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Re: 508 that says "all info conveyed with color, also available without color"

for

From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: May 22, 2008 8:20AM


Nancy Johnson wrote:

> 508 says "(c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information
> conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from
> context or markup."

That's a good principle. But I don't see anything about color in your
question, so I can't understand how this principle relates to your
problem.

> In one area of this form, we are adding 3 select boxes so the user
> can add the tire size of the tire he/she has a complaint about.

Why? Usually select boxes are problematic both in usability and in
accessibility.

In rare cases, they help rather than hurt. This happens when it is
essentially easier to the user to select among given alternatives than
to type in text data for the purpose. For example, for selecting day of
month, typing in one or two digits is surely easier than picking up an
entry from a list of thirty-one day numbers. But for selecting a date
among, say, five alternative dates (specified as day, mont, year), a
select element or a set of radio buttons _may_ be easier and more
accessible (especially to people with writing difficulties) than
specifying one of the dates by typing it in.

> A typical tire size number might look like: P215/65R15. 215 is in the
> first select box, 65 is the 2nd and 15 the third.

This might be a borderline case, in the choice between different
constructs in form design. It might actually be easier to the user to
just type in data like "P215/65R15", especially if he can be told where
to find the relevant string.

> To help the user understand what is expected I added a a sample number
> below each box.

Why? Using a select element, the user has a limited set of alternatives
to select from. That's the whole point in that element.

The numbers might just confuse the user who does not understand their
idea or mistakes them as recommended values, or something. The spectrum
of human misunderstandings is very wide, and if you consider
accessibility, you should also consider the needs of people who might be
called stupid, ignorant, fools, or slow by others.

Moreover, any explanation should _precede_ the form field(s) it relates
to, as a matter of principle. Otherwise a person using non-visual
browsing will get the information too late, perhaps frustratingly late.

So if you think that some guidance is needed, you might include
information like
"Please enter tire size in a format like P215/65R15:"
possibly with some additional explanation of what the numbers mean.
(Don't call it a tire size _number_ since it's really a string with
different characters, including three numbers. If you need an
explanatory noun after "tire size", use "code" or "indicator".)

> Here, I bolded and changed the text-size of the part
> of the number associated with that select box by using a style sheet.

Why?

> Later I realized when I disabled the style sheet the bolding and
> text-size went away.

Obviously. You could use <b> and <big> if that's a problem, but there
would still be situations where bolding or font size change won't
happen. But this doesn't sound relevant, since this is about styling
something with no apparent reason to style and, and something that has
no apparent reason to be there.

> Question: If I had put <strong>xxx</strong> inline instead of using
> style sheets, is this something that text readers would pick up and
> distinguish from the other part of the text even when style sheets are
> turned off?

Possibly. They may interpret <strong> logically as emphasis and express
it using emphatic speech. On the other hand, such emphasis may not work
well. People who routinely use speech-based browsing are probably
listening to pages rather fast, so fast that emphasis like raised tone
of voice gets lost or becomes disturbing.

But in this case, I don't see why you would emphasize the clues (that
probably shouldn't be there).

> Any other suggestions (space is a premium in this area)

If "space is a premium" in a form, as I understand the parenthetic
remark, then the page containing the form needs a redesign to be
accessible. Anything else would be like painting a sinking ship. A page
with a feedback or complaint form should be designed for the single
purpose of making it easy and pleasant to users to do their job with the
form. There's no point in "saving space" as if you were designing a
paper form that needs to fit on one sheet of paper.

Jukka K. Korpela ("Yucca")
http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/