Category Archives: W3C

Written Testimony to the US Access Board from the California Council of Citizens with Low Vision

Prepared by Wayne E. Dick, PhD



The California Council of Citizens with Low Vision finds the Access Board’s decision to include WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA (henceforth WCAG) by reference is admirable to harmonize standards, but inconsistent with the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. By applying 1194.22(d) from the current 508, removing the author’s visual style, readers with low vision could achieve limitless enlargement with no need to scroll horizontally on mainstream browsers. The new rules drop this capability without suitable replacement. This is a major loss to citizens with low vision. Our Council cannot see how text enlargement without word wrapping can be considered reasonable accommodation in 2015, the age of responsive Information Communication Technology (ICT).


On behalf of the California Council of Citizens with Low Vision, I would like to thank the Access Board for inviting written comment.

My name is Wayne Dick. As a person with congenital low vision and as a member of the Council, I am writing to register my and our concerns with those rules of the Section 508 refresh that are intended to address our needs. From the perspective of our Council, they do not.

We believe that as stated, the new 508 rules cannot translate to accommodations that are reasonable in the sense of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. We are respectfully asking the Access Board to strengthen the rules relating to low vision. In particular we would like the Board to modify rules based on the WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.4 Level A and AA Success Criteria that are intended to address the accessibility needs of people with low vision. We would also like the Board to extend the rules based on WCAG Guideline 1.3 so that the concept of flexible data is interpreted to include visual presentations of data that support effective reading of text.

We begin with a definition of support for reasonable accommodation for reading documents delivered through Information Communication Technology (ICT).

Reasonable Accommodation Support

An Information Communication Technology document supports reasonable accommodation for visual reading whenever the user can transform the document with software so that it can be read from a distance that supports healthy posture with self reported effectiveness of end users. Required horizontal scrolling to obtain text enlargement is not a reasonable accommodation.

This definition is based on 5 principles:

  1. Flexible Data: ICT is not paper. The visual presentation of modern ICT can be modified extensively to support reading needs. Given this flexibility, horizontal scrolling is never a necessity.
  2. Programmatic Determinism: Users can use software to obtain the transformations of visual presentation needed to support their individual reading needs.
  3. Reading Enabled: Documents can be given a visual presentation that can be read. The focus is on visual readability not just visual perceptibility.
  4. Comfortable Distance: Sixteen inches is the average distance most people use to read in comfort, but this can vary. ThePsychophisics of Reading (Legge, 2007) defines low vision for reading to be: The inability to read news print from a distance of 16 inches (40 centimeters) with full correction. All readers need sufficient size to support reading with healthy posture.
  5. User Centered: Reading effectiveness can be determined by the end users, the readers. Users are not limited to preset choices determined by decisions of people who cannot know their individual visual needs.


Consider reading professional material on a smart phone. Take the Affordable Care Act as an example(PDF and HTML). Both of these files appear on US Government sites. As a person with low vision I keep a gallery of visual aids and assistive technologies. I will describe the reading experience with each:

Unreasonable Accommodation

  • Screen Magnification using the PDF version. To obtain a perceivable reading size one must enlarge to the size where the width of lines exceeds the width of the view port. This requires horizontal scrolling which among many problems, increases the cognitive load required to read. It is unlikely any but the most determined reader could finish this long and complex document with this accommodation.
  • Screen Magnification with the HTML format. Most normal readers can read this on a cell phone. However, the size is well below 9 point, the optimal reading size for normal readers. The reader will probably attempt to read the smaller print, but will be forced to quit because the print is too small to prevent fatigue.
  • Use reading glasses with (PDF). My reading glasses enlarge 700%. That is enough to read, but I have to hold my device to my nose. My posture is bad. I could not finish the law that way.
  • Using telescopic glasses with (PDF). My telescope glasses give me a 5x pop. That is good, and I don’t have to hold the book so close. With this device my visual field is smaller and I have a harder time going from line to line. Again, I could not finish the text.

Note that none of these examples use the programmatically deterministic nature of the media being used. The ICT documents are being treated like they are paper.

Reasonable Accommodation Support

  • With text only enlargement in a single column format that supports word wrapping the HTML Version works very well. With Firefox on a laptop, I can easily enlarge to 48 point.
  • Apply 1194.22(d) to the HTML document. First, strip the author’s style. This puts the document in a one column format that can be enlarged without limit in Firefox on a laptop. Better yet, some browsers like IE, Safari, Opera and Firefox support user style sheets. In these browsers the document could be restyled to the exact needs of the user.

Support of Reasonable Accommodation for Reading can be implemented using the following functional requirements:

Functional Requirement

Document Structure Must Support

  1. User Choice of column format, single column being essential
  2. Freedom from horizontal scrolling at all font sizes
  3. Ability to read visually from a comfortable distance with self reported effectiveness.

Users Must Be Able To Change Text Style

  1. Spacing (letter, word and line)
  2. Font (size, weight, style, family) including the ability to substitute new font values for regions of type that are hard to read because of the author’s choices.
  3. Color (fore and back)
  4. Visual Guides – borders, level indicators
  5. Width of reading area – margins, column width

Note that choice of color gives choice of contrast because contrast is functionally determined by fore and back color.


I am a professor emeritus of computer science. I received my PhD in Mathematics with my central retina damage in 1980 from the University of California, San Diego. It was not easy. Inflexible reading material and horizontal scrolling have been the bane of my professional career. I have probably read as much professional content using horizontal scrolling as anyone in the world.

Section 508 and the data flexibility enabled by subsection 1194.22(d) enabled me to read more professional content between 2000 and 2010 than I did in the previous 30 years. The ability to enlarge without limit and word wrap was the key to my new reading ability. I also took advantage of my own style sheets to adjust the visual environment to my exact needs. While normal readers with low vision cannot write style sheets, there are plenty of programmers like me who can prepare customizations for them. That is, if we are still permitted access to visual style after the 508 Refresh passes. In its current form the 508 Refresh sanctions ICT documents that do not permit the necessary level of access. When HTML 5 developers start embedding text in documents in open web pages that do not use the document object model, the problem will become acute.

At my university CSU Long Beach we currently have 10 students with low vision enrolled with our Disabled Student Services. There should be close to 100 students enrolled at our campus of 35,000 (Vitale, Cotch, Sperduto, 2010). Are we failing to attract students to the Disabled Student’s Office or is our campus dramatically under represented? If the answer is under representation then the representation rate of people with low vision would be lower than that of any ethnic minority on campus. We do not know the answer. To my knowledge, in my 30 years teaching in the computer science undergraduate and graduate programs at Cal. State Long Beach we had one student with low vision who graduated. While this information is anecdotal it is also cautionary.

In either case, the importance of adopting ICT that supports reasonable accommodation is clear. If students with low vision are just failing to enroll with Disabled Student Services, then ICT documents that support reasonable accommodation and cover university reading requirements will surely help them succeed in their stealthy journey through college. If students with low vision are under represented then ICT that supports reasonable accommodation will increase the number of students that meet college entrance requirements.

One last observation on need, our one student to finish a Computer Science program with low vision, eventually got an MS in Computer Science. He is now a lead technical manager at Dreamworks. I taught more than 2000 students in my career. He was one of the most brilliant. Maybe success in college with low vision just requires exceptional talent at this time.

The Significance of 508-1194.22(d)

Paragraph 1194.22(d) states, “Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.”

Whenever a page satisfies 1194.22(d) and does not include layout tables, the style sheet can be removed, the page becomes a one column format, and the text can be enlarged without limit and no horizontal scrolling is required. Using the access I get from 1194.22(d) I could enlarge text 400% to 500% without horizontal scrolling. In my case that capability has meant the difference between reading fluently and a consistently painful struggle to read.

The only Level AA success criterion of WCAG that refers to text enlargement is WCAG SC 1.4.4, but SC 1.4.4 allows horizontal scrolling and also restricts enlargement to 200%, an unacceptably small factor. Given that the 508 Refresh includes WCAG Level AA through reference, this means that a key accommodation enabled by the old 1194.22(d) is nullified and is replaced by an ineffective success criterion.

Horizontal scrolling has been labeled as a web design error (Cappel & Huang, 2007), and usability professionals have strongly discouraged web developers to incorporate horizontal scrolling within their page simply because users with normal vision will not make the effort to move the page to see all content (Johnson, 2000; Nielsen, 2005; Sherwin, 2014). How can we call horizontal scrolling a reasonable accommodation when computer users with normal vision prefer to avoid it? For normal readeres horizontal scrolling is a usability annoyance, but when you must encounter this annoyance to read everything, the annoyance becomes a barrier to reading. It prevents equal access. (Note: Horizontal scrolling is not the horizontal swiping used on mobile and other touch devices. Swiping does not cut off part of the viewable page.).

In the United States a person must have visual acuity worse than 20/60 to be classified as having low vision. That means to perceive letters at 20 feet a person who is classified with low vision in the US can not perceive letters a normal person can see at 60 feet.  This means by US standards of low vision, a person with low vision must have letters enlarged by more than threefold (300%+) in order to perceive them from the same distance a normal person perceives them. For example, a person with low vision must have newsprint enlarged more than 300% in order to read it from 16 inches, a comfortable distance. The ceiling of 200% enlargement as recommended by WCAG does not seem to be oriented to the needs of people with low vision in the US. It is unreasonable.

When I read long paper documents that have been enlarged 200%, I use my 2.5x magnifier. Any reader with low vision will find some way to close the reading distance to a point to simulate at least 300% enlargement.

A natural question to ask is why 200% is suggested by many sources recommending font size for low vision. The answer is quite simple, 200% is an upper bound for print size recommended for paper, hard copy (Council of Citizens with Low Vision, 2011). When a document is on paper the number of pages required is approximately the square of the enlargement factor. Thus a 200% enlargement will require four times the pages; 300% will require nine times the pages, and 500% will require 25 times the pages. For paper, 200% is a ceiling that avoids undue burden for the publisher.

Electronic documents are broadcast media. That means the number of pages a user requires to read a document has no impact on the cost of the dissemination. We know that conformance to 1194.22(d) enables unlimited enlargement without word wrapping. The accommodation is reasonable and many have satisfied it without undue burden.

If the Guideline 1.3 of WCAG interpreted flexible data to mean visually flexible as well as capable of being transformed to audio, 1194.22(d) would be replaced and improved.  Unfortunately the WCAG Working Group is certain that they never meant visual flexibility to be an interpretation of Guideline 1.3. As far as the WCAG Working Group is concerned screen magnification is all the accessibility support that is needed by people with low vision who require 200% enlargement or more. To them, reading with horizontal scrolling is reasonable for people with a low vision disability.

The California Council of Citizens with low vision strongly advise 1194.22(d) be replaced by a stronger recommendation of user access to visual presentation. At the minimum this should support very large enlargement with word wrapping. The functional requirements regarding user choice of visual style listed above would go far in this direction. Of course, 1194.22(d) breaks down for documents that use layout tables, so the functional rules given here would close that gap while continuing the essential functionality of 1194.22(d).

The Council also recommends that the Access Board extends 1194.22(d) by allowing access to the full range of visual style modifications for text that are currently available to document authors. In our functional requirements we highlight the most important of these factors. Text includes many visual conventions that express meaning. Users with low vision should have access to these presentational aspects of text and be able to change them to formats that support their reading needs.

Specifically, the Board should study Guideline 1.3 of the WCAG document, and write a rule that ensures that the data flexibility stated in the success criteria 1.3.1 and 1.3.2 applies to the visual semantics of text as well as the semantics of block structures. The new rules should require that all meaning conveyed in the visual formatting of text should be programmatically determined, an extension of the current WCAG interpretation of success criteria 1.3.1. Similarly, all sequential relationships expressed by textual formatting must be programmatically determined. This is the cleanest possible way to enable writing assistive technology for reasonable accommodation of low vision.

Estimated Cost

The primary cost to developers will be to organize documents structurally so that multiple column and single column modes are available to users, and so that horizontal scrolling is never an issue at any size. This is the equivalent to the normal cost developers face whenever they convert to WCAG conformance. There is an initial cost followed by a change in development practice that often improves production efficiency. The cost effectiveness of this development methodology is well known.

With regard to restructuring the page format to accommodate the reduced content capacity caused by large type, the cost effectiveness has been proven with responsive web design (Marcotte, 2010). This technique is used to restructure pages to cope with the reduced content capacity of mobile devices caused by small screens.

Counting EM Boxes: an alternative to enlargement factors

When SC 1.4.4 recommends 200% enlargement the question always is: “200% of what?” Just the units are a problem, points, pixels? Given the variety of resolutions and screen sizes available and font-size scales what is needed is a way to specify a maximum practical character size for any view port without referencing resolution or font size units. One way is to set a character count per line.

Example: Size by Character Count Table

The table below gives some standard monitor sizes with character counts for the long side. The entries in the boxes represent the point sizes of the em boxes. These are squares that hold the capital M. Their size represents the point size supported on that screen with that character count.

Character Count Table

Chars → Size↓ 12ch 15ch 18ch 21ch
8″ 42pt 33pt 27pt 23pt
13″ 67pt 54pt 45pt 38pt
23″ 119pt 95pt 79pt 68pt
32″ 166pt 133pt 110pt 95pt

Technical Details

Here is how it works. Each monitor is given a size x that is its length across the diagonal in inches. The length of the longest side is about L= (0.86)(x) inches where x is the size of the monitor. If there are n characters along the long side then each character is L/n inches long or P=(72)(L/n) points long. To find the number of lines on the short side just multiply (n)(0.58) and truncate the fraction. Each square in this array of squares has side measure of P. Each of these is an em box, designed to hold a letter capital M. They represent the point size of the letters that the screen will hold. Note: Most screens are 30/60/90 triangles approximately; cos(30)=0.86 and tan(30)=0.58.

Application to Low Vision

Just as responsive design takes into account screen size and resolution and sets thresholds that change presentation, a disability oriented responsive design should be able to set thresholds based on numbers of characters per line. Cases like 12, 15, 20, 30 and 40 characters per line should be supported. For sufficient enlargement many users will have to choose their screen size. However, one can get very good enlargement on an iPad, better enlargement on a 13 inch laptop, and superior enlargement on a 23 inch desktop monitor.


The California Council for Citizens with Low Vision strongly advise the Access Board to change their rules to meet the needs of people with low vision. The rules in the 508 Refresh do not address these needs and even take away access that was given in the current 508. As stated we cannot see how reasonable accommodation for reading with low vision can be achieved given the rules that are included by reference from WCAG.

Our Council applauds the attempt to harmonize Section 508 with international standards, but the Access Board is a creation of Section 502 of the Rehabilitation Act, a civil rights law. Conformance to United States civil rights law is the Board’s primary responsibility. Citizens with low vision are a protected class and need equal access to government. The low vision rules included by reference from WCAG will not give equal access to government documents. This creates a barrier to, “equal protection of the laws,” (United States, 1868) caused by an inability to read laws and regulations based on law. To protect the civil rights of US citizens with low vision the Access Board needs to exceed the WCAG success criteria that relate to low vision.

We encourage the Board to adopt the, functional rules we proposed above. They provide a more stable foundation for reasonable accommodation than the referenced rules from WCAG. They are a technology independent replacement for 1194.22(d) that give all the visual flexibility needed for our population to have visual access to documents.


  1. Cappel, J. J., & Huang, Z. (2007). A usability analysis of company websites. The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 48(1), 117-123. Retrieved from
  2. Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (2011),  Best Practices and Guidelines for Large Print Documents used by the Low Vision Community, Retrieved from
  3. Johnson, J. (2000). GUI Bloopers: Don’ts and dos for software developers and web designers. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
  4. Legge, G. E. (2007) Psychophysics of Reading in Normal and Low Vision. Lawrence Elbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ
  5. Marcotte, E. (2010). Responsive Web Design. A List Apart, 306. Retrieved from
  6. Nielsen, J. (2005). Scrolling and scrollbars. Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox. Retrieved from
  7. Sherwin, K. (2014). Beware horizontal scrolling and mimicking swipe on desktop. Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox. Retrieved from
  8. Vitale S.,  Cotch M. F., Sperduto R. D. (2010). Prevalence of Visual Impairment in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol 295, No. 18, Retrieved from
  9. United States (1868). Constitution AMENDMENT XIV Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.Retrieved from

AccessU at CSUN2012: Developing Your Web Accessibility Business Case and Learning about WAI Resources for You

Knowbility is pleased to welcome Shawn Lawton Henry to AccessU at CSUN on Monday, February 27. Shawn is the author of the free online book Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design.

During the plenary session, Shawn will offer attendees a tour of the extensive resources available from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Since these resources are essential to understanding why Web accessibility is important, as well as how to implement it, Shawn’s presentation promises to establish an excellent foundation for the rest of the conference. You’ll learn what’s available from the WAI site and how to find the information you need.

Building the Business Case for Accessibility

Later on Monday, at 3:30 PM, Shawn will speak to administrators, evangelists, project managers, Web developers, people with disabilities, and anyone interested in developing a business case for Web accessibility. She’ll focus her discussion on the WAI’s Business Case Suite. This set of documents, developed by the WAI’s Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG), presents different social, technical, financial, and legal and policy factors that play a part in making the business case for specific organizations and situations.

You’ll be engaged in hands-on exercises and discussion so you’ll leave this presentation fully prepared to develop the first draft of your organization’s business case. Be sure to bring your laptop and your questions.

To learn about what resources are available from WAI and how to build your business case, sign up for this workshop, along with others that will be held as part of Knowbility’s AccessU at CSUN 2012. After the conference, Knowbility will be glad to work with you to help flesh out your business case draft and assist you with implementing accessibility in your organization.

Considering the Case for Creating an International Society of Accessibility Professionals

This is Part 2 of a blog series.  The first was Web Accessibility and Coming of Age

The 27th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference will be held in San Diego between February 27 and March 3, 2012.  On Tuesday of that week, the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA) – the technical and engineering division of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) – will host an Accessibility Forum. For a $245 – $295 additional fee beyond the cost of the regular conference, attendees may participate in a series of panels and discussions entitled “Taking Accessibility Mainstream – Making the Case for an International Society of Accessibility Professionals.”

CODE for Accessibility Task Force

The forum discussion is based on research, commissioned by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), about the barriers to the implementation of accessible design techniques by mainstream developers.  I participated in the research project as Chair of the Sub-Committee on Education for the project which ATIA led and named the CODE for Accessibility Task Force.  The Task Force describes itself as  “driven by the private sector and focused on the accessibility-related needs of the developer community.”

It is quite a worthy project and ATIA is to be commended for organizing it. I was pleased to be part of the Task Force, sharing and updating much of the research I had done several years earlier for Knowbility’s own certification studies. The Education sub-committee worked collaboratively with input from universities, software companies, and technical services companies. Our conclusion was that a certification in web accessibility skills could be quite useful, but the report stopped short of recommending a framework for the delivery of a certification program.

ATIA went on to compile case studies to explore the possibility of creating a professional association dedicated to training web developers and certifying skills.  The full CODE Task Force Report can be downloaded from ATIA as well as a Case Study Implementation Analysis based on scenarios similar to Task Force recommendations.

In summary, the Task Force Report is a compilation of the work of the four sub-committees and the Case Study document compares the need for web accessibility to parallel needs identified within the web privacy and security arena and other areas of web specialization.

Knowbility’s position

I won’t be able to directly participate in the forum since I am teaching two days of accessibility policy and web development skills at preconference session called AccessU at CSUN that occurs at the same time.  But because my name is included as a Task Force member, I feel like I must contribute to the ongoing discussion to say that I am by no means convinced of the need to create yet another professional organization.  My hope is that our community will step back and think long and hard about universal accessibility goals and ask ourselves if this is really the best way to accomplish them.

In some ways it may not be fair to comment without hearing the case fully made.  But on the other hand, I have been involved with this research effort for over a year and have thoroughly read both referenced documents.  At this point, Knowbility does not support the formation of a new professional organization.  I wrote background in an earlier post to put the following remarks in context.  Here are  three top reasons for being skeptical about creating a separate professional organization for accessibility. We could offer more, but are especially interested in hearing from others who have been watching or considering this issue.  Please respond with your own thoughts.

Three reasons to think twice about creating another professional organization.

1. There IS an authority in web accessibility standards and design techniques

The case study document refers several times to the need for an “authority.”  However, there already IS a global authority on web accessibility at the W3C.  It is the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and develops global standards that align with other W3C technical specifications. (Full disclosure, I serve as an Invited Expert on the Education and Outreach Working Group for WAI).  Work there is done by consensus and is largely free of vendor bias.  They have a process to develop certifications and are already global in scope.  The W3C also works in open, non-proprietary methods that are consistent with accessibility.  We all know that the consensus process at the W3C can be cumbersome and tedious, but they have recent success in streamlining that process through community groups and other methods.  WAI works collaboratively (much more important in the context of accessibility than for the privacy comparison that was made in the case study). With the exception of IBM, I am not aware that the corporate sponsors of the Accessibility Forum have made major, significant, sustained contributions to the field of accessibility.  Rich Schwerdtfeger and IBM of course provides outstanding leadership on the development and promotion of the completely open WAI-ARIA guidelines, one of the most significant advances in recent accessibility history. Note that the ARIA work was done at the W3C.

2. Too expensive – needed voices will be excluded

Which brings us to item two, the costs associated.  The case study contains plenty of multiple million dollar budget items that will need to come out of someone’s pockets.  Whose pockets will provide those funds…  developers? … the companies that employ developers?  Why not spend those projected millions to support organizations that have history and existing leadership in accessibility rather than reinventing the alt tag? Before proceeding any further I would want to know more about how the planning has engaged with the community most affected – people with disabilities.  While there seem to be individuals with disabilities serving on some committees, I have not seen any indication that this planning process reached out to and included the full community.  My hope is that associations, such as the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT), and other groups that speak for the wider community of people with disabilities are being consulted.  But no groups like these are listed as major sponsors.  Remember “Nothing about us without us?”  If you are attending CSUN and can’t afford the additional fees to participate in the Accessibility Forum, head to the Wednesday conference session on “Web Accessibility Community Collaboration” and WAI staff and volunteers from the W3C will be happy to hear your thoughts.

3. Accessibility must be integrated everywhere, not only commercially

The last and probably the most important reason for not segregating accessibility into the purview of a professional organization is the need for it to be woven into the fabric of any and all web and application development.  The analogy to the privacy issue that is cited in the case study document only goes so far.  For privacy issues, it makes sense to create highly regulated oversight for concerns that impact the protection of citizen and consumer financial and personal data.  Privacy is an issue that is easily subject to the development of strict protocols. Accessibility is more of an art.  Accessible design and development must be taught in context. That is one of the reasons Knowbility’s AIR program turns developers into advocates so effectively. Creating a separate society of accessibility professionals will reinforce the notion that accessibility is something outside of the basic development process – just the opposite of what advocates have been working for for years. Accessible design is more likely to catch on, in my opinion, if it is seamlessly integrated into all training for web and application development offered in all educational settings. The integrated approach makes the most sense to me and promises to have the greatest impact in making true the adage that the late John Slatin used to sign off on his emails – Good design IS accessible design.

An excellent example of how this can work is in progress at – you guessed it, the W3C, under the leadership of Chris Mills from Opera.  It is the newly formed Web Education Community Group and has the potential to integrate accessibility training into any training received by web developers at any level – trade school, community college, university, or elsewhere.   So by all means create certifications, but not within the context of a new professional association to which we must all pay dues and whose conferences we must add to our annual round of expenses for travel and fees (see number 2).

Let’s figure it out together

I don’t want to leave with a list of complaints like a truculent teenager. I want also to recognize that this was a great deal of useful research by ATIA and the AIA. It is an important conversation to have.  They deserve a round of applause and thanks for bringing this up, creating the Task Force, and sparking the discussion – kudos for moving the conversation so far forward.

I strongly agree that it is time to think about certification. But can’t we think of another way to do this?  Please?

OK, now you know what I think.  As always, we at Knowbility want to hear from our community.  What do you think?!


Use BAD for Good Examples of Accessibility in Action

Web accessibility means designing pages and applications so that they can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities, some of whom use assistive technologies to browse the web. Accessibility is required by federal law in many instances and courts are broadening their interpretation of how the legal requirements are implemented. Many know that web accessibility is an increasingly important issue, but are not sure what to do.

BAD is good for the accidental accessibility expert

It is not uncommon for individuals who recognize and speak up about the need for accessibility within an organization to find that they have become experts by default. For those in this situation and who are invited to speak to groups about web accessibility, an updated tool from the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) can help.

The Before and After Demo (BAD) is an updated set of related web pages that provide fully integrated examples of accessibility at work. Sharp, new, and fun to use, BAD is designed to serve a variety of purposes. In addition to raising general awareness of web accessibility issues, BAD is a highly effective way to show how Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2) can be applied without sacrificing visual appeal or interactivity.

BAD shows common accessibility barriers using practical examples. The demonstration consists of an inaccessible Web site, an accessible version of the same site, as well as a report about the demonstrated barriers. The demonstration does not attempt to cover every checkpoint of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) nor to provide an exhaustive list of examples but to demonstrate some key aspects of Web accessibility appropriate for short, focused presentations.

Providing practical examples during a talk is usually very effective. The BAD overview outlines the features of the Demo and gives tips on best use. Together with the inaccessible and accessible Demo pages, concrete before and after coding samples, and notes explaining related WCAG rules, there is much rich content to share during presentations.

Let the community know how you use it

I will be using BAD in my upcoming accessibility training sessions at AccessU at CSUN. Presenters are encouraged to use the demo live or to download the pages with the understanding that some pages will not have full interactivity without connection to a server. WAI is interested to hear if BAD is good for you. Please use the demo and then let WAI know about your experience. Send your comments to (a publicly archived list) or (a WAI staff-only list).

Retailers – help your customers with disabilities help you!

Shoppin cart keyboardIsn’t it great to be able to make holiday travel arrangements and to purchase gifts online during the holidays at your own convenience?  For people with disabilities who may not have easy access to transportation, the opportunity is invaluable.  If you sell goods and services online, you have an eager market in this group that is 54 million people strong in the United States, maintains an aggregate income that now exceeds $1 trillion, and boasts $220 billion in discretionary spending power according to Fortune Magazine.

As ideal as it sounds, many online retailers fail to reach this valuable market because their web sites are not accessible.  The potential customer is likely to lose interest when form inputs aren’t labeled, graphic elements are not described, or the next step in a purchase process shows up in a modal dialogue that can’t be found by assistive technology.  These and other design barriers can make online shopping miserable for potential buyers with disabilities.

If your customers are frustrated, you want to know about it.  The Web Accessibility Initiative at the W3C has a resource to help them communicate with you in a constructive and useful way.  Consider posting a link on your shopping pages for customers who encounter shopping barriers.

The guide is called Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites and can help your potential customers describe specific areas of pain.  Open the channels of communication to potential customers with disabilities.  You may make their holidays much merrier and give yourself the gift of a new customer who is likely to return.  May your all your holidays be bright!