Category: wcag2

Overwhelmed? Stick To Basics

A few people at the CSUN conference last week commented on the overbearing WCAG 2.0 specs. Many folks agree that WCAG is extremely large and difficult to read (not unlike the HTML5 spec). And especially for accessibility newbies, WCAG can be a difficult place to start.

In a session at CSUN, even the W3C WAI members said that beginners should not read the spec but start with other docs such as How To Meet WCAG2 which pulls the Understanding and Techniques together. The WAI is also working on a “Easy Checks” documents. Here’s a sneak peak to the draft titled Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility [link updated].

If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused about web accessibility, my advice is this: stick to the basics.

For design, this means not re-inventing HTML elements and behaviors. Particularly form elements, such as re-rendering a select dropdown for the sake of aesthetics. There’s also the horrible trend to make labels appear and function like placeholders.

For development, this means the proper foundational techniques. Namely, the four layers of web development:

  • Semantic HTML for content.
  • CSS for presentation.
  • JS to enhance behavior.
  • ARIA to fill any accessibility gaps.

This fun diagram on Flickr helps illustrate this point.

Using the four layers approach encourages the following good practices:

  • Separating content from presentation from behavior.
  • Maintaining code in external files.
  • Adding ARIA only when needed.

If these practices are implemented in a website, it’s well on its way to being accessible.

WCAG Improvements

It was such a relief when WCAG 2.0 became a W3C Recommendation back in December of 2008. But in the fast paced world of the web, nothing stays the same for very long. Even WCAG could use many improvements, especially after over three years. (Time sure flies!)

Jared Smith (@Jared_W_Smith) of WebAIM recently wrote an excellent article WCAG Next which explains some of the top issues and suggests how they can be improved. I pretty much agree with all. Here is a summary:

  • Remove the CAPTCHA Exception – should prohibit all CAPTCHA at Level AA.
  • Media Guidelines – a few suggestions here plus a recommendation for restructuring.
  • Contrast at Level A -minimal contrast requirement needed for Level A.
  • Decrease the 200% Text Resizing Requirement -biggest burden of Level AA.
  • Clarify Images of Text -this is subjective.
  • Specify Mechanisms to Bypass Blocks – add techniques such as skip-to, headings, landmark roles, and others.
  • “Can Be Programmatically Determined” -a confusing aspect of page conformance.
  • Require Keyboard Focus Indicators at Level A – “There is no reason why this should not be a Level A requirement.” Totally!
  • Remove Parsing Requirement – no direct benefit and difficult to test for accessibility; possibly move code validation requirement to Level AAA.

About Cognitive Accessibility & Related Articles

Cognitive accessibility is closely tied to WCAG 2.0 Principle 3: Understandable which states that “Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable”. (WebAIM does a great job in explaining what Cognitive Disabilities actually are.) The guidelines under this principle are:

  • Guideline 3.1 Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.
  • Guideline 3.2 Predictable: Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Guideline 3.3 Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

There’s been an increase in articles about cognitive accessibility which is great because it’s the most difficult and typically least discussed. Here’s a great list of them below. Feel free to comment with any that were missed.

Podcast #74: Awards, Events & Back to Basics

A super special podcast:

  • First time face-to-face recording between Dennis and Ross.
  • In Santa Cruz, California.
  • 4-Year Anniversary for Web Axe.

Download Web Axe Episode 74 (Awards, Events & Back to Basics)

[transcript of podcast 74]

Chatter

Articles

If a page is viewed through Google Chrome Frame in Internet Explorer no content is available to the user of assistive technology (AT). This can be illustrated using the Microsofts accexplorer tool.

Events/Conferences

Main Segment

WCAG 2: Remember P.O.U.R.: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust

  • Perceivable – Interface elements can not be invisible to users.
  • Operable – Users must be able to interact with the interface.
  • Understandable – Users must be able to understand with information and the interface (cognitive).
  • Robust – Must be usable by a wide range of user agents and assisstive technologies.

Use P.O.S.H.: Plain Ol’ Semantic HTML

  • Use headings and properly.
  • P is for paragraph.
  • blockquotes for quotes (not indentation).
  • Use lists for lists, menus, etcetera.
  • Definition Lists.
  • Use strong and em tags versus b and i.

Other topics:

  • Alt text for non-textual elements.
  • Tables
  • Forms
  • JavaScript
  • Device-Independence
  • Visual impairments
  • Audio

Podcast #73: Bandwidth & Download Time

Dennis and Ross provide nearly an hour of news, knowledge, and fun!

Download Web Axe Episode 73 (Bandwidth & Download Time)

Michigan and Web Dudes, Lab, and Accessible Twitter

Web Accessibility News

Main Segment

The Issue & Statistics
  • Web accessibility is about providing content for everyone; even if the user is unable to have access to a broadband internet connection.
  • Economic issue; many people simply can’t afford broadband.
  • Mobile–light and fast web sites can be more easily viewed on you phone!
  • Average Web Page Size Triples Since 2003 (study from 2003-2008 data)
  • In the U.S. in March 2008, users connecting at 56Kbps or less now make up 11.18% of active Internet users.
  • CWA Communications reported that the “median real-time download speed in the U.S. is a mere 2.3 megabits per second (mbps). The best available estimates show average download speeds in Japan of 63 mbps, in South Korea of 49 mbps and in France of 17 mbps.

Growth of Average Web Page Size and Number of Objects

Chart shows that from January 1995 to January 2008, there was a tremendous growth of average page size and average number of objects. The average page file size went from 14.1k in 1995, to 93.7k in 2003, to over 312k in 2008. The average number of page objects went from 2.3k in 1995, to 25.7 in 2003, to nearly 50 in 2008.

Related WCAG Guidelines

WCAG 2.0 Principle 4: Robust

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

WCAG 1.0 Intro states:

user may have a text-only screen, a small screen, or a slow Internet connection and users may have turned off support for images (e.g. due to a slow Internet connection)

Greatly outdated web portion of Section 508 doesn’t mention internet connection speed.

What You Can Do
  • Use progressive enhancement.
  • Optimize images; use sprites.
  • Write clean code.
  • Use external CSS and JavaScript files. For CSS, use not @import.
  • Combine multiple CSS files into one. Same for JavaScript.
  • Use media domains.
  • Minify CSS and JS files.
  • Setup your server to send pages and files compressed.
  • Cache dynamic data and Ajax when appropriate.
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