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RE: ColdFusion, PHP, etc. and accessibility


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Jan 14, 2002 12:36PM

You have hit upon an important topic. There are a few applications out there
that use JSP, PHP, ColdFusion, ASP, and so on which allow multiple authors
to update content. Some of them are commercial products, but most of them
are home-grown solutions to particular problems on particular sites. This
generally means that the systems are not available for sale, and they are
used in-house only. The programmers who develop those solutions may or may
not be aware of the need for disability access, and quite frankly, they may
or may not have an immediate "need" for it at their particular organization.
It's possible that all who use the system -- literally 100% of the users --
have no need for disability accommodations. It's true that someday they may
hire someone with a disability, an event which would then bring the issue to
the forefront, but it is equally possible that they will never have to
accommodate anyone with an actual disability. I'm not saying this to
rationalize away the issue, but I am pointing out a reality, so that we
don't get too carried away in our zeal for accessibility, no matter how

Of course, I was just speaking about the accessibility of the product from
the _author's_ perspective. Even home-grown products should definitely take
into consideration the accessibility of the final output from the _end
user's_ perspective. The resulting web output of the authoring tool still
ought to be disability accessible, no matter who authors the content.

There are some commercially available authoring tools (e.g. content
management systems) which use these or other scripting languages. You can
buy them (and you will usually pay a high price for them). The Authoring
Tool Guidelines are very much intended for these commercial products. Under
U.S. Section 508, government entities are already required to compare such
products and buy the most accessible one. The makers of commercial products
should definitely pay close attention to the authoring tool guidelines, if
only for selfish business reasons (e.g. in order to get government contracts
or to have a good public image).

At this point in time, I don't know which content management systems best
conform to the authoring tool guidelines.

As far as the feasibility and practicality of adding elements to home-grown
tools in order to conform to the authoring tool guidelines, you're right:
the resources of local programmers are often stretched thin as it is. There
is an added cost for the additional programming. It will take time. I would
probably start with the web output first. I would have the programmers make
sure that all of the templates and automated elements of the authoring tool
produce conformant content by default. Once that is accomplished, then you
can turn your attention to harder issues, such as ensuring that the multiple
content authors produce conformant content. Start with something easy (from
the programmer's perspective): add a link within the authoring tool that
allows the content author to check the content in Bobby and/or the WAVE
validators. If you want, you could even add a radio button question: "Did
you check your content for disability access?" The author would select "yes"
or "no", then the content would be available for publication on the web.
This does not guarantee that the content author will tell the truth, or that
the validation will be sufficient, but it does require a conscious decision
on the part of the author. The author must claim that the material was at
least checked for accessibility previous to its publication.

Once those steps are taken, the programmers could incorporate other
features, taken from the authoring tool guidelines, which require greater
programming effort. This sort of step-wise approach could be undertaken over
a period of time, which would lessen the impact on workload for the

Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Utah State University

-----Original Message-----
From: WebAIM forum [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]On Behalf Of
Carol Foster
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2002 10:53 AM
To: WebAIM forum
Subject: ColdFusion, PHP, etc. and accessibility


I am curious about what others who use ColdFusion, PHP, etc. (that allow
lots of different people to update Web content) have done about the
accessibility issues. In theory, it would be great if the Web Authoring
Tools guidelines were followed to aid and abet creation of accessible
content by everyone, but I'm not sure how practical that is. We have
thought of at least having a little help file and some training for the
most common issues, such as meaningful link text and alt text for
images. Most of our clients just update text at the moment, but I can
see this issue growing and growing!


Carol Foster, Web Developer
Internet Publishing Group, Information Technology Services
University of Massachusetts, President's Office
(413) 587-2130

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