web standards

I’m often asked to create the business case for building accessibility in to your web process. Most organizations are very responsive when I explain the benefits of universal design, the crossover between accessibility and usability, as well as accessibility and mobile design. By the time I explain the search engine optimization benefits, they are often salivating and ready to commit to accessibility. But, what happens when I’m working with a company that is inaccessible but already has decent SEO? I remind them that the litigation risks are real and the cost of retrofitting for accessibility is significantly higher than designing with accessibility in mind from the beginning. The thoughts I want etched into their minds are:

  1. Not Creating an Accessibile Web Site Today is Like Consciously Deciding to Not Pay Your Taxes – the penalties when you get caught (and you will get caught) will be far greater than the cost of building accessibility into your design in the first place. Penalties include:
    • Legal fees
    • Legal fines and/or settlement payments
    • Employee time spent responding to lawsuit information requests
    • Cost of retrofitting accessibility into your site
    • Brand damage
  2. Design with Accessibility in Mind – it is a fact that building accessibility in at the beginning of the design process is far more cost effective than retrofitting for accessibility. Accessibility experts estimate that the cost of developing sites that meet WCAG 2.0 AA increases development costs by the following:
    • 1% to 3% on simple sites built with html and css (and little to no javascript)
    • 3% to 6% on intermediate sites built with html, css and an intermediate level of javascript
    • 6% to 10% on heavy javascript sites or flash sites

    Compare these costs to the retrofitting costs which consistently come in as 2 to 3 times more. So, for a simple site, retrofitting will cost (1% to 3%) * 2 {if you are lucky} or (1% to 3%) * 3. Pay a little now, or pay a lot later.

  3. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed on July 26, 1990 – more than 20 years ago the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became the first-ever civil rights law for people with disabilities. It is wrong to deny equal access to the web (a place of public accommodation). When you consciously choose to have an inaccessible web presence, you are guilty of discrimination.

Year ago people stood up for my right to vote as a woman. Today, I have the opportunity to help create a barrier free web so that all people, regardless of abilities, can have equal access.

All for Web! Web for All!

Today I read very powerful words about the right for everyone to have equal access to education from the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. If you are in edu, do all your students, regardless of disabilities, have equal access to course content? See what the Office of Civil Rights has to say:

All school operations are subject to the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 and the ADA. Thus, all faculty and staff must comply with these requirements.

Section 504 and the ADA require that covered entities designate at least one person to coordinate their compliance efforts, and that they adopt and publish grievance procedures to resolve complaints of noncompliance. In addition, postsecondary schools often designate certain staff or offices (sometimes referred to as disability student-services offices) to assist students with disabilities.

The law applies to all faculty and staff, not just a Section 504 or ADA coordinator or staff members designated to assist students with disabilities. All faculty and staff must comply with the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 and the ADA in their professional interactions with students, because these interactions are part of the operations of the school. So, for example, if an adjunct faculty member denies a student who is blind an equal opportunity to participate in a course by assigning inaccessible course content, the school can be held legally responsible for the faculty member’s actions. Therefore, schools should provide, and faculty and staff should participate in, professional development about accessibility and emerging technology, and about the role of faculty and staff in helping the school to comply with disability discrimination laws.

Source: OCR FAQ on eBooks

I am a minimalist. I believe that simple solutions are better. So, when it comes to tabindex, I rarely invite “him” to the accessibility party. Why? Because if you will just write the source code in the same order you need the items for the visual presentation, then tabindex is not necessary. But there are two decent reasons for using tabindex.

  • tabindex = “0” to add something that is not a link or a form field to the tab order.
  • tabindex = “-1” to keep something out of the default tab order, but make it focusable using the javascript focus(). Remember to use progressive enhancement.

When you specify the tab index on visible elements, remember the following:

  • Elements with tabIndex=0 are ordered based on the source
  • Any element with tabIndex>0 appears before all elements with tabIndex=0
  • Any elements with the same tabIndex are ordered based on the source order

These features work in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Chrome, but they are undocumented. So, always play it safe. Build the core functionality in with pure HTML. Add CSS to enhance the presentation. Add javascript to enhance the experience. Have your source code order match the visual presentation order (after CSS is applied). Remember that all form fields and links are automatically in the tab order (so tabindex is redundant on these elements if you just have good source code order). When in doubt, leave tabindex out!

I’m excited to be part of a group of experts contributing to a research project by Nirmita Narasimhan on web site accessibility evaluation methods. Contributors to this research project include:

To get the conversation started, Nirmita invited us all to participate on the “Web Sites Accessibility Evaluation Methodologies” panel at www2011 in Hyderabad, India on March 30, 2011. It was fascinating to hear how my colleagues test for accessibility as well as what tools and methodologies they use. I was pleased to discover how our experiences were quite similar as we each faced the daunting challenge of testing the accessibility of huge enterprise or government web sites. We all agreed on the need for balance between manual testing, hands-on usability testing with people who have disabilities and testing using automated tools.

I really resonated with a number of Srinivasu Chakravarthula’s philosophies including his wise advice to hold manual testing until after pages pass automated testing. Shawn Lawton Henry‘s book “Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design” was mentioned multiple times by the panel as an excellent resource.

I shared my experience of creating a culture of accessibility at the University of Texas at Austin using practical testing methods over the past decade. Watch the video of my portion of the presentation and learn how you can equip yourself with free and powerful testing tools. Learn my secrets on how to turn it up a notch when you need to monitor accessibility across a vast enterprise.

Practical Accessibility Testing – a presentation by Glenda Sims of Deque at www2011 in Hyderabad, India, on March 30, 2011. Includes demo of the free accessibility testing tool, FireEyes, a plugin for Firebug in Firefox.

I love to share my passion for the open web by showing people the tools I use to test web sites for accessibility. Whether you are .com, .edu or .gov, accessibility applies to you. Don’t be surprised by inaccessible issues on your site. It doesn’t take but a moment to look in the mirror and see that indeed you have a problem. On Friday, February 18, 2011, I’ll be presenting on “Practical Accessibility Testing” at Webstock in Wellington, New Zealand.

Practical Accessibility Testing

How do you know if your web site is accessible? Can automated testing tools help? Glenda will share gems from her 10+ years of experience testing sites for accessibility. Equip yourself with free and powerful testing tools. Learn how to turn it up a notch when you need to monitor accessibility across a vast enterprise. See some of the very latest testing tools that will help you evaluate color contrast, dynamic content and WAI-ARIA compliance.

If you don’t have the good fortune to attend Webstock, you can watch all the Webstock presentations online. Just another bit of evidence that Webstock is the mostest bestest scientifically proven amazingest conference ever. In the history of the world. Fact.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

I am surrounded by women in technology that inspire me. When I paused to consider who to recognize as my Ada for 2010, I knew without a doubt, it was Leslie Jensen-Inman. Leslie’s developing a model web education program at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Her students, steeped in web standards and best practices, are already producing professional level work before they graduate. I’ve met and worked side-by-side with a number of her students and can testify that Leslie’s passion for creating beautiful and usable web sites has been ignited in each of them.

Leslie’s desire to teach the web doesn’t stop with her students. She actively reaches out to educators, community leaders, business people and web developers. Leslie orchestrated the first in a series of fabulous events called Web Education Rocks (aka WE Rock Tour). This event brought together teachers, students, artists, web developers, politicians, entrepreneurs and business leaders who all benefit from an open web. The event helped everyone understand that the future of the web is built on today’s web education. It was a magical evening of inspiration, connecting and sharing of valuable web education curriculum resources (WaSP InterACT Curriculum Framework). And the WE Rock Tour didn’t end there…it continued in Australia and is booking dates in Europe and the US for 2010.

I cannot possibly express how inspired I have been by Leslie’s vision, energy and boundless optimism. Working with her is deeply satisfying and re-energizing. But don’t just take my word for it. Join us in the great adventure to further Web Education!

AccessU is Knowbility’s annual institute that provides two days of classes in how to make electronic information technology accessible to everyone – including people with disabilities. If you believe that the web should empower ALL people, if you need information about how to meet state and federal accessibility mandates, if you are a commercial web developer who wants to understand emerging best business practices for the web, AccessU is the place to be in May.

Join world renowned accessibility experts for two days of classes, many of them hands-on, to help you improve your skills and understand the both the need and the techniques for inclusive IT design. From the basics to the bleeding edge, AccessU will provide the resources you need.

Who Should Attend Access U

Web developers, IT Managers, policy developers, administrators, programmers and anyone else with IT responsibilities in your company

Register for AccessU Online Today!

How To Register For AccessU

Where: St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas
When:Monday, May 10th and Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
Optional post conference classes on Weds. May 12th, 2010

Early Bird Rates: Rates will go up $ 75 after April 1, 2010
General Registration: $425 (2 days of workshops) – or $235 per day
Usability Track $425 – two days of workshops
2 days AccessU with Post Conference: $820.00
Post Conference Only: $395

Group Rate (register 6 people or more for a 30% discount), contact Kim Leno kim@knowbility.org.

For conference information, contact

Teenya Franklin, Community Programs Director

If you want people to actually read the content on your web site, what font size should you use? How I long for a guideline for minimum font size for both usability and accessibility.

Font Size and Accessibility

The good folks at WebAIM have added an alert to the WAVE for any font rendered at 9px or below. They have observed that it becomes more difficult to read small text below 10px, particularly if you have a visual disability.

Font Size and Readability

Julia Kulla-Mader has studied the readability and legibility of fonts and posted her research at In Search of the Perfect Font. Her conclusion:

* Use an 11 to 14 point font regardless of your audience.
* Pay as much attention to font color as you pay to font size.
* Use scalable fonts.

Font Size and Usability and Aging

Clara Sibley has gathered valuable data on usability and aging. It is not surprise to see that research has shown 8-9 point font sizes (and even 10 point) are too small for the elderly.

Nayak et al (2006) examined the effect of font size and design attributes on comprehension. One hundred and five seniors ranging from 58 to 90 years of age participated in the study. Findings showed that 33% of the participants found 8-9 point font size too small with an additional 22% finding 10-point text too small.

Arc90 Readability Tool

When I’m on a destination page and really want to read it, I often reach for my Readability Bookmarklet. After clicking the magic “Readability” button, I sigh in relief and then dive into the juicy content with my eyes and my brain fully engaged.

So, when you want to read, I recommend Readability aka The Peace and Quiet Button).

What Do You Think?

If you were the god of the internet and could set a minimum font size standard (for text that is intended to be read)…what would you do?

Me…I think, if you set your rendered font size below 10 point, you really don’t want me to read it.

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