An accessible web

Target settles lawsuit with advocates for blind

Target Corp. will revamp its Web site to make it more accessible for the blind and pay $6 million in damages to plaintiffs who joined a class action lawsuit against the retailer, under a settlement announced yesterday with the National Federation of the Blind.

Virginia Tech Tries ‘Compliance Sheriff’ To Improve Web Site Accessibility

Virginia Tech has selected HiSoftware’s Compliance Sheriff to address management of its Web site accessibility. Compliance Sheriff is a browser-based service that crawls a Web site and compares pages against a user-defined set of criteria. The tool will compare the school’s site against world-wide accessibility guidelines such as the federally-defined Section 508, which addresses how technology should be designed to enable its use by people with physical impairments, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0/2.0, from the World Wide Web Consortium, which address Web content and mobile Web applications.

Multimedia/Flash Screenreader Tango

Screenreaders don’t like flash, and I’ve invested huge amounts of time to try and satisfy the requirements of a flash (SlideshowPro) feature spot being “cool” and compliant at the same time. It ain’t easy folks. And there are quite a few universities deploying homepage flash content that isn’t accessible. And you know who you are.

WebAnywhere

WebAnywhere provides access to the web from any machine with a modern web browser and some way to play audio. It is useful for web developers who would like to check their pages for accessibility and for blind web users using a computer where no other screen reader is available.

Screen Reader + Website Accessibility

I remember the first time I closed my eyes, put on a pair of headphones and browsed the web using a screen reader. It was extremely challenging. Images without ALT attributes, Flash objects, and poorly coded websites left me feeling extremely frustrated and gave me even more empathy for web users with visual impairments. I think all website designers/coders should experience what it’s like to browse the web using a screen reader. This video shows Aaron Cannon, blind since birth, browsing a website using a screen reader.

University of Michigan + Ableism

University of Michigan
The University of Michigan‘s Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is apparently in violation of the American’s with Disabilities Act. A letter sent to the University of Michigan by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) (6MB PDF) informed the university that three complaints had been filed alleging that the stadium is “not accessible to or usable by individuals with mobility impairments.” The OCR determined that the University of Michigan was in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

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Accessibility + Google

via the Official Google Blog:

  • Web Search: Result pages include headers to delineate logical sections.
  • Accessible Search: Promotes results that are accessible.
  • Book Search: Full-text access to public-domain works.
  • Gmail: A simple yet functional HTML mode that works well with screenreaders.
  • Gmail Mobile: A lightweight user interface that is also speech-friendly.
  • Google Maps: Easy-to-use textual directions.
  • Calendar: A functional, yet speech-friendly user interface.
  • Audio Captchas: All services that use Google Accounts provide an audio alternative for the visual challenge-response tests that are used to distinguish humans from machines.
  • Mobile Transcoder: A mobile lens for viewing the web that produces accessible views.
  • Google Video: Allows uploaded videos to contain captions/subtitles in multiple languages for viewers who are hearing-impaired or unfamiliar with the original language.
  • Google Talk: IM clients inside a web browser can pose accessibility challenges, but the use of the open Jabber API means that Google users can choose from a variety of Jabber clients, many of which work well with adaptive technologies.
  • Web APIs: Many Google services offer high-level web APIs that aid in authoring mashups; this provides a means for creating highly customized accessible views.
  • 1-800-GOOG-411: Here’s an exception to the rule that we deliver most things through a web browser. Our experimental Voice Local Search service lets anyone who can speak into a phone search for a local business by name or category; get connected to the business free of charge; get the details by SMS if you’re using a mobile phone. (Just say “text message”.)

Blackboard Community System

Blackboard Community System

Blackboard had an amazing booth at the NASPA/ACPA Joint Meeting in Orlando. It was the size of small house and it looked like one too! Inside their mini-mansion, the folks from Blackboard were demoing their portal solution, the Blackboard Community System.

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The University of Tennessee Website

The University of Tennessee website redesign screenshot

The University of Tennessee recently re-designed their primary web pages. The new page design is very accessible, user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing and it’s optimized for search engines. Pages were coded using standards-based design techniques. Their use of cascading style sheets to “style” the homepage is gorgeous and accessible for users with visual impairments. Kudos to the University of Tennessee and the Office of Creative Services! They have truly created a “web 2.0” university website.

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World Usability Day

From the Official Google Blog:

World Usability Day, November 14, 2006, is for everyone who’s ever asked these questions. This Earth Day style event, focused on raising awareness and visibility of usability engineering and user centered design, is currently being organized by volunteers and local event coordinators from around the world. Whether a usability professional or just an enthusiastic (or frustrated) user, each participant is making a contribution to “making life easy”.

Check out the worldwide usability events map as well as the usability webcasts schedule.

Accessibility

Giving presentations on web usability and web accessibility at conferences and workshops: 9

Talking about web standards and web accessibility at meetings: 1,476

Adding ALT attributes to images and testing Flash to see if it really can be compatible with screenreaders: 2,322+

Working on websites to ensure that they are accessible for all users: 11

Hearing my colleagues mention web accessibility, Section 508, and web standards before I do: Priceless.

OSU SEO and Google

Here’s an article from the Portland Business Journal about some of the work that I have been involved with during my OSU graduate assistantship. The nice thing about search engine optimization is that you increase your page rank while also increasing your site’s accessibility. I think this article will drive a few more visitors to the OSU Admissions Blog.

http://portland.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2006/04/17/story5.html

OSU finds road to success goes through Google
The Portland Business Journal – April 14, 2006 by Aliza Earnshaw, Business Journal staff writer

In an effort to reach prospective students where they spend much of their time Oregon State University has revamped its marketing efforts, employing techniques familiar to the business world.

By redesigning some of its Web pages so they appear higher in Internet search results, and paying other Web sites for links back to OSU’s site, the university hopes to make itself more visible to prospective undergraduate and graduate students, as well as drawing more out-of-state and international applicants.

Both search engine optimization and pay-per-click are familiar tools for businesses looking to increase their online visibility.

These tools and techniques are much less commonly used, however, in the world of higher education, except among for-profit institutions.

OSU is in the vanguard of public institutions adopting these Internet marketing techniques, said Kent Lewis, president of Anvil Marketing Inc., a Portland search-engine optimization firm that has been consulting with OSU on its Web site overhaul and marketing campaign.

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