WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

CSUN 2007

Aaron Andersen and I had a great time at CSUN 2007 last week. We gave four presentations in a little over 24 hours, so we were not able to attend as many sessions as we would have liked, but the sessions that we were able to attend were rewarding. The conference was as enjoyable as ever.

One of the highlights of the conference was the chance to hold and play with a One Laptop per Child prototype that Peter Korn brought to the conference. It was smaller (and cooler) than in looks in pictures.

Below we have written a brief synopsis of each presentation, along with our thoughts and impressions.

We have also linked to the presentation slides, although they may not make much sense out of context. Aaron and I decided to create our presentation slides using S5. We did this so that there would only be one version of the presentation that would be accessible to anyone with web access at the time of the presentation.

We hope to see you all at CSUN next year.

Accessibility Evaluation of Next-Generation Web Applications

The WAVE Web Accessibility tool has always been one of the most popular resources available on webaim.org, and this was easily our best received presentation of the week. We started out talking briefly about the need for web accessibility evaluation tools and the different evaluation strategies and response types that can be used. We then demoed the current (3.0) version of WAVE for the approximately one-third of the audience who was not already familiar with the tool.

The most important part of this presentation was a discussion of why recent advances in web technology make WAVE 3 (and most similarly designed tools) difficult or impossible to use with many modern web sites and applications. We then introduced some of the new features and capabilities we’re preparing for the upcoming WAVE 4.0 release in order to overcome these challenges, and demonstrated a test version of the new WAVE 4 Toolbar for Mozilla Firefox.

While we do not yet have an exact release date for the WAVE 4 Toolbar or the WAVE 4 web-service yet, all news and updates will be announced here as soon as they are available.

Internet Delivery of Real-Time Captioning

Many people do not immediately associate closed captioning with web accessibility, but with the current popularity of web-based audio and video services, the presence of accurate textual captioning is one of the most important components of an open and accessible web experience. For this session, we first discussed the necessity of web-based media captioning, and then reviewed some of the problems and difficulties preventing its widespread adoption.

The main focus of the presentation was the captioning of real-time (live) web-based media, the lack of a currently available unified way of making it work, and the CaptionCaster software suite WebAIM is currently developing to fill that gap. A brief technical discussion of CaptionCaster followed, and then a live demonstration of its capabilities.

Although the session was generally well-received by most members of the audience, it soon became clear that the attendees who had captioned (or are attempting to caption) live web-based media were better able to appreciate the difficulties of real-time web-based captioning and the value of a unified software solution for the entire process.

Creating Accessible Content in OpenOffice.org

In this lab, we introduced attendees to the OpenOffice.org interface, and discussed how to create accessible content in OOo. The majority of this session was spent introducing the OOo Writer, with a few minutes devoted to Impress. We also helped users export their files to HTML and PDF. One of the most laudable features in OOo Writer is the ability to export to tagged PDF. A PDF file created in Writer are at least as good as a PDF created using Acrobat and MS Word, maybe better.

It seems that the majority of the people attending still use MS Office as their primary Office Suite and that many attended out of curiosity.

During the presentation, we discovered that table header information is not correctly exported to PDF in Writer 2.1 (although it exported correctly in in 2.0.x). Hopefully this new bug will be resolved soon. A couple of members of Sun attended, and their feedback was a very valuable addition to the presentation. Peter Korn informed us that accessibility improvements will be included in OOo 2.3, including the ability to finally add alt text to images in Impress. Other improvements should follow.

Creating Accessible Files in Adobe Acrobat 8

Acrobat 8 has a few new accessibility features including improved tagging of tables and frames. It also seems that automated tagging of an untagged PDF and tag inspection has improved. This session showed users how to view, edit, and create PDF tags using Acrobat 8. Among other things, we introduced the Tags panel, the TouchUp Reading Order tool, and the Accessibility Checker.

Acrobat is a powerful tool, but it can be a confusing tool to use, especially if you have never even seen the tags panel. With an hour of training, most users can learn to make a document accessible in Microsoft Word, or even Dreamweaver, but it can take significantly more time to learn how to successfully identify, modify, and create tagged PDF files in Acrobat. For that reason, this session was more of an introduction to Acrobat than a complete training session. We did not have time to introduce some of the new features for form identification and tagging, but we are currently updating our article on Acrobat and PDF, and it should include information on creating accessible forms in Acrobat.