So I’ve decided to stop squatting and get my own place at www.iheni.com. All previous posts and comments are present and correct together with links. If you’ve tagged pages in del.icio.us or elsewhere you may want to resave the links as the redirects are not set yet but *should* be shortly. You can also grab the RSS feed in the new site. I’ll be tinkering under the bonnet over the next week or two but other than that it’s business as usual.


Bare with me…

I’m just moving my account so things will not quite be how they’re meant to be. Content remains unchanged it’s the other stuff I’m just sorting out. Should be back to normal soon.

Chris Heilmann over at Yahoo! UK, has come up with a genius piece of script to convert accessible data tables to charts using the Google Chart API. This means that people browsing with screen readers can access the the data while allowing users of traditional browsers to view the actual charts. The concept is a little bit like how Excel’s chart wizard can convert the tabular data into a graph or chart.

I love this because reading data in a table can be a frustrating and unforgiving task. A table is often a good way to collect and collate the data, but not always the best way to present and make sense of it. Using a visual aid such as a graph or chart makes the data so much easier to follow and is also in line with that often overlooked Web Content Accessibility Guideline 1.0 (WCAG) checkpoint 14.2 “Supplement text with graphic or auditory presentations where they will facilitate comprehension of the page”.

This is only one part of the story however. When testing his solution Chris asked Victor Tsaran, one of the key accessibility people at Yahoo!, and also a screen reader user himself, to check it out and see how well it rendered for him. This led Victor to ask if it could be done in reverse i.e. convert an accessible chart into an accessible data table.

So the result is a really handy conversion tool. In my line of work I’m often advising people to provide data table alternatives to complex graphs and charts and vice versa and this will be a great resource to point people to.

Everything’s licensed under Creative Commons so you can download the script, a demo and the CSS.

Here are a few tips I’ve cobbled together for producing accessible Flash banner adverts. This is very much written from the perspective of an accessibility person as I’m not a Flash developer as such but I hope it gives some pointers as to what to think about when using banner ads. I’ve also included information about testing, compliance with WCAG, navigating Flash using Jaws and WindowEyes and some additional resources.

If you have any top tips to ad I’d love to hear them so leave a comment.

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Islab: Second Life search


Islab is described as the official search tool for Second Life and is the latest addition to my list of slashups: mashups for Second Life. This is the best out of world search tool I’ve found so far making finding people, places and information so much more efficient and accessible than relying on the search in-world.

The joy of Islab is that it can search in-world as well as search through wikis, blogs and forums on the web. This is really handy if you are researching something but for some reason can’t get into SL to use the in-world search tool. I suspect for many that it may be the search option of choice as well as it is easier to use than the search in-world and also saves jumping between the client and the web when looking stuff up.

Although the search was only launched in November the Islab Community has been around since 2006 working away to help users better learn and experience the 3D internet and promote open source development. Islab is Chinese owned and run and aims to act as “a bridge between the chinese community and the outside world”. It’s an interesting irony that the Islab community sees itself as a bridge between the Chinese community and the outside world and yet is a bridge between virtual and real worlds.

If you want to find out more visit the Islab community in-world or check out the Islab blog. If you’ve used Islab, leave a comment, I’d be interested to hear what you think.

In honor of Jeffrey Zeldman‘s blue beanie on the cover of his classic book, Monday, November 26th is blue beanie day Blue Beanie Day.

Blue Beanie Day is about Standardistas wearing a Blue Beanie to show their support for accessible, semantic web content. To get involved grab a Blue Beanie and snap a photo. Then on November 26, switch your profile picture in Facebook, Twitter, Last.FM, iLike, Pownce (the list is endless) and post your photo to the Blue Beanie Day group at Flickr.

If you want to know more about web standards check out the Web Standards Project.

Supporting Blue Beanie Day in the Arctic - there is a blue beanie under all that protective clothing - promise!

Slashups , Second Life mashups, are the answer to merging your existing web content such as photo’s, music and bookmarks into Second Life. Objects within SL can get data from, or post data to, the web. Conversely your networking sites on the web can post data to, or get data from, SL. It’s kind of similar to Facebook where you can interact with your favorite sites by adding them as applications, streaming data from your Flickr, LastFM, delicio.us and blog accounts.

I like the whole idea around slashups because not only does this provide a fast track to accessing content in world and on the web making it all more accessible, it also allows you to seamlessly reuse and merge what you have already created online linking it back to your SL self.

I wrote about Sloog recently and that got me thinking: what other slashups are out there? Having had a look around I thought I’d start listing what I’ve found:

  1. Sloog: A bookmarking service, similar to del.icio.us you can tag, share and access locations in SL via your bookmarks saved on the site. To use it pick up a HUD in-world, attach it to yourself from your inventory and away you go. You can post to Sloog via channel /7 using the chat feature in world.
  2. BlogHUD: This is a tool that enables you to blog directly from SL to bloghud.com. As a PRO user you can post to your own external blog if you use WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, Friendster and TypePad. Posts come with a map location of where you posted from in SL, along with RSS feeds to subscribe to for your favorite people or places. BogHud uses channel /9.
  3. Slurl: Second Life URL provides teleport links from web pages to locations in SL. When you click on a link you’ll be taken to a map page which shows you the location of the place, a teleport button or the option to sign up to SL if you’re not already a member.
  4. Gridmarker: A lot like Slurl Gruidmarker allows you to create SL urls that you can access anywhere.
  5. TwitterBox: It seems only fitting that if Twitter has an application in Facebook that it should also be accessible in SL. Twitterbox enables you to post to and receive updates from Twitter, when inside Second Life. Use channel /282 to tweet.
  6. Last Sound System: Stream in your favorite music from Last FM directly into SL.
  7. Facebook: You can pretty much access all your networked content via Facebook so it’s no surprise that there are a couple of applications that support SL: Second Life link and Second Friends. Both enable you to see if your SL friends are online, share your virtual home and favorite locations in-world.

Eduserve Island has a slashup space, an area for experimenting with learning orientated web 2.0 mashups within SL and is worth a visit if you want to start playing around with ideas. I’m sure there are many more examples of slashups out there, this is the kind of thing that’s just going top grow and grow and is representative of the potential SL has. If you know of any more slashups then post a comment and I’ll get them listed.