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January 2002
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January Weblog

January 25, 2002

The National Organization on Disability recently conducted a poll on internet usage among the disabled population. The title of the article about their poll, "Disabled Don't Use Internet", kind of sums up their findings. Only 38 percent of disabled American adults polled use the Internet. However, I suppose it's not too bad considering how only about 56 percent of non-disabled adults use it.

January 23, 2002

The article, "How will your systems meet the challenge of accessibility?", covers the results of a survey that Gartner analysts conducted on vendors, service providers, and industry associations to gauge industry's understanding of Section 508. Basically, they found that people agree the guidelines lack clarification and there's little or no training. Their survey analysis also mentions related perceived problems.

January 19, 2002

I received an email from the WebAIM mailing list that confirmed that the A-Prompt software (accessibility checking and correction software) has a known bug. Here's the problem:

Even the newest version (1.0.6) of A-Prompt cannot recognize a correct HTML 4 language attribute for English or US English and cannot add it correctly, when prompted. If you are using HTML 4, please visit the W3C's specifications on language codes to make sure your code is correct.

January 16, 2002

The official Section 508 Web site finally got a major overhaul! They've added new training material and changed the look. Their progress looks good, but I do have some issues with the new site.

A couple smaller issues are visual, but affect the navigational links. In Netscape 6.2 on Windows 2000, the page layout renders poorly. The culprit seems to be how they handled their "Skip Navigation" link, (which they added to adhere to Section 508 requirements and to help those with speech browsers or screen readers). Since they wanted to keep it invisible, they made the link a tiny transparent gif. Unfortunately, Netscape 6.x treats a completely transparent image the same as if it was missing. Instead of displaying the image, it displays the "Skip Navigation" alt text associated with the image. The extra text pushes down the text for the navigational links. Horizontal lines in their background image now cut across the text for the navigational links. The links are legible, but are difficult to read. One way to easily fix this problem is to use a non-transparent tiny image. If they match it to the background color, it will never be noticed by sighted users.

The other visual problem may affect sighted users, regardless of browser used. The site was designed for at least 800 by 600 screen resolution. Anyone with a smaller resolution will have to scroll to see all of the navigational links. This is at very least an encumbrance (and annoyance) to sighted users. At worst, it hides links and other content from the user. Usually screen resolution is considered a "usability" issue. However, accessibility is a sub-set of usability. When a usability problem makes it difficult or impossible to access the page's content, that's when it crosses the line and becomes an accessibility problem. Even though many people use an 800 by 600 screen resolution, not everyone does. A government-oriented site, of all sites, should keep in mind their broad user base. Users with different screen resolutions need to be taken into consideration, just as the needs of users with speech browsers are taken into consideration. One easy way to deal with the problem of screen resolution is to use percentage-sized design elements. That way, the page will stretch to fit the user's screen, regardless of resolution.

My other concern is more serious. While they don't violate Section 508 requirements, they do ignore some good advice from the W3C WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative). In many cases the W3C WAI guidelines are unnecessarily strict. However, there are certain points with which I agree. One, is that you should not *exclusively* rely on client-side scripting capabilities to provide non-redundant functionality or content. Browsers may have client-side technology disabled for various (often good) reasons, or they may not support the technology. In this site, the "Clear" button for the "Search" field only works if you have JavaScript enabled. If server-side solutions are available, they should take advantage of it. If not, then why not handle it like a standard form and use HTML's built-in functionality? That would be another accessible alternative to use.

Overall, the new site is still better than their previous one. It's great to see them spreading information on the subject and practicing what they preach.

January 14, 2002

The article, "High-tech's disability mandate", approaches acccessibility from a business perspective. It was written for business people, by a top business person-- Patricia C. Sueltz, executive vice president and general manager of Sun Microsystems' Software Systems Group. While many of us have heard this angle before, it's a good awareness article.

January 10, 2002

Most accessibility advocates flinched at the new limitations to the ADA that the Supreme Court announced in their January 8, 2001, ruling. However, one article, "A Victory in Disguise for the Disabled", presents a different perspective on the issue and shows you how to turn those lemons into lemonade.

January 8, 2002

The official Section 508 Web site is at long last adding functionality and accessibility features. From January 6-14, you may experience problems with the site or be unable to access it. However, it should be interesting to see the changes and additions when it's back up and running again.

January 2, 2002

Joe Clark wrote an article, "Symbolizing accessibility", that covers both the history of disability iconography, as well as future directions organizations are moving with them.