web standards


I bet my accessibility toolbelt is bigger than yours! I’m always collecting free accessibility tools. Why? Because I like to see what each one does and how it can help me be a better tester. My current toolbelt includes:

FireFox Accessibility Tools

In a class by itself, is FireEyes. A free testing tool that will blow your socks off (once you get it installed in a compatible environment). FireEyes is built on the following stack:

  • FireFox
  • FireBug
  • FireEyes

The “how to” for FireEyes installation at FireEyes FAQ

Once you install FireEyes….you will have the super power of accessibility heat vision that you have always craved!

Now…if you happen to be working in an environment where you want/need to test in Chrome and/or IE…here are some additional tools to consider:

Chrome Accessibility Tools

IE Accessibility Tools

So…now that I’ve shown you my toolbelt…will you show me yours? What accessibility tools have you discovered that I don’t have yet? Inquiring minds want to know!

Web equality. Cool super powers. No cape required.

Don’t wait! Whether you are a coder, a designer, a nonprofit recipient, or a volunteer you can join the coolest web design competition around. Sign up today as a super group or a single hero!

The Accessibility Internet Rally is a community hackathon with a unique twist – accessibility! Open-AIR increases awareness of the tools and techniques that make the Internet accessible to everyone – including people with disabilities. AIR benefits nonprofit organizations and schools in your community by providing them with free, professionally designed, accessible websites.

Teams of professional web developers learn skills to create accessible web content and then use those new skills to create accessible websites for local community groups. The result: dozens of professionally designed, accessible websites are donated to nonprofit groups and hosted for free for one year.

Get signed up now by by visiting Knowbility’s OpenAir Registration

10.23.13 Kick-Off | 11.23.13 Rally Day

Today, May 9th, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The point of this day is to increase awareness of the importance of digital accessibility for all people. This outreach is for both geeks and non-geeks. It is for accessibility in learning, playing, working and enjoying life on the web. Because when it comes right down to it the web really is for everyone. So what are you going to do today to celebrate GAAD? Here are a few ideas:

Ideas for Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

  • Real People, Real Lives, Real Accessibility – Watch the accessibility story of Aleeha and see how technology is allowing her to overcome her disability and study to become the first blind veterinarian.
  • Experience Loss of Dexterity – Trying switching your mouse to your non-dominent hand for an hour. See what it would be like to use the web without your current level of dexterity.
  • Experience Keyboard Only – Try using your favorite web page without a mouse. If you hit a road block realize that people who use screen readers or have dexterity issues and can’t use a mouse would not have equal access to this site. Consider sending a message via the “contact us” form for that site asking them to make their site more accessible.
  • Experience Reduced Vision – Dim the screen on your mobile phone and try to use it in bright sunlight. See what it would be like to have reduced vision and a lack of clear color perception.
  • Sign up for the online version of AccessUAccessU at Your Desk – Learn more about accessibility from the comfort of your own desk. What a great line-up of speakers and topics.
  • Apply for a $10,000 Accessibility Grant - Apply for the Amaze Digital Accessibility Grant. Deque has extended the deadline for submission through today. What would you do with $10,000 to make the web more accessible through innovative technology or an amazing new project?
  • Try using a screen reader.
    • ChromeVox – Try ChromeVox, a free screen reader for the Chrome Browser. I’ll tell you, the interactive ChomeVox Tutorial is really awesome.
    • VoiceOver – If you have a mac, try VoiceOver (it is already on on your computer).
    • NVDA – Try using the open source screen reader NVDA for PCs. Great instructions on getting started can be found at

Additional News and Resources of Global Accessibility Awareness Day

What did I do last year? I spent one hour using the web without my mouse. I reported my findings last year at “Accessibility Awareness: My 1 Mouseless Hour on the Web” .

What am I going to do this year? I’m going to use ChromeVox (a free and powerful screen reader) to explore Google Docs. I’ll share my findings in an upcoming Tweetchat as well as a post to my blog.

AccessU is Knowbility’s annual conference that provides three days of accessibility classes and workshops. As Austin begins to warm toward summer, there is no cooler place to be than with the passionate speakers and instructors for this May’s AccessU! How can you resist all these wonderful accessibility courses and workshops from the world’s best instructors?

This year, some of the highlighted speakers and topics include include:

  • Henny Swan from the BBC, who will focus on Mobile Accessibility
  • Shawn Lauriat from Google, who will help us take on accessibility challenges in Complex Web Applications
  • Molly E. Holzschlag from Knowbility, who will demystify the emerging Open Web Platform.

Be sure to check out the AccessU full course schedule to learn more about all of the fantastic presenters and content, as well as opportunities for socializing and networking during evening events.

AccessU keeps close to the heart of the ideologies of Open Web – that the Web we create must transcend the platforms, operating systems, browsers and most importantly – societal barriers imposed on anyone seeking access to the information and services we create every day. To do this well is a fine art as well as deep technology.

Come and join in for a great experience that will leave you with new learning, inspiration and passion for building the Web – the way the Web was meant to be!

After a decade of working in the field of web accessibility, I still hear people who think that creating accessibile multimedia for the web is too expensive and too hard to do. I’ll admit, I was initially overwhelmed by the challenges. But today, I know that accessible multimedia is doable and smart business. You just need to know how to be super efficient with your resources and how to prioritize. And while I know a lot about this topic, it is evolving and I can always learn more from the accessibility tribe.

So, on Monday, June 18th, the amazing Elle Waters (@nethermind) and I (@goodwitch) hosted an #a11ychat “Making Audio and Video Accessible to All” and we were joined by our colleagues to share what we know. You can read the transcript or chirpstory. Here are some of my favorite lessons learned:

Captioning Strategy

To be effective, your organization needs to adopt a captioning strategy. @jared_w_smith of WebAim and I have both seen that outsourcing captioning to firms like CaptionSync is incredibly cost effective. I continue to keep an eye on automated solutions, like Dragon NaturallySpeaking. But to date, the error rates on speech recognition software are too high to make this method the most cost effective. Let me put that last statement in context. Speech recognition software can be trained to your particular voice…and when it is trained, the accuracy rates can be very, very good. So, if you have a single voice speaking on the audio/video and the speech recognition software is trained to that voice, software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking can be very cost effective. But, when you are trying to use speech recognition software and any of the following are present, your results are going to need a significant amount of manual correction: more than one voice, an accent, background noise.

My rule of thumb? If the error rate of the speech recognition software is greater than 3%, it is more cost effective to outsource the transcription/captioning to professionals than it is to manually correct the automated transcript in-house. It takes more time (and/or costs more money) to review and edit the mistakes than it would for a trained transcriber to create the transcript from scratch. There is an interesting and effective method for using speech recognition software called “re-voicing”. Some transcription houses use this method to create their transcripts. Using the re-voicing method, a trained transcriber listens to the multimedia to be captioned and re-speaks all dialogue, in their own voice, directly into the speech recognition software. And, this speech recognition software has been trained to their particular voice. Because the re-voicer is a trained transcriber, they know to describe any relevant sounds beyond pure dialogue, as well as other transcription methodologies that insure efficient, quality content.

Acceptable Error Rate

What is an acceptable error rate in the transcript / caption file? The error rate should not exceed 1% and in reality should be at or below 0.5%. If you think I’m being a perfectionist, I’m really not. Ask anyone in the field of professional transcription and you will get a very similar answer. Need to know why an error rate of 3% is not acceptable? Check out this interesting post on “When Does 1 Error = 5 Errors“.

Social Justice

The message is crystal clear. Captioning of multimedia on the web is a civil right. It is already a legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Court case after court case has shown that the web is a place of public accommodation, just like a physical store, convention center, motel, museum, library, school, zoo, gym, movie theatre… (the list goes on). Keep a close eye on the Netflix lawsuit and you will quickly realize that captioning is a legal requirement.

I’m not saying you have to caption every bit of multimedia you have on the web before the end of the day today. But I am saying, you need to recognize that captioning is a requirement. Be smart and draft a captioning strategy for your organization. Consider outsourcing to a firm that specializing in transcription and captions. Prioritize your multimedia. First caption the content that is most important and that people use the most. Make it easy for people to request captioning on an item that has not been captioned yet, and be able to produce that item in a caption form in a reasonable timeframe. Make transcripts and captions a part of new multimedia production.

I promise you, that once you’ve gotten your first few videos captioned, you are going to realize, this is doable. This is not going to break your budget. And I wager, that within a few months…you will be realizing how captions are actually benefiting your business in many ways including making your multimedia searchable.

For a real eye-opener, I recommend that you watch the movie ‘Audism Unveiled‘. I know the movie had a profound impact on me. Intellectually I realized that captioning provided equal access. But I had no idea how painful the experience of discrimination against people who are deaf could be.

You can make a difference. You can caption your multimedia. You can also join the #captionTHIS social media movement and ask for equal access for all.

Today is the very first Global Accessibility Awareness Day. To be a part of this virtual event, I chose to deepen my understanding of accessibility by spending an hour using the web by keyboard alone. You see, for people with visual disabilities (that use screenreaders) they don’t have the opportunity to use a mouse. A mouse is a tool that requires sight. You have to see where the mouse arrow is pointing to know when to click.

In my work, I spend a lot of time focusing on solving accessibility issues for people with visual disabilities. So, today, the real reason why I chose to go mouseless was to get a deeper understanding of what it is like for people with mobility limitations that prevent the use of a mouse. Without the aid of a screenreader, what is it like to use the web by keyboard alone? I know that one hour is a short time, but here are the insights I gained from doing this today.

If you had been in my home office during this hour, you would have heard me exclaim:

  • What Keyboard Shortcuts?- I need to learn a lot of keyboard shortcuts. I never realized how much I rely on my mouse.
  • Get to the Point – Where is the “skip to main content” for me on this site. I have to tab 55+ times to get to the main content…every time I go to a new page in this site. Arrrrrgh!
  • Where am I ???? – Ummmm….as I tab through this page, I have no idea what element I’m on. There is no visual indication to tell me where the keyboard focus is.
  • Missing my Mouse! – 20 minutes into this keyboard only hour and I miss my mouse so much it aches.
  • Fake Skip Links – Oh, cool, there is a “skip to content” link I can get to on this site. But wait…when I click on it, it appears to scroll the page to the main content, but when I tab again, my keyboard focus is really still at the top of the page. Grrrrrrrrrr.
  • My Brain is Full! – Oh my word! The cognitive load…trying to remember all these new keyboard shortcuts is taxing. Okay, so the shortcuts have always been there…but they are new to me.
  • Out of Control - I wonder if I can access a specific video that I’ve been meaning to watch. (Navigate to site) Oh lovely, no visual focus indicators, no skip to main content, guess I’ll begin the tab tab tab dance. After a few unsuccessful guesses at what link I’m on, I finally hit pay dirt and get the page with the video I want to watch open. Lucky for me, the video is set to autoplay (which I usually detest). Why was that lucky? Because the controls for this particular video player are not keyboard accessible. That is right, I can’t stop the video, I can’t pause the video. I can’t adjust volume or turn on captions.
  • Are We There Yet? – Okay, hour is almost up. My manta is…”I will not use my mouse. I will not use my mouse!
  • A Web Site that Works! - I head to a financial site where I am a customer. I wonder what this will be like. I’m not very hopeful. Surprise, this .com web team has obviously done their homework. I login and navigate with relative ease and am able to accomplish everything I set out to do.
  • EasyChirp – One last experience to praise…I had never personally used EasyChirp until tonight. I must say it was a dream to use in my state of mouselessness.

So what did I learn tonight in my hour sans mouse? A gained a greater appreciation for the web accessibility barriers that remain for people with mobility issues. No matter how much I know about how to test for accessibility issues across the different types of official disabilities (sight, hearing, mobility, cognitive, speech)…I can always increase my knowledge and empathy of inaccessible experiences. I can honestly say that this was an hour well spent.

If you are reading this and you didn’t have a chance to participate in the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day, don’t fret, you can make any day your personal Accessibility Awareness Day. I encourage you to take a moment (perhaps 15 – 30 minutes) and try one of these activities:

  • Go Mouseless – As best you can, try to use the web without your keyboard. If you’ve never gone mouseless…don’t feel bad if you need to cheat a little. Just remember, every time you cheat (and use your mouse)…there are people who don’t have that choice.
  • Low Vision – Lower the brightness on your computer and/or decrease your screen resolution to something quite small like 800 x 600. Realize that people with low vision use software that magnifies their screens up to 36 times. Using a screen magnifier reminds me of trying to use a web browser on a small mobile device.
  • Head over to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day Site to see other ideas for how you can experience accessibility first hand.

Mark May 9 on your calendar for the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

Purpose: Get people talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility and users with different disabilities, especially among the design, development, usability, and related communities who build, shape, fund and influence technology use and change. While people may be interested in the topic, the reality is that they often do not know how or where to start. Awareness comes first.

What Can I Do? Experience Accessibility First Hand – On May 9 we encourage everyone to take part in activities to experience first-hand what it is like to need accessibility features when using different technology. Ideas include:

  • Unplugging the mouse for an hour and using the keyboard alone
  • Turning on mobile device’s accessibility features and surfing the web or using favorite mobile apps.

What’s Next? Ideas and resources are on our website. After spending an hour exploring and experiencing, we invite people to reflect and share what happened using their blog, Twitter, or other social media. We will have blog space for those of you who do not have one. In addition, join us on May 9 for a public introductory talk on digital accessibility or a networking event planned in cities in Australia, Canada, India, The United Kingdom, and the United States.

Want to know more? You will find full details on the Global Accessibility Awareness Day website (in English only this year). Show your support for the effort and stay up to date by Liking and sharing the Global Accessibility Awareness event’s Facebook page Follow @gbla11yday on Twitter and tweet using the #gaad hashtag.

You can start helping right now! Share information about the May 9 Global Accessibility Awareness Day with your family, friends and colleagues.

Want to do something meaningful for the holidays? How about sending an email to an inaccessible web site, asking them to make their site accessible? I just did it, myself! If you want to do this too, head to the great list just published over at WebAim of Accessibility Errors Found on the Alexa Top 100 Web Sites.

I picked a site, pulled it up in my browser, and found their customer service email form. Then I sent the message below (this is a generic version in case you want to copy and use it yourself):

Dear FOO.COM.

I noticed that your website has accessibility errors (it is not accessible to people with disabilities). This is a U.S. Federal requirement. Other organizations, like Target, have been sued for this. Your web site appears on a recently published list where everyone can see that your home page has at least XX accessibility errors. http://webaim.org/blog/alexa-100-accessibility-errors/

Most of these errors are quite simple to fix. I bet your web staff already knows how to fix them.

Could you please fix these issues, so that the FOO.COM website can be accessible to everyone?

Thanks so much,

You know, that felt so good, I think I’ll send another one (or two, or three).

Happy Holiday’s Y’all!

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