right away if your site is Section 508 compliant or not, the rest do not even know what it is or even care. That is just a few of what modern web design would seem to be in the minds of those who think my site is bad because it is retro 90's as they say. These same people will tell others to remember KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), yet their web sites are far from simple. I for one live a complicated life in a complicated major city in Europe ..and you know what I long for? The simple life in a small town where you really know your neighbors. Bikers long for simple bikes like the old Harley and Indians. Simple cars like a 65` Mustang are considered classic well built cars against today's cars that will not start if the computer is shot. A old VW Beetle you can change the head lights by hand, today's cars you have to go to a mechanic. Today's fighter jets can not be flown effectively without a computer to run them. How much of your life is lost if your HD crashes on you, but simple paper note books do not crash. So often these days you hear people saying life is to complicated, people still seem to earn for and respect the simple life. So why should simplistic be bad in web design? Maybe it is time web design goes back to the simple life. Offer new visitors a few lines/paragraphs of text to explain what your site is and then give them a logical navigation to find their way to what they want. Save your awards for a awards page. Who needs badges? You know the site validates and any professionals will see if the code is good or not and the average visitor does not care. Show a few new article summaries, but leave the full article to it's own page. Frees space in not the enemy, it gives the eyes a place to relax and helps limit stress. Web design like art tends to reflect the times. If our lives are so complicated ... maybe the internet in it's complexity should strive to offer us a haven of simplicity. I originally wrote this over Christmas 2006. Today in my mail from Builder.com I found a link to a 2004 article by Michael Meadhra that gets a bit more technical then I did here. It is well worth the read. Reduce visual clutter to improve usability A member here once had a signature that read: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- June 2007 - Going through my mass of bookmarks I have stumbled on one that I offer here as well, Michael Meadhra discusses the need for simplicity in web design in his "Reduce visual clutter to improve usability ."
  14. The W3C are known for being vague, often due to trying to please everyone. This vagueness has caused issues in the past as developers understood the specs differently, a good example is IE's showing of the alt attribute as a tooltip and all others browsers understanding it to be only visible when the image is not. I have seen references before to the tag and like all beginners did not look into it as it is clear isn't it? You use it to create addresses. Well this is the web and the W3C and not everything is what it seems. Here are two authorities on the subject: For me this is fairly clear, but not what I thought as a beginner. The address tag is not for addresses, it is for contact information about the author. If I post this in an ezine for instance, the author information about me with my email and or URL would be the address. I am the contact person and not the newsletter that posts this. KillerSites is not the contact when I post it on their forum. If you have questions, you contact me. So if you use it for a street or postal address you are clearly wrong. Or are you? In a comment section at a SimpleBits' SimpleQuiz from 2004 , some very good comments are to be found (126 in all, but good reading). It became and issue of how best to markup physical addresses and rather than people saying A, B, C or D, may began tweaking the offered solutions. Comments here are long closed, I was dismayed that it took almost half the comments before someone pointed out the semantics of Address as many were stating simply "A is correct because that is what the tag is there for." Well no, no it isn't, read the specs. It is the contact information on the author. So name, email, URL and such. Some posters blatantly ignore this but towards the bottom more and more reference it and some begin to point out other ways of seeing it than what I know to be the meaning of Address. Now the easy to understand has become vague indeed. Let us look again, this time with my highlights: Are you seeing what I missed and others saw? Once again by generously using their favorite word, "may," the W3C's use of it opens the definition to be used and abused in many ways aside from it?s intended use. Also look at it from a corporate point of view. We looked earlier at me as the author. Now let's say it is a page on a corporate web site. Who is the "contact information for a document or a major part of a document?" It depends, but it would be either a division or department or the corporation as a whole. So if I have a question or issue with the content who is my contact person? Likely the Public Affairs people for the corporation. How would I contact them? URL and email of course as before, but I may wish to send a letter. Now suddenly a postal address or street address I can visit to speak to someone in person is now fitting snuggly in the definition, especially with that "may" thrown in. A local part of a nationwide chain would not be the owner so the corporate headquarters would be the owner. Personally, I find that stretching it as this tag is really meant to be directly on each page. So I do not agree with the full address use of the tag, To use it on one page to represent ownership and responsibility for an entire site is not in the spec. The spec clearly states it is "for a document or a major part of a document," meaning singular, as under this theory you need to place the physical address of the company on every page. But I must admit that I can not hotly dispute it because in theory, even stretched theory they are partly right at least and you can liken a web site to a document, like a brochure of many pages. Another repeated argument is that telephone numbers should not be included, they are not part of the address (usually meaning physical address), but they are however "contact information for a document or a major part of a document" and by that definition better candidates for the address tag than a complete physical or postal address. So the tag turns out to be not so simple after all. Like a Mirror you identify way off, when you take a closer look it is a funhouse mirror and depending on what angle you look at the specs for address. It means different things to different people and warps to be seen however you wish to use it like a funhouse mirror warping your reflection depending on the angle you see it. With W3C specs, things are not always what they seem.
  15. During some recent accessibility training I was asked what browsers should be tested in and while explaining I discovered that many people do not know how browsers tie together, what ones are for what Operating Systems and what are even common. So here is a explanation of the big 4 and what to watch for in the future. Firefox - Firefox is the second growing browser, on many sites I run it has in fact taken over the lead spot in statistics. Basically Firefox runs the same on Linux and Mac as it does on windows, so if the site works in windows it will on the others as well, it is the most used browser in Mac and Linux. It is standards compliant. At one time Netscape was the lead browser, it's code name was Mozilla. Later Mozilla broke away and became it's own project and the Mozilla suite was the basis of Netscape 6. Mozilla began powering Netscape and Mozilla became it's own browser as well. Then they decided that rather than have a bloated app with email, chat and what all else in, they would break each out into it's own module. This gave birth to Firefox Browser, Thunderbird email client and Sunbird Calendar as a few examples. With the final release of Firefox, Mozilla was retired. However Mozilla lives on due to the work of some fans and with Mozilla's support they are continuing to improve it and it is called Seamonkey now. Gecko is the rendering engine. If you test in Firefox, you can be sure it will work just as well in any gecko client, so Netscape (now retired), Mozilla/Seamonkey and Camino (Mac only). Opera - Opera has or had a cult following as it was the fastest browser on the market at one time, however i was privately funded and needed to be purchased. It has been free now for a few years still ignored, i will do a separate article on why you should check out Opera. But it has the easiest internal style switching available, first to incorporate a zoom mechanism, first to include spatial navigation, first to include voice command, first to include a mobile view for testing, first to offer a speed dial screen in new tabs... it has been unduly ignored. Opera is standards compliant but does show some things slightly different than other browsers. Opera was also the first browser to pass Acid 3. Opera is not just a interesting alternative browser, it is the only commercial browser available for mobile use. There is a Firefox version being developed for mobile user agents but Opera has been in use for years along with a lesser known mobile only browser. By testing in Opera with Opera's specialized tools will help insure it is working well for users, opera is also used on many cell phones as well as the Wii when surfing, so odds are good the web site will work better in those tools as well. Safari - Safari has been around for years and is the Mac in house browser. It is well used in the community but still falls behind Firefox in statistics of Mac users. Safari is standards compliant. There is now a version of Safari for Windows. Windows users can now install Safari 3 beta on a windows machine and test. There are some oddities between Safari Mac and Safari Windows, more to do with the presentation of Text. But for the most art if it works in one it will work in the other. The presentation may differ slightly, but the functionality is close enough to be sure the site can be used on Mac. IE - Well what is to be said here, we all pretty well realize the quirks of IE. IE has never been standards friendly. The IE team has spent years trying to create their own standards even thought Microsoft is part of the W3C. IE 6 does not support Standards, IE 7 supports standards somewhat, IE 8 is supposed to support Standards when released. IE7 only works on XP SP2, SP3 and Vista. IE8 will I believe only work on Vista and later. IE6 will work on XP SP1 and anything before. As long as people are unwilling to upgrade, IE6 will be around like a zombie, dead but still attacking & eating our web sites. IE5.5 and below do not even register on most statistics or ring in at less than 1%. They are dead, we have to draw a line somewhere. IE support for Mac ended with IE5.2 and IE no longer supports Mac and never supported Linux. So IE does it's own thing. What do we do about it? Well traditionally hacks, but hacks are using a browser weakness to do something, if the weakness is then corrected as with IE7, many sites designed with hacks for IE6 broke. So stay away from hacks. Conditional Comments are the way to go. They were created by Microsoft and allow you to pick and choose versions. They are a form of CData comments and If loops. If IE6 do this, if IE7 do that. These are ignored by all other browsers. So it is a form of IE specific sniffing. You can for instance either load different style sheets or just specific commands to overwrite styles in a style sheet. IF IE6, use this H! style rather than the default style... sort of thing. IE8 is a whole new ball game. IE8 was to launch a poorly thought out plan that was flamed in designer communities. This idea has been named Version Targeting. The idea is simple, a meta tag in the header of every page will tell IE what version of the browser the web site is meant for. IE8 can then choose from multiple rendering engines to show the site as it should be. So you may now be lazy and never update your site, just add the meta and tell it to render as IE6. I am sure laziness will overcome, but it is good for older sites that may have archived material, you need not rewrite everything, just say that that page was written for IE5 years ago and it should render as IE5, that is good, but using it as an excuse not to update a active site is laziness. Another problem is the size, IE8 will have to include multiple rendering engines to render old pages as old browsers... so each version of IE will be more bloated as it's rendering engine is included with all the others. It was poorly thought out because the default was to be IE6, why should IE8 default to IE6? Why should those of us not wishing to use it have to use it to say we do not wish to use it (by telling it to act like what it is IE8). They finally saw the light and have announced that IE8 will default to IE8 standards mode, and you must add the meta tag for anything else. IE8 will still not support XHTML, so there will still be no reason to use it. JAWS - JAWS is the most common screen reader and hails from Freedom Scientific. It is expensive so you won't be buying one, but the demo version runs for the first 30 minutes after booting your machine and it is not just a browser (actually piggy backs on the browser), it will read anything you do on your operating system as well. Now you can listen to your site, test it in a manner as well. Just remember that yu will not use it as a sighted person the same manner a blind person will. It has a visual pointer that you can move with the mouse and a virtual pointer. It can get problematic if you try to test as a blind user while using the mouse to point at things. So if you are going to use it, use it right. Unplug the mouse and turn off the monitor if you can, close your eyes or sue a blindfold if you can not. Then test your site. It will help you find structural problems, missing alt attributes and even misspellings. Then if you can, get a hold of a Assistive Technologies organization and have them test the site out using real users with disabilities. Google Chrome - Not yet a contender, but it may become one, especially in mobile units. I personally like this light and simple app and do use t often, but not as my primary browser.
  16. 21/22 May 2008 I was an instructor at the State of Alaska's first web accessibility Training at the University of Alaska Anchorage. It was an eye opener. I have been preaching accessibility for 8 years, most all in theory. But for the first time I was able to watch and speak with a Blind user and the instructor who teaches blind users how to use software such as JAWS. Here are some points worth mentioning. alt attributes - to a screen reader, it makes no difference if you use alt="" or alt=" ", it means the same, just be sure to use it. Headers (H1 - H6) are of major importance. Not just semantics, but headers can be and are used all the time by screen reader users to navigate. A structured layout with headers is more efficient for users than a skip link (but please keep offering those too). Lists - not only are lists a semantically correct form for a menu, and allow us to easily format menus with rollover, focus and hover effects... but lists are the next best for navigation as the screen reader can skip from one list to another navigating the site and the list is announced as being a list with 7 items and then the items are read off. Always use lists for listed items and menus, never use code to make a faux list with bullet symbols as this takes away it usefulness for everyone. Real screen reader users do so with an amazing speed, I could hardly follow what he was doing at default speed. when he upped it to his normal speed he uses it sounded like some alien in a cartoon played at high speed, I understood nothing. Screen readers can have other voices downloaded for a price, some as worthless as Wing Dings, "Bob in a hallway," sound like bob in a tin can. Many screen reader users have many voice files and dictate which are used where like on a cell phone. A female may read the site, but a form may be read by a male voice so it indicates aside from the announcements what they are doing. Refreshable Brail user agents are far more common then I had thought, many blind really prefer them. A 32 character display like we were shown costs around $5,000, it will display half an average sentence. 64 character ones will do a whole sentence, smaller are available that cover just a web words, but are more mobile. There are portable screen readers about the size of an old walkman. These can be hung around the neck and plugged into any computer and offer earphones for the user. They can be uses without earphones when plugged into the speakers directly. Icon was used by the demonstrator. Programs like JAWS can be used with JavaScript/Ajax, but with extreme care. Always use DOM and change the DOM on the page on the fly so that the page reflects the current status. Never set a drop down so that it automatically goes to the focus/highlighted target, Jaws will always go directly to the very first link as that will always be the first with focus and the user is stuck. Always handle forms with either immediate error handling on the field they are in, or if error handling is later after the form is sent off, the error message must always be the top of the page, otherwise it goes back to the page and starts reading the whole form again and the user does not know why. With the error message topside it is read first "I have found the following errors: Format incorrect in date field", the error statement where the error is can then link to take the user directly to that field rather than have to tab all the way through for each. If you use Ajax for a page and it constantly refreshes, it interrupts the user. If you type into Goggle search bar and that triggers a list of possible searches, the screen reader will begin to read those, when you add the next letter and the list refreshes, the screen reader starts again at the top, breaking it off where it was in mid word and starting again... fast tippers will get allot of syllables. So be aware of this. Any time the page itself is refreshed the screen reader will start again at the top, so dom changes should be in the page so the reader starts where you changed the content and not all the way at the top every time. Forcing new windows will not cause a new instance of the screen reader so two are reading, not in the new generations. However by opening a new window or tab, it steals the focus and the screen reader will stop reading the current content, and begin reading the new content before the old is finished. Allowing the user to choose a new tab gives them control with the reader over what they want to hear. Screen readers have two pointers. A visual pointer you can see and move with your mouse and a virtual pointer that is controlled by the keyboard that is what the blind use. When testing, disconnect your mouse or you can get lost of the virtual pointer is at one place and the mouse pointer at another. Test with a Demo. JAWS has a demo that is good for 30 minutes after you boot your computer (it reads everything, OS actions and browser/software actions). You are sighted and will not use it like a blind user will, so it does not mean it is accessible, but turn of your monitor when you can, close your eyes if you can't and unplug the mouse so you use only the keyboard. This will not only give you an idea of the difficulties, but you will hear where you misspelled words, where you have made mistakes, where your text is not as clear as you thought (faux proof reading. your eyes know what you wanted to write, your ears will hear the truth). It is worth testing and even practicing... but remember that you do not use it like a longtime blind user. You can have a look at a sampling of available Assistive Technology and their prices at www.Enablemart.com
  17. It is my hope to find and place articles here that will give you an idea of how those with disabilities "see" and use the web site. So here is the first and I hope to have more to follow. Surfing Blind by Max Robinson (on visual Impairment) Staying Focused By Stephanie May (on Text - to - Speech) Multiple Technologies Clear Obstacles By Jonathan Avila (on being legally blind, while having usable vision) A Christmas tale about accessible shopping by L?onie Watson is Nomensa's Head of Accessibility and visually impaired. WebAIM offers an article called "Introduction to Web Accessibility " that includes two videos where people with disabilities are interviewed on camera. The first, "Keeping Web Accessibility in Mind," is a bit long and about accessibility in general. The second, "Experiences of Students with Disabilities," is shorter and exclusively interviews. Videos AssistiveWare offers videos of some of the most extreme uses of assistive technologies. Mike, who suffers spinal muscular atrophy plays many video games including first person shooters using a Mac. A woman with ALS controlling her computer with a switch taped to her cheek. A woman with cerebral palsy who uses her computer to do graphic design work. These videos are well worth watching. Blind Computing - How do we do it? - Cathy Anne, Created a YouTube Video to show how Screen Readers work. 6 min. Web Accessibility - through the "eyes" of a screen reader - YouTube video highlighting the importance of Skip Links descriptive links rather than "click here". 3 min. - YouTube video of a brief by Jeff Bingham of Washington Sate University. This is technically a brief to Google employees about a project for a faux screen reader they have developed. It is long, but the beginning at least has some very good info and statistics for the first half. If these people can do these things... imagine what they can do with a simple accessible web site. After seeing these... I really do not want to here developers saying that accessibility is to hard and not enough people benefit from it.
  18. As developers interested in accessibility, we use tools to aid us. Whether these be assistive technologies or tools of the language like alt attributes. But the problem with cognitive disorders is they are not something you can nail down, it is about the inability to understand content, not the inability to access it. No real tools here for us and no way to really simulate it. It is hard to really even understand it as it is all about not understanding. So we have to deal with something we cannot really understand and help people with this problem to better handle our web sites. My eye opener after 7 years of accessible design was just a few weeks ago. I had just listened to a web cast on the subject when I was asked to come up with examples for accessible tables. I did all the right things, with an eye on WCAG 2 that will likely go final in the next year. So although using all the tricks and tools available I built a table that is by all normal standards... but is it understandable for cognitive disorders? I don't know, but accessibility is about choice and alternatives. We offer those with disabilities or other wishes to access our information in alternative manners. So in theory it is quite possible that someone with a cognitive problem may not find such data tables to be understood, so even here maybe we should do that little extra work to give them a choice. Ok, being a top designer you have created a table, you use TH for column or row headers, you may have used scope or IDs, you have a perfect coded table explaining what menu is served which day and all is easy to understand at first sight, your are finished. But is it the most understandable form for all people? Then consider this. If your table is dynamic you can draw the same info from the database and show it in multiple forms. So you could take a simple table showing days of the week and the menu needed for it in a textual format that someone may find easier to understand. ></pre> <table border="1" summary="This table showing our lunch service gives the three lunch courses (column headings)">Today's Lunch Menu The following information is based on the preferences we have seen based on 3 years of lunch statistics showing the most often ordered food on this day historically.This information was collected by Joe Blow, please contact Mike if you have any questions.Salad MealDessertCaesarT-bone SteakPineapple Upside down Cake</t OK now, the above is a proper accessible table that uses best practices and should be usable for the normal disabled users. But is it clear for someone with a cognitive disorder? Maybe, maybe not, we have no way to know until they complain... if they complain. So maybe plain text would be better for some people and is not all that hard as long as it changes daily. Imagine a simple text paragraph with a feed from the database, the same data as in the table (Indicated by {}). So as you see, this simple paragraph style is not as clear at a quick glance, but could be more understandable than a table to some forms of Cognitive Disorders. If both paragraph and table draw from a database, the entries are automatically updated and need not be manually changed. Both versions can be offered on the same page with a heading that allows choice, a screen reader user may find the second preferable to the table as well and choose to skip the table and listen to the paragraph. So unlike normal accessibility tricks, I cannot say that this is a better way for any number of people. What I would like you to consider is simply that accessibility is about offering choices to allow alternative methods for those with special needs are simply other preferences, to access information in another manner. So when it works, data type info in a data table as well as plain text. Offer an RTF document & a PDF version, offer multiple style sheets, offer two forms of navigation, offer alternative text to images. Just always try to ask yourself if this is not the best format for the user to read information, what can you do to offer an alternative form, give the user a choice to what best suites them. WebAIM has a good article on the subject of Cognitive disorders: Cognitive Disabilities.
  19. [Note: For those who have not followed the subject, I recently wrote a pair of articles, "Understanding and the Cognitive Disorder " and "From the inside: Depression & the Cognitive Disorder."] We are all just human and we do what humans do, one of those things is to get so involved in things that we loose site of the larger picture. Accessibility advocates are no different and from time to time we have to be reminded that accessibility is not just about disabled persons, accessibility is about everyone. I recently posted a thread about my above linked depression article over at Accessify forum where it was well taken. A member going by the name of "atu" posted some links on the subject of concentration loss and distraction in modern society. This is not directly related to web design exactly, but the articles are quite interesting and make you think and that is what web design is all about. If in fact the "Web" is dumbing people down, then it is something we need to take into consideration in our designs. I would like to say we need to fight this new reality. But truth be told we are part of the problem, we build the sites that cause these issues and our customers pay us to do just that. So help fight it where you can, but before it can be fixed it must be recognized and these articles may be to early to truly prove a problem, but they certainly are a dire warning and worth reading. As usual, we must be aware of what is happening to our users. Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr The Autumn of the Multitaskers by Walter Kirn Stoooopid .... why the Google generation isn?t as smart as it thinks by Bryan Appleyard Does IM Make U Dum? by Martha Brockenbrough (one of my all time favorites from a few years ago)
  20. Here are some reading material to show how Google is now getting interested in accessibility... so it is about time developers do to. Workin' it on all browsers To web surfers, Google Chrome is a quick, exciting new browser. As webmasters, it's a good reminder that regardless of the browser your visitors use to access your site "Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, etc." browser compatibility is often a high priority. When your site renders poorly or is difficult to use on many browsers you risk losing your visitors' interest, and, if you're running a monetized site, perhaps their business. Making sure your site appears properly in different browsers. Users typically view your website using a browser. Each browser interprets your website code in a slightly different manner, which means that it may appear differently to visitors using different browsers. In general, you should avoid relying on browser specific behavior, such as relying on a browser to correctly detect a content-type or encoding when you did not specify one. In addition, there are some steps you can take to make sure your site doesn't behave in unexpected ways. Google Accessible Search. Accessible Web Search for the Visually Impaired Google Accessible Search rewards accessibility. Google Accessible Search is a new Google product that is under development. It is designed to prioritize search results that are more usable to blind and visually impaired people. - 456BereraStreet.com Google, meet Web Standards. The intention was, of course, to make the code used for the GSA's search interface conform to Web standards, be accessible, and work in all devices. Joe asked me if I would be interested in taking a look and suggest improvements. You can?t really say no to a request like that, can you? Google Goes To Web Standardsville, Part Two. (HTML). This stylesheet has been revised and improved by Google countless times over the years and has its roots, of course, in Google.com.
  21. You can write code in something like Notepad, but face it, syntax coloring to spot errors, spell checkers and the like are all good tools to have. So with no further ranting I offer to you this list of possible editors to choose from. Some I have used, some just heard of. I have organized it in operating system, Windows, Mac, Linux and then sub divided into Freeware and Shareware. Also a few other editors are mentioned specializing for say PHP. This page may be added or subtracted to as new programs arrive or fall away so you will need to stop by once in a while. You will see at the bottom the last time it was edited. This is not the end all of lists, there may be more editors out there and some of these may be usable on more than one platform ----------------------------------------------------------------- HTML Editors Big Boys Adobe Dreamweaver - (Formerly Macromedia Dreamweaver) The development Standard. Odds are if you try to get a job the company will be using this so it is better to know how to work with it. As excellent site management tools. Works as both code and WYSIWYG per Layout view. Windows / Mac. Microsoft Expression Studio - The new Expression series of development tools, Expression web is the normal WYSIWYG editor that replaced the retired FrontPage series. It is more standards compliant and a far better tool than FrontPage. Reduce complexity and ease data integration by using powerful design tools and task panes to design for ASP.NET, PHP and XML. Seamlessly integrate Web design and development teams with the powerful combination of Expression Web 2 and Visual Studio 2008. Microsoft Visual Studio - Likely the premiere tool for developing Microsoft .NET Framework ASP applications and pages. Most commonly used with Visual basic or more and more C#. This tool is build explicityly for dealing with .NET solutions. Windows Freeware HTML-Kit Tools - The newest version of HTML-Kit, it offers many languages and extensions, supports PHP and up through C++. There are other applications at Chami that you may find of use as well. 1st Page 2000 - a very good program I used for two years. It is now a bit old in the tooth as it was originally written by a high school student in Australia and now comes under EVRSOFT. Amaya - I must say it looks impressive and is a product of the W3C itself. Vim - I played with this in school, it is actually meant for Linux and has a steep learning curve as it works more with command line sort of work. But if you take the time to learn it is is very powerful. Vim is charityware. Nvu - Originally made for Linux, it is also available for Mac and Windows. It has been re-vamped. It is a WYSIWYG and good for those with little knowledge of HTML. I know many people in forums who swear by it. KompoZer - This is an editor related to Nvu, but the last official release was 2005. NoteTab - I have never built a site with this but often use it just to check source code of sites I visit, it is quick loading. Windows free and shareware depending on version. Emacs - Loved by a few. It is GNU and is basically a Command line editor like a DOS window. Takes a lot of getting used to, but is considered a classic. Arachnophilia - This is a program that has been around a while. I have never used it, but have heard often that it is very simple and therefore is a excellent editor for beginners learning HTML. Shareware HotDog - This program has been around for sometime. It was often supplied in computer magazines in Germany. I have not heard of it in years but it is still out there. CoffeeCup HTML Editor - I have used CoffeCup software and generally it is very good. AceHTML - A shareware editor with a decent reputation. NetObjects Fusion - Ok this is tricky. This software has rated well often. It is especially good for creating e-commerce sites and Database driven web sites. What keeps me from praising it however is the way it works. Even the worst editors allow some access to the HTML behind the web site. Fusion however uses it's own propriety code created as you drag and drop elements on the screen. Only once the web site is finished and is to be published, is the propriety code then translated into HTML. This means at no time can you switch to HTML view to tweak a element. This program goes out of it's way to keep you away from the code, so it is fine for those with no interest in learning how to really build sites. Mac Freeware Creatext - I think about the most popular pure Mac editor, highly recommended to me. However it is no longer being developed, the older versions are available at this link. Nvu - Originally made for Linux, it is also available for Mac and Windows. It has been re-vamped. It is a WYSIWYG and good for those with little knowledge of HTML. I know many people in forums who swear by it. KompoZer - This is an editor related to Nvu, but the last official release was 2005. Emacs - Loved by a few. It is GNU and is basically a Command line editor like a DOS window. Takes a lot of getting used to, but is considered a classic. Shareware BBEdit - I have heard of it but know little. Rage Web Design - Sorry, no real info or experience with this one. PageSpinner - Sorry, no real info or experience with this one. Tumult HyperEdit - Sorry, no real info or experience with this one. Coda - This is a Mac tool, so I can not say how well it works but I have heard good things about it and it certainly sounds interesting for Mac users. Worth reading up on. skEdit - Never used it but was suggested to me in a forum. Taco HTML Edit - orry, no real info or experience with this one. Linux Freeware Vim - I played with this in school, it is actually meant for Linux and has a steep learning curve as it works more with command line sort of work. But if you take the time to learn it is is very powerful. Vim is charityware. Nvu - Originally made for Linux, it is also available for Mac and Windows. It has been re-vamped. It is a WYSIWYG and good for those with little knowledge of HTML. I know many people in forums who swear by it. KompoZer - This is an editor related to Nvu, but the last official release was 2005. Quanta Plus - Sorry, no info on this. Kate (KDE Advanced Text Editor) - Sorry, no real info or experience with this one. Emacs - Loved by a few. It is GNU and is basically a Command line editor like a DOS window. Takes a lot of getting used to, but is considered a classic. Other languages CSS TopStyle CSS - My choice for CSS work, also comes in a free light version, at least older versions of it. EditCSS - A Firefox Extention suggested by tpattison below. JustStyle CSS Editor - Sorry, no real info or experience with this one. PHP EditPlus2 - My earliest editor for PHP programming, really nice tools and plugins. I still use it sometimes. PHP Designer - A freeware PHP editor with a decent reputation, from the creators of HTML Gate. Rapid PHP - PHP editor, never used it but it comes well praised to me. Shareware / Windows. Zen Studio - A very good program, I have used it before and was impressed. But also recall it being a bit complicated. It is not free but I think worth it for the hard core PHP programmer. CodeLobster PHP Edition - I have never used it but it was suggested to me for this list by "oldkiller". It is a free editor. XML Xopus XML Editor - shareware, browser based XML editor, have no more info on it the what the site says. XMLSpy - Likely the default XML editor on the market. Shareware. General programming Editors Eclipse - It supports Java, PHP, C/C++ & Coldfusion for a few I know of. It is free and for all Platforms. Flex - Put simply, Flex is Flash for programmers. However rather than making animations it is used to make Flash based web and desktop applications using ActionScript. It uses the Eclipse IDE and ties easily into languages such as Java or C++ and databases such as SQL and Oracle. Editors for CMS Xstandard - XStandard is said to write the Purest standards based code of any WYSIWYG editor. It is meant for Content Management Systems (CMS), it opens in your default browser (NOTE: It uses Active-X so only works under Windows OS at this time). GWD Text Editor - I have never used it but it was praised in a couple of forums. Windows Shareware. TinyMCE - another WYSIWYG editor meant for use in a CMS. This will work under Mac, Windows and Linux. WYMEditor - This is still in the Alpha phase so it is really not ready for use by beginners. Only those with experiance should try this at this time. It does however look interesting and I will be watching it. It pays close attention to standards and accessibility. One of the developers is a member here (see farther down the thread). widgEditor - from my understanding this will work with both Mac and Windows. FCKEditor - This too is a CMS editor that works on all operating systems.
  22. In a recent thread a reader asked what they are ad someone explained and typed out a example. So what is it really? Think of Hansel and Grettel leaving bread crumbs to help them track their movements. Breadcrumb navigation is the same. It helpes you track your position in the navigation scheme. Example for a school would be: Home > Classes > 1982 > 7b This would be Home page lead to Classes lead to the year and in the case of a German school that usually has more than one class, class 7b. If what I want is to here I see I can back track to 1982 and chose a different class, or backtrack to 1983 and check class 7b. So the Bread crumb is a trail that allows you to backtrack logically to higher instances, so if your navigation has different sub levels under different menu items, it can be a useful tool to offer the user. Problems: It is really not tested or standard yet. Many visual surfers do not notice it or know what to do with it. Visually impaired people seem to be in two groups, Those who do not understand what it is and those who do and can use it, but some who know what it is find it hard to deal with still. So the final call on whether it is useful in accessibility or a hindrance is not out yet, seems close to equal right now. Also the choice of separators should be considered. Most often seen is > which acts as a visual arrow in the direction. But this symbol has a semantic meaning, "Greater than". So a screenreader would usually read "Home greater than classes greater than 1982 greater than 7b". Some argue that even that makes some sense as each level is less important that the previous. Other opinions are a colon ( is better and suggests a menu while still others choose to use the | key which visually compares to the line separators often used. But fact is > when considered wrong by some is so widespread that many visually impaired are used to it even though it may not be the best choice, it has become a form of default set by visual people but now do to it's widespread use accepted by the visually impaired. At this time their is no right or wrong answer, just opinions. I myself have not totally decided yet as to which I will use as standard, but currently tend towards "|".
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