[Accessibleweb] Notes from An Event Apart

Rick Ells rells at u.washington.edu
Fri Jun 29 16:05:05 PDT 2007

Below are my notes on Shawn Henry's talk at last week's An Event
Apart training conference downtown. My complete conference report,
is at http://staff.washington.edu/rells/conferences/aneventapart2007/

Getting Real With Accessibility

Shawn Henry of W3C talked about recent developments in Web
* Shawn has a new online book (also available in PDF if you want to
print it out) about accessible Web design at
* Web Content Accessiblity Guidelines version 2 (WCAG2) (still in
working draft form at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ ) states
principles, guidelines, and success criteria in a much broader and
inclusive way than the old WCAG1. The success criteria are stated
in several levels based on testable measures. The intent is for it
all to be adaptable as technology changes.
* Shawn encourages everyone to involve people with disabilities in
design and testing of their Web designs. A goal is to better
understand "how real people use the site" and to avoid spending a
lot of time on things that are not of much benefit.
* Good accessible design, because it builds on standards, semantics,
structure, and alternative texts, often raises a site's ranking in
search engines.

Shawn also reviewed screening techniques, which are quick ways to get
a feel of the accessibility of your pages:
* Test your pages with voice browsers
* Set aside your mouse and attempt to access and use all the
functionality of the site using only the keyboard
* Install a toolbar in your browser that will help you evaluate the
+ For Internet Explorer - Vision Australia's [9]Web
Accessibility Toolbar
+ For FireFox - Chris Pederick's [10]Web Developer Toolbar
(see [11]Evaluating Web sites for Accessibility with the
FireFox Web Developer Toolbar )
* Using the toolbar, evaluate the following:
+ Overall structure of the HTML/XHTML; is it well-formed,
error-free, and valid?
+ Use of headings; do the headings present the topic/sub-topic
structure of each page?
+ Is there a skip-to-content link?
+ Are lists properly marked up?
+ Do link texts make sense out of context, or are they just
text fragments?
+ Turn off images and evaluate alt texts, do they express the
content and role of the image?
+ Turn off sound; is a transcript available?
+ Turn off CSS; is the result coherent and usable?
+ Turn off Javascript; is the content still available in a
usable form?
+ View the pages as text-only (you may need to use a text
browser like [12]Lynx ); Does the page content linearize
+ Increase/decrease text size and window size; does the page
flex and scale, or does it fall apart?
* Try other evaluation tools
+ A list of tools is maintained by W3C-WAI at

Shawn also gave a quick overview of what is happening in the area of
AJAX, Javascript and accessibility, basically saying that the newer
adaptive technologies (AT) have much improved abilities to work with
well-design pages using AJAX and Javascript. She recommended several
* [14]AJAX Accessibility Overview
* [15]Progressive enhancement with AJAX
* [16]The DOM and Screen Readers
* [17]The Hows and Whys of Degradable AJAX


Visible links
9. http://www.visionaustralia.org.au/ais/toolbar/
10. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/60
11. http://www.webaim.org/articles/evalutingwithfirefox/
12. http://lynx.isc.org/
13. http://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/complete
14. http://www-03.ibm.com/able/resources/ajaxaccessibility.html
15. http://adactio.com/journal/959/
16. http://juicystudio.com/article/dom-screen-readers.php
17. http://particletree/features/the-hows-and-whys-of-degradable-ajax/

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