Tag Archives: W3C

What Developers Should Know For A Universally Accessible Internet

This article was originally published in the September 2015 edition of “NTEN: Change“, the quarterly newsletter of NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) and was crafted by the Marketing Team of Knowbility: Jessica Looney, Community Programs Manager; Divya Mulanjur, Marketing & Communications Associate; and Anne Mueller, Community Programs Assistant.

web accessibility icon
web accessibility icon

Web accessibility is the practice of removing any barriers to interaction with technology for anyone, including people with disabilities. Simply put, this means that when you create an application or a website, everyone should be able to access it.

The regulations that govern accessibility in the United States include Section 508 and the American with Disabilities Act. In 1998, the federal government amended the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that determined that “agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others” (Section508.gov). The American with Disabilities Act recently celebrated its 25thyear of existence. These regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. The Supreme Court recently determined that the Internet is public domain; therefore, it must be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

When implementing accessibility standards, web professionals must consider a myriad of factors. Disabilities can include visual, physical, auditory, speech, or cognitive impairments. Many websites, programs, and applications contain barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities to use. A person with a visual impairment may use a third party program, like a screen reader, that will read aloud the text on the screen. Therefore, images should contain alternative text (“alt” text) that will describe the image the person cannot see. If a person is unable to utilize a mouse when using the Internet, the website should contain architecture that allows a keyboard-only user to easily maneuver through the site. Check out WCAG (Web Accessibility Content Guidelines) “Before/After Demonstration” to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. As well, you can use WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) to test your website’s accessibility.

In order to continue developing a more accessible Internet, web designers and developers should consider the following factors:

  • Page Title: Be sure the page has a simple, explanatory title that informs the user of the name of the site
  • Headings: Each page should have at least one heading. Maintain a friendly hierarchy when coding
  • Text Size: Some people need to resize the size of the text on the screen. To test this, zoom in on your web page to see what it looks like
  • Contrast: Use a website like Check My Colors or Contrast Ratio. The former will check your page for proper contrast, and the latter will give you a WCAG-based score after you input the text and colors you plan on using
  • Landmarks: Add at least three landmarks to your site: “Main,” “Navigation,” and “Search”
  • Keyboard access: Every element of a website should be easily accessible if a person is only using a keyboard, not a mouse. Links should be easily tabbed through, and drop-down menus should also be able to be tabbed through
  • Links: Each link should contain a descriptive name
  • Forms: Be sure any forms you have on your website are accessible. Identify the required fields
  • Do not use the phrase “Click Here”—it’s too ambiguous

One of the best ways to test for accessibility is to try it out yourself! Unplug your mouse; if you’re using a laptop, turn off the track pad. Many computers now come with their own screen reader software; turn this on. Toggle the “high contrast” switch, and zoom in or magnify a web page. How does the site look? Are there overlaps? Are the colors appeasing to the eye? Do you get stuck on a link or page when trying to navigate only using a keyboard? This should be a good test for accessibility.

Knowbility is improving technology access for millions of youth and adults with disabilities all over the world with its many community programs. One such program is OpenAIR, Knowbility’s annual global web accessibility challenge. OpenAIR invites teams of web professionals to sign up for a global competition where each team has to develop an accessible website. These websites are made for nonprofits from around the world, who also sign up for OpenAIR.

OpenAIR began in 1998 in Austin Texas, as the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR), a web design competition that would:

  1. Raise awareness among technology professionals about the need for accessible websites and software applications
  2. Provide a medium for nonprofit agencies to harness the power of the Internet and expand their reach
  3. Create meaningful connections between the disengaged technology sector and the rest of the community

Today, OpenAIR has evolved into a global teaching and learning competition that puts accessibility front and center, where it belongs. OpenAIR imparts advanced accessibility skills to web developers across the globe, creates a challenging atmosphere for participants to enhance these abilities, and keeps them engaged with games and networking events. By bringing in an experienced panel of judges and assigning leading accessibility experts as mentors to each team, the competition has been fine-tuned as an incubator of quality websites.

In its 18th year now, OpenAIR has nurtured the creation of hundreds of accessible community websites. The FCC recently honored Knowbility by bestowing upon them the Chairman’s Award for Innovation in Accessibility for this program. For many arts and nonprofit organizations, the AIR site was their first foray onto the Web. OpenAIR is growing and is on its way to becoming an established global event. OpenAIR 2015 is a technology challenge that fosters healthy competitive spirit to do good and make a difference in the world through knowledge of universal design.

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.

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 wai-eo-editors@w3.org (a publicly archived list) or wai@w3.org (a WAI staff-only list).