IT Accessibility News – July 2011

WAVE5 Preview

One of my favorite Web page accessibility tools is the WAVE Toolbar for Firefox. WebAIM, the creator of WAVE, has released a preview of version 5 of the tool. They have made some significant changes to it, most notably that now the results are compiled into a side panel so you can easily scan all of the issues on a page. The tool also provides contextual help about how to fix each of the issues. You can read their announcement about the preview, or go directly to the preview and try it out.

ARIA Tutorials

The Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) suite defines a way to make Web pages more accessible, especially in areas where plain HTML does not have enough functionality to present items accessibly. Here are three recent posts on how to use various ARIA techniques.

Alternative Text – In Context

Creating alternative text for images can seem like a daunting task if you have never done it before. You might ask “How much do I need to write?” or “If a picture is worth a thousand words, do I have to write 1000 words?” There are some basic rules to follow, like don’t start your alt text with “picture of …” because a screen reader user already knows it’s a picture. The number one rule though is to look at the context of the image and try to convey the function that image is serving in that context. Here are some tutorials on creating appropriate alternative text.

Using the Web with a Screen Magnifier

Last month’s article on cognitive disabilities and the Web showed how building accessibly for the Web isn’t always about compatibility with screen readers. In the same vein, WebAIM has an another article about using a screen magnifier that addresses issues specific to this assistive technology. Many of the issues are the same as for screen readers, but this illuminates different ways to understand accessible design and how it impacts users. For screen magnifiers some of the items you need to consider are the use of white space, providing adequate color contrast, and using proper heading structures.

If you are feeling overwhelmed at having to deal with the multitude of assistive technologies to deal with, don’t worry – if you design to standards, you don’t have to worry about what assistive technologies are being used to access your site.

Florida State University Sued Over Inaccessible Course Content

Recently, Florida State University was sued by two blind students for not providing adequate access to learning materials. The issues ranged from inaccessible clickers, to inaccessible online testing systems, to not providing accessible versions of text books. We do not use those particular clickers and testing systems on our campus, but the issue should not go unnoticed. For the equivalent systems we do use on campus it is essential that we do provide accessible ways to interact with them. We do actively engage our vendors in helping them make their products more accessible. To avoid any issues like this, we do have a campus requirement that all enterprise level IT systems that are purchased be accessible according to specific design standards. If you have any questions about this requirement or need help determining if a particular product you are wanting to purchase is accessible, please contact the IT Accessibility Office for consultation services.