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RE: Accessibility Observations 2

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From: John Foliot - bytown internet
Date: Feb 27, 2002 6:26PM


Accessibility Observations 2Raleigh,

1) I truely share your pain, in-so-far as the "education" aspect required to
make people aware of accessibility issues and web site development seems to
be an on-going battle.

2) There does reach a point where you need to code to the majority. There
are still versions of Netscape 2 out there... do you code to them as well?
(I once saw an entry on one of my server logs that announced a visit from
Netscape 1... blew me away) Most users of assitive technology that I know
have relatively recent software on their machines. It may not be the latest
and greatest, but it's not so far behind that it hinders their use of their
machines. Just as few of us today would consider a PC 386 with a 86 baud
modem "acceptable", so too with users of adaptive technology... it reaches a
point where they MUST upgrade, just to keep pace. I would suspect that this
is true of all users, not just those using screen readers, right? And in
fact, of *life* in general...

3) The "magic" formula. Might I suggest that a clean, comprehensible
"template" for your faculty would be KISS-able. You can make it "nice", you
can even lay it out with some finesse, and then test it for validation,
accessibility, usablity, whatever. Ask real users to give you real feedback
(I'm sure that there are some members of this list who use assitive
technologies who wouldn't mind giving some constructive feedback... you'd
have to ask them of course). The point is, from my experience, most users
of assitive tech aren't asking you to "dumb down" your sites, or make them
boring. Far from it. All they ask is that when you make decisions, make
them in an informed manner, and think about the ramifications of your
actions... think outside of the box a little.

4) Raleigh raised an interesting question though... is anyone aware of any
statistics vis-a-vis software penetration of the different assistive
solutions out there? Either percentile or hard numbers? For example,
acceptng the fact that there are variations, what is the most *usual*
installation of say Jaws out there? Version 3.x? Earlier, or have most
users already upgraded to Version 4? Is there a measured baseline? I
suspect there is a need, and perhaps someone could get a grant to find out
<ha!>. Seriously, with April being Accessibility Month (right?), perhaps
it's something that *should* be attempted, although it would take some heavy
weight "assistance" from some highly trafficked sites to get the message
out, to be accurate it would need widespread support and publicity. I float
this for general comment... I'd be willing to *help*. Anybody??

JF


-----Original Message-----
From: Raleigh Way [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
Sent: February 27, 2002 7:34 AM
To: <EMAIL REMOVED>
Subject: Accessibility Observations 2


Everyone on this list has offered excellent insight/opinions/observations.
What a fantastic group of people! I can't thank you enough.


My main concern concern/question was designing a "linear" site that would
work with any AT version. CSS seems to be the best approach when AT
software and browsers catch up with it.


Terence de Giere pointed out the following (which I knew):


"OLDER SCREENREADERS.
Some combinations of browser and screenreader cannot read information in
columns created by tables. Those readers just read horizontally across the
screen, cutting across the table boundaries and making the page
incomprehensible. The only solution for these users is a single column
page."


This epitomizes what I'm grappling with. It seems the only recourse is to
create a site that literally reads from left to right, top to bottom, with
navigation laid out horizontally at the very top of the page. I realize
that this just isn't possible for higher-end (corporate) sites.


I'm looking for a "formula" that works in spite of screen reader or
browser versions. I work in education, and I'm responsible for bringing
accessibility issues to faculty and staff who design web sites on campus.
(We do not have a department that does this for them.) A lot of them do not
even know to spell HTML..., so I'm challenged with the task of making to job
comprehensible and easier for them. I'm a believer in the KISS principle,
so until CSS, browsers and AT software all come together, KISS dictates that
the flow of text and links on the pages be linear for older screen readers.
So, for my faculty and staff it seems, linear text in one column, navigation
at the top, skip to content links, alt tags, longdes tags and such will have
to suffice if they