alt tags

Do You Care About Accessibility?

March 31, 2004

It was a moment that is quickly becoming legendary in certain web design circles. The first of many accessibility panels at the 2004 SXSW Interactive conference was well underway when Jeffrey Veen stepped onto the stage just as it was his turn to present. Unexpected travel delays had prevented him from arriving on time for the Accessibility is For Everyone session. As a result, Veen missed the initial presentations by a panel of noted accessibility experts and appeared to walk into the room cold to deliver his portion of the session.

Against a backdrop of hyper sensitivity to accessibility issues Veen steps up and announces, “I don’t care about accessibility.” Veen’s proclamation was met with a few nervous chuckles followed by an uncomfortable moment of silence before he began to build his case.
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posted by kirkb @ 3:22 pm under
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Opera Announces Voice Activated Browser

March 24, 2004

Opera Software has announced a voice-activated browser. The new browser, launch date not yet announced, incorporates IBM’s ViaVoice software and will respond to voice commands from the user. As with other voice recognition programs, the software must be trained to learn the user’s speech patterns and voice. The initial version will be targeted toward the English language market, and Opera predicts the browser will increase accessibility for those individuals with difficulties working a mouse or keyboard.

posted by Kassia @ 12:06 pm under
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Suddenly Accessibility Is Beautiful

March 22, 2004

The HiFi Design with CSS session generated a fair amount of shock and awe at this year’s SXSW conference. The CSS Zen Garden continues to raise awareness of the amazing possibilities that web standards present. Accessibility advocates are awed by the beauty of standards based design and simultaneously shocked that so many leading designers are citing accessibility as one of their primary goals. Suddenly accessibility is cool (and beautiful too). It’s every accessibility advocate’s dream come true, except some of us seem to be sleeping in.
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posted by kirkb @ 7:40 pm under
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Everything Is Usable

March 19, 2004

When you get right down to it, the goal of accessible website development is to ensure that your entire site is usable. By everyone. By everything.

Okay, maybe not everything. Human and machine. We’ll leave the rocks and minerals to sort out their own computing issues.

So why is this important? Well, a usable site gets used. Sounds like I’m stating the obvious, doesn’t it? If you’ve spent more than five minutes on the Web, you’ll realize I’m not. Setting aside the issue of accessibility (which I believe is a big part of usability), most sites are designed without the end user in mind. The focus is on…well, I don’t know what the focus is; all I can assume is that the person trying to access, buy, or read the site wasn’t considered by the design team.

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posted by Kassia @ 6:18 pm under
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SXSW 2004: The AltTags Wrap-Up

Accessiblity was on the radar in a big way at SXSW 2004. Not only was there a track devoted to learning more about accessibility, but people in, well, non-accessible sessions were talking about the subject. The topic of accessibility appeared during sessions on web standards, CSS, and usability. And, much to my surprise, it was part of a discussion on a mailing list completely unrelated to web development. People are thinking about accessibility.

I attended all the sessions in the track, and have to say the presenters did an excellent job of introducing the subject to those who were new to the concept — and they kept the sessions challenging for those of us who know about accessibility. The accessibility workshops, whether by design or sheer luck, reinforced a common theme, one that we at AltTags preach: accessible websites are universally usable.

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posted by Kassia @ 6:17 pm under
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Word to xHTML Revisited

March 10, 2004

A few weeks ago one of our clients called to notify us that one of their web pages didn’t look quite right. The site in question had recently been redesigned using web standards and was table free. This site uses our Content Management System (CMS) to publish pages using xHTML 1.0 strict templates. What could possibly go wrong?

A quick check of the page in question produced interesting results. The page rendered perfectly in Mozilla, Opera, and Safari. Internet Explorer was another issue entirely. The columns seemed to melt together in ways that defied web physics.
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posted by kirkb @ 10:48 am under
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Texas Or Bust

March 6, 2004

The Alt Tags team is heading to Austin next week for the 2004 South By Southwest Conference (SXSW). SXSW initially began as a music industry conference focusing on independent recording artists, then eventually expanded to include film and interactive media (the Internet to you and me). My last SXSW conference was over a decade ago in the pre-web era, so it will be interesting to see how SXSW has evolved over the years.

Based on the list of panels for this year’s conference we’re looking forward to several days of informative sessions devoted to accessibility, usability, and web-standards. We’re particularly excited about the prospect of so many of the leading figures in the emerging web standards community being in one place at the same time.

posted by kirkb @ 6:44 pm under
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Double Your Trouble

March 1, 2004

Both Section 508 and the WCAG state that, as a last resort, a separate, accessible website must be provided. As a last resort. Meaning a second site is created if you absolutely cannot achieve accessibility in any other manner.

Wow. If you have to create a mirror site, it makes me ask just what, exactly, is going on with your site in the first place? The sheer amount of effort required to make a site so inaccessible that a second site is required boggles my mind. I can only imagine the effort and maintenance going into this endeavor.

Yet, many developers and their clients immediately assume a second site is the first and best option. After what I can only assume is a quick perusal of the guidelines, it is determined that two sites are better than one.

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posted by Kassia @ 4:12 pm under
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