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Web Accessibility News

Articles of information in the world of Web accessibility, updated regularly.

Printers and Web Accessibility

For some people, this might be stretching the definition of 'accessibility', but the appearance of web content when it's printed out for offline reading is often overlooked when thinking about Web design. In fact I believe offline access is a very common scenario - whether for people who striggle to read the display of a computer monitor, or who will be temporarily away from their screen. I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring to print content to read on the train or in the coffee shop. Yet I've lost count of the number of research papers I've printed from the web only to find half the text disappearing of the right-hand side of the page, pushed off by an enormous list of links that is no use to me on paper!

To help address this neglected aspect of web design, Digital Web Magazine has published a very useful overview by Ian Lloyd on using CSS for styling the appearance of Web pages when they appear on paper.

Find out more: Digital Web Magazine - CSS Styling for Print and Other Media.

David Sloan, posted 12.12.06

Web Accessibility on the BBC

A couple of recent mentions of accessibility on the BBC's web site.

Access 2.0 - Accessible digital life blog. As an extension to the BBC Ouch! site focusing on disability issues, a new blog on digital accessibility has appeared. Written by Paul Crichton, the early posts have a rather technical flavour, and at the time of writing don't seem to be attracting too many comments, but it will hopefully soon pick up and take off as a useful and informative place to go to find out more about what's happening in the accessibility world.

BBC news - 'Most Web sites failing disabled'. This reports the results of a web accessibility survey sponsored by the United Nations. On first read, it appears to be yet another report of "disappointingly low levels of accessibility amongst web sites", something I read far too much of these days. However, the interesting part of the article comes later, where there are comments attempting to explain why accessibility problems are still so widespread on the Web. One usability consultant is quoted as saying:

Accessibility consultants and organisations for the disabled clutch their knowledge of user requirements to them like they are the key to future profits...if they had any interest in raising standards, they would be sharing their findings with the world and opening dialogue with the design and business community about how best to integrate techniques with standard processes.

This is an interesting, if controversial, view on the issue - and one that sparked off further discussion (including a clarification of the above quote!) on the Accessifyforum web site.

David Sloan, posted 12.12.06

Designing for people with chronic fatigue

At the OZEWAI 2006 conference, Matthew Smith gave a fascinating and illuminating presentation on the design issues that can cause accessibility problems for people with chronic fatigue, sleep apnoea, and other similar conditions.

It's a really interesting view on accessibility from a perspective that almost always is ignored, and is well worth a read to broaden your perspective of web accessibility. The accessibility features of the presentation itself are also interesting...

Find out more: Matthew Smith: The Forgotten Difficulties - Fatigue and the Web

David Sloan, posted 29.11.06

A schism in the Web Accessibility movement - or just splitting hairs?

It seems that some Web accessibility advocates are at odds over just what accessibility is all about, and in recent weeks a number of opinion pieces on philosophies and approaches to Web accessibility have been written, some of them quite emotive.

The debate centres around whether accessibility should be primarily about designing sites that can be used by the widest range of browsers in the widest range of browsing environments, or whether all attention should be on minimising exclusion for disabled people.

While many might think "it's both!" there have been quite strong opinions promoting the merits of one view over another.

The 'debate' seems to have been spawned by this blog entry - and the many comments it received - which was critical of some people's views on just what Web accessibility should seek to achieve:

This has in turn led to a number of opinion articles, including:

Have a read and see what you think!

David Sloan, posted 17.10.06

W3C, Accessibility and Rich Internet Applications

The evolution of Web sites into more interactive experiences, where users are increasingly active in adding Web content such as blog postings, photos (e.g. Flickr) and video (e.g. Youtube) has been enthusisastically received, many calling this movement "Web 2.0".

However some of the design techniques associated with this movement - in particular, the technique known as AJAX - have been criticised for introducing new accessibility problems to disabled Web users. To address this, the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C have been working to produce guidance and support for Web developers, and recently announced the publication of some documents that will "make it easier for Web site developers to make dynamic Web content usable to people with disabilities".

Find out more: W3C Announces Roadmap for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA).

David Sloan, posted 17.10.06

Accessibility, Standards and Flash

For those of you working with Web based Flash, and who may be worried about accessibility issues or validation problems, you might be interested in this useful article comparing different ways of embedding a Flash object in a Web page.

It's written by Adobe's multimedia/accessibility guru Andrew Kirkpatrick, and provides info on each technique, plus pros and cons, including cross-browser support.

Find out more: In search of... a perfect plugin technique for Flash.

David Sloan, posted 17.10.06

Usability of Accessibility Statements

We recently conducted some research, funded by Techdis, on the usefulness of accessibility statements published by a selection of Web sites. Coming soon will be an article on this Web site summarising what we think should be best practice, based on this work, but in the meantime you may wish to read the report of the work:

Find out more: Usability of Accessibility Statements (Word version).

Usability of Accessibility Statements (PDF version).

David Sloan, posted 22.08.06

Mozilla/Firefox Accessibility Extension

For those of you who use Firefox in your web development, you may be interested to know of a new extension for the browser - the Mozilla/Firefox Accessibility Extension, from the University of Illinois.

We in DMAG have been using the Web Developer Toolbar for quite some time now, so we'll be interested to see how this tool compares in terms of functionality.

This seems to be a pre-final release, so the developers would like to hear from anyone in particular feedback on its features or any bugs found.

Find out more: Mozilla/Firefox Accessibility Extension download page.

David Sloan, posted 22.08.06

RNIB Software Access Centre

For interest to anyone who is, or who has colleagues, developing software: the RNIB has launched a new web resource - the Software Access Centre.

The RNIB says it will be of interest to "software designers, developers, systems integrators, procurement professionals, accessibility policy makers, and those of you generally interested in the accessibility field."

Approaches to software accessibility and Web accessibility have much in common, but also some significant differences - this resource should prpvide useful information on background information as well as design and evaluation recommendations.

Find out more: RNIB Software Access Centre.

David Sloan, posted 22.08.06

New Web Accessibility Book Published

A new book on Web Accessibility has been published - "Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance". It's written by Jim Thatcher, Shawn Lawton Henry and several other leading names in the field of Web Accessibility, and is intended as a replacement to "Constructing Accessible Web Sites", originally published in 2002.

We hope to provide a review of the book very soon - but in the meantime, a sample chapter is available online - Chapter 1 - Understanding Web Accessibility, by Shawn Lawton Henry.

Find out more: Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance page on

David Sloan, posted 25.07.06

Google's Accessible Search

The developers at Google have announced a trial version of a search engine that concentrates on delivering accessible web pages.

Find out more: Google Accessible Search.

David Sloan, posted 25.07.06

PAS 78 is now free

PAS 78, the UK document providing Guidance on Good Practice for Commissioning Accessible Web Sites, and produced by the British Standards Institute (BSI), has now been made available for free.

Find out more: download a copy by visiting the Disability Rights Commission's PAS 78 page; or read DMAG's view of PAS 78.

David Sloan, posted 21.07.06

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