Jenny Reeder


Accessibility
March 24, 2007, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So I’ll be honest. I am a bit frustrated with the Screen Reader Simulation. Not only was it a pain to download the Shockwave plug-in (I ended up having to do it manually–and it always worries me to have to check my age, like something nasty is going to pop in if I’m over 18), but then my keyboard commands didn’t work. I tried it five or six times. I can understand the frustration blind people have in using programs that aren’t entirely compliant, or that don’t make sense. It’s a whole different experience.

That said, I have come to believe that we can do some very simple things to facilitate accessibility.  Mark Pilgrim’s Dive Into Accessibility provided a helpful explanation of several individual disabilities–which made real people from the terms defined by Paul Bohman. Pilgrim lists several things that I think are completely do-able–like adding meaningful metadata, such as additional navigational aids, titles to links, and listing the doctype and language. I do have an issue with his suggestion to NOT force links to open in new windows. I appreciate having a new tab or window so I can easily refer back to my previous page without losing it somewhere in a back button search. I know this documentation was written in 2002, and I wonder if things have changed at all with more current browsers. Perhaps I am now accustomed to Firefox and the various tab features. I’m curious to know how this little rule works these days.

I was also intrigued with the suggestions Pilgrim makes that also benefit Google searches, such as adding meaningful titles to each page and presenting the main content first. I admit it–the Google appeal is great.

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4 Comments so far
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I, like you, found the Screen reader daunting. Probably less so than say, crossing the street if I were blind. So you just do it! I came to realize how little information is conveyed in the brief labels we put in the navigation bar. Those one word labels really don’t say enough! I guess we could do the same as with the alternative for the image–design a longer description to appear (be read aloud) when the cursor hovers over the button. Listening to the voice say “linkhomelinksitemaplinketc.” very quickly is not very helpful.

Comment by Misha Griffith

I am glad someone else had trouble with the Screen Reader Simulation but as you and Misha note it did put accessibility into better context.

And, I did not think of looking at the date for the articles which I should do as it brings up the important question you raise of what has changed for the better, or worse, since then.

Comment by maureen guignon

As I said in my blog, the only way I had a snowball’s chance in you know where of figuring the whole simulation out was to visualize what I know most school web sites look like. Most are fairly basic with a navigation bar somewhere near the top, a picture or two, and then some other text. But it really required me to use my prior VISUAL knowledge…otherwise, I’d have been melting…

Comment by Jennifer Levasseur

I was a bit confused about the asking of my age, on the Shockwave plug-in– and even more confused that I couldn’t figure out how to install it for Firefox, but only for IE.

As for the new windows/tabs issue, I think the real solution is to not make the page mandate that, but to hope that page visitors know how to work their preferences on their browsers. You can always set the browser to automatically open links in new tabs, or left-click and open in a new tab when you don’t know if you wanna lose the data on the page before you.

It does bring up an interesting point, though– something that hadn’t occurred to me, even as a fairly new convert to Firefox: tabbed browsing is a whole new paradigm. It’s changed the way I surf the net. You expect to be able to control what info stays up and current and what you navigate away from. It’s surprising to me that I made the transition without contemplating what a radical shift it really is.

Comment by Tad




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