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Archive for the ‘accessibility’ Category

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.

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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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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!

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CAPTCHA’s and accessibility have been hotly debated in newsgroups, the press and blogs. Many people are feeling marginalised by their use and frustrated at not being able to access the online services they want.

Facebook, for example, has made heavy use of CAPTCHA even once you’re logged in (and is rumored to be reinstating it). Google also uses CAPTCHA although they have looked into providing audio alternatives to the visual CAPTCHA (at the time of writing however two people have reported to me that the audio wasn’t working). These are two of the fastest growing Internet companies on the web today who are setting precedents of how web pages are delivered.

As the saying goes here in the UK when you’re queuing to get into a nightclub “If your name’s not down you’re not coming in”. CAPTCHA’s are the online equivalent of the unfriendly bouncer working the doors.

CAPTCHA: If your name’s not down you’re not coming in is published over on the RNIB Web Access Blog, this article looks at the issues around CAPTCHA and accessibility, who it affects and possible solutions.

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tagging the new world

Find searching in Second Life a bit tricky? Frustrated with digging around in your inventory and friends lists for landmarks or avatars you can’t remember the name of? Well help is at hand with sloog.org, a bookmarking, or tagging, service for Second Life.

Sloog works in the same way as del.icio.us, Digg, and Magnolia with the only difference being that you are tagging and saving stuff in-world rather than tagging and saving web pages. What I particularly love about it is that you can use it as a research tool to find and share places of interest to you in-world as well as find out what’s popular.

On my journeys through Second Life I’ve been seeking out people and places who have an interest in accessibility but one thing that I’ve noticed is that while there are a few of us with an interest there isn’t enough promotion of accessibility in Second Life. Sloog is an ideal tool for doing this. By just simply tagging appropriate landmarks and places with “accessibility”, for example, you can add to the body of collective knowledge that is slowly accumulating. So if you come across people or places that are worth sharing with the community then tag for accessibility on Sloog.

Sloog is also a great tool if you find the SL viewer difficult to navigate. You can easily find a particular landmark either through your bookmarked places or by searching the Sloog website and then use the teleport function to go right to it. This means you bypass the laborious process of opening up the SL search panel, finding the right search tab, typing your search, then navigating to the one you want.This is really handy if you find the accessibility of the viewer hard and a great example of how something that wasn’t intended to be a tool to help access has in fact facilitated accessibility.

Sloog really is a very cool example of where the real world meets the second world, a Web 2.0 mashup delivered in Second Life giving rise to a whole new term: slashup.

To start using Sloog visit the Miso Miso headquarters in-world, to grab a sloog HUD, follow the easy to install instructions and away you go.

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AssitiveWare have published some excellent videos of people with disabilities accessing the web using various access technologies. Amongst them are a few gamers accessing in virtual worlds using a combination of assistive technologies to zap dragons and outwit the enemy.

In One Thumb to Rule (below) Mike Phillips, a gamer and freelance technology writer born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), explores the frontiers of accessibility, playing games such as World of Warcraft and Unreal Tournament 2004 with just his thumb, a proximity switch, a switch interface. Mike has very little capability to move aside from his thumb which is what he relies on to navigate through virtual worlds battling with dragons and soldiers. While he has restricted speech he has no such problem while on the web as he IM’s up to four people at a time, writes games reviews, is a digital artist and is writing his first novel. The video shows Mike showcasing all this and his assistive technologies at a conference.

This is just one of eleven fantastic videos showing how people with mobility problems can crack the web using just the keyboard and switches. Who needs a mouse to slay a dragon?

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Podcasts are getting ever more popular on the web and for good reason. They’re a portable easy way for many of us to keep up with what’s going on whilst on the move as well as a welcome alternative to wasting trees by printing things off to read on the train. Listening to podcasts from South by Southwest 2007 (SXSW), Web Axe and Equal Access to Software and information have provided a welcome distraction for me whilst wedged in between disgruntled commuters on the way home (and also a lot easier than reading a paper).

For many people it’s also their preferred format when sourcing information. When meeting with Hidden Differences last week, an organisation that represents people with cognitive and reading problems, they talked about how when canvassing a large organisation’s employees recently on their preferred format for internal communications around a third opted for audio. Interesting.

However for some of us listening to podcasts it is not an option. If you’re deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, do not have a soundcard or speakers you’ll be locked out of content if it is only provided in audio format. Not only that so too will search engines. The guidance therefore, according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is to provide a transcript of what’s being said.

Getting a good quality text transcript is not always as easy as it seems though. Just published in the Web Access Centre I look at overcoming the challenge of podcast transcription.

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