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Month: May 2009

Podcast Three – My four golden rules


Transcript of the podcast:

[Intro music] Welcome to podcast three of Thinking Accessible. On today’s podcast, I will talk to you about my four golden rules for web accessibility.

Rule number 1:

Provide alternative text for non-textual content. What do it mean by this? Images are non-textual content. Audio and video are non-textual content. So for each of these elements you need to provide a text alternative. So for images in the HTML code you have to write an alternative tag to it. So in the tag of IMG for image you have to add ALT. for alternative text and here you would put basically a general idea of what the image represents.For audio feed, like for example this podcast, it would be nice to put a transcript of the audio because some people might not be able to hear it. And for video, you should put obviously captions for all the text (speech) in the video. Sure these are not easy to do, there are time consuming, but in the end it is good, for one, the person that cannot hear or see you media and also for search engines, because they will actually have the textual reference for these medias. So it’s a win, win situation.

Rule number 2:

Make it simple and consistent. Making your website simple will help people with cognitive impairments, elderly people and new web users that are not used to big and elaborate websites. Consistency is also important because if you have a lack of consistency your user might be confused, won’t know what’s going on with the website, might be lost. So we want to minimize this because if a user feels frustrated in your website, they are more likely to leave that website and go somewhere else. You can make your website simple by simply (sorry for this repetition) using normal vocabulary that anybody can understand. Do not be too verbose and just be clear with what you can to express. Consistency is to basically keep the same layout through out your website and you should be fine.

Rule number 3:

Colour contrast. In order to make your website legible it is important to consider colour. For example if you want to have a black background you shouldn’t really consider a colour for the text to be dark grey because this will be illegible for a lot of people. For me this rule is just for you to use common sense. I mean if you think that the colours you have chosen for the foreground and the background are not going to be legible or not easily legible by let’s say your grandmother, then don’t use them because it won’t be legible for a lot more people.

Rule number 4:

The last rule. Respect those HTML tags. Ok, so here it is. If it’s a <p> tag, then it’s a paragraph, then use it as a paragraph. If it’s a <table> tag, then use it as a table. Tables should (only) be used for tabular data, for example a data in a spreadsheet and not for layout, not for your page layout. (Use CSS instead!)

So those are my four golden rules for web accessibility. Yes, I know, there’s more to it than that, but for just a quick rundown of the essential ideas in web accessibility, these four simple rules are a major step forward.

[Exit music] Well that’s it for today’s podcast. That was podcast three for Thinking Accessible. My name is Rocío. Until next time!

Audio from ccMixter entitled “Café Connection“ by Morgantj under Creative Commons. Creative Commons by-3

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SEO or web standards?

I recently read an article in the Website Magazine on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and I was happy to see that a couple of the elements listed where directly related to web standards. Title, headers, using HTML only for content, and being clear and concise were all part of focusing on the most important thing on your site: the content.

For any starting website, content is the most important element. No matter the amount of eye-candy that your site could have, the content is what your users will come back for.Sure eye-candy is cool and with future browsers some cool features will be more accessible. But until then, keep it simple, consistent and clutter free.

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No Canadian Section 508

Ok so Canada does not have the national equivalent to the United States section 508. But if you want to know what they recommend you can read their Common Look and Feel standards for the Internet documentation. Obviously the information is for government and public sector websites, but it could be useful to get another perspective on standards and accessibility. It basically lists out the main things we need to remember for guidelines and best practices.

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Examples of assistive technologies

So I saw this story on the news by Chris Brown and was happy to learn that assistive technologies are being researched actively in Canadian Universities.  The University of Victoria has a unit named CanAssist, they develop technologies and provide services for people with disabilities. Naturally this is relevant in terms of web accessibility because a lot of these devices interact with computers. I encourage you to read their technology showcase as it describes the uses of these technologies by people with different types of disabilities. For example, instead of using a mouse for navigation, it is possible to use one’s mouth. And as the news piece revealed, the team of researchers have created a device that detects the movement of the pupils and allows the cursor to move accordingly. Pretty ingenious!

It is obvious that these researchers and developers are not waiting for websites to get their act together in terms of web accessibility, but it just proves that this demographic has the possibility to access the world wide web. We can all make it a little bit easier for researchers to make these products more effective by implementing WCAG.

Watch the video entitled “Communication Research” at the CBC. Unfortunately, this video has no caption and thus not accessible.

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Useful before and after demonstration

The W3C have a super neat online demonstration of visually representing web accessibility. The inaccessible pages have several “barriers”, key elements that make the page inhospitable. For example, the before home page demonstrates a lack of alternative text for each image, an inconsistency in the content order, a negligence with headings and lists, an inaccuracy with link texts and font sizes.

Even by visually comparing both inaccessible and accessible pages you can see the subtle, yet important, differences. I suggest to examine one page at a time. Carefully look at the before and after of the home page, then read the “accessible barriers”. When you understand the “barriers” then go on to the next page.

If you want to see how to go from a non-compliant site to an accessible one, you need to read this document, the before and after demo at:

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Podcast Two – Web Accessibility


Transcript of the podcast:

[Intro music] Welcome to podcast two of Thinking Accessible. On today’s podcast I will briefly talk to you about web accessibility.

The first thing I want to say about web accessibility is don’t assume that people with disabilities don’t use the Internet. (or that they won’t want to access your site.) Because they actually do use the Internet in different ways and in different capacities. Now since people with visual, auditive and some physical impairments use the Internet, then naturally you would want them to access your information. You would want the maximum amount of people to have access to your content and therefore it makes sense to not alienate any big percentage of the users, right? Right! This said the first step in doing this is by following the basic guidelines of web standards. I will be talking about several topics relating to web accessibility through this podcast. You can also check out more content at my blog at

I hope you can join me as I attempt to make accessibility concepts as easy to understand as possible for novice web developers and the veterans.

To start of, I would like to comment on IE6 and designing for IE6. Although IE6 is a dying browser, a lot of websites still use it and we still, as developers, have to consider the approximately 16% of users that still use IE6 (as their primary browser). Unfortunately IE6, the reason why it is not a friendly for developers is that it’s not developed considering web standards. I personally have had nightmares due to IE6 because of the layout. When I design (a website) I use Firefox as my primary browser, but usually when I go to check on IE6 (and even IE7) , the layout is off.

But if your site is accessible, then you don’t need to really worry about IE6 too much, because at least your content is there. It’s visible and accessible to everybody. Sure it’s not pretty, but at least you can now start hacking it for IE6 and IE7. By hacking, I’m referring to the comments in the (HTML) code specifically made to detect Internet Explorer.

The latest browser from Microsoft is IE8. You won’t have the same problems as in previous browsers because it has changed to respect web standards. Now that’s a relief!

[Exit music] That’s about all I wanted to talk about today. Until next time! This is Rocío for Thinking Accessible.

Audio from ccMixter entitled “Café Connection“ by Morgantj under Creative Commons. Creative Commons by-3

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More than just for people with disabilities

Sure accessibility guidelines are designed to help people with disabilities access the web, but it extends to more than just them. I am talking about the elderly, people with low literacy or little fluency in the language the site is made, people that have dial-up or a low bandwidth connection, and even new or infrequent web users.

Let me illustrate exactly how web accessibility will improve the user experience:

  • Elderly people might have a deteriorating eyesight and will need to make the text bigger. So avoid having fixed font size.
  • Low literacy or little fluency in a language can ultimately alienate the user if the there’s too many words or if the text is too complex. Obviously you have to consider your target audience, but this is still worth considering as low literacy can be improved over time.
  • Believe it or not, some users still have dial-up and low bandwidth is still a norm in most developing countries so it only makes sense to minimize your site’s size by separating content and layout, provide alternatives to images or non-textual content (some users might want to turn off the images) and make sure that if your CSS is turned off that your content is still ordered in a logical way.
  • Having a consistent structure and a clear navigation throughout your site will make it easier for anyone, including first timers, to find their way around your site.  A good way to improve usability is to have a site plan, especially for larger sites.

So you see that web accessibility is for a lot of different people. Including them will certainly not hurt.

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How People with Disabilities Use the Web

Accessibility guidelines are primarily developed for people with either visual, hearing or physical impairments and disabilities. Here are basic descriptions of some ways people with disabilities use the internet:

  • People with visual impairments might use a screen reader. This is a software that will read out loud the text of the web page. They might also use a text browser and need to make the text bigger. Just think about the elderly that have weaker eyesight.
  • People that have hearing impairments won’t be able to hear music or audio.  Captions or transcripts are the only ways to not alienate them.
  • People with physical disabilities like reduced motor skills use assistive technologies to help them navigate through the site.
  • We also need to keep in mind people with cognitive disabilities. They’ll need simple language and consistency throughout the website. This is also valid for first time web users.

There’s lots more to consider, for more read: W3C’s document on how people with disabilities use the web.

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Web Accessibility in Canada

As far as I know, web accessibility in Canada is up to each province to legislate.  There are several attempt to make websites accessible in government and educational institutions. Most if not all government websites in Canada are now accessible. But unfortunately, there are no laws to ensure that accessibility guidelines are respected.

A special notice should be given to W3Québec. An organization dedicated to promote web accessibility across Québec. Another organization is Accéssibilité Web that have done substantial studies on the matter and have translated WCAG 2.0 in French.

Unlike the US, the Canadian government has yet to make an official law like Section 508. There’s still a ways to get people on board.

If you want to read more on this, check out:

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Podcast One – Web Standards

Thinking Accessible Podcast


[Intro Music] Welcome to the first podcast of Thinking Accessible. My name is Rocío Alvarado and on today’s podcast I will talk to you about web standards.

Web Standards are a set of guidelines developed by a group of people a while back to ensure consistency within the HTML code and CSS. There are several web standards out there, but the most wide spread is the World Wide Web Consortium that you can find at So these guidelines, when you go to their website they can be a little overwhelming because of their writing and the way they display things, but they are pretty straightforward and are proven to be advantageous in many regards. Notably for your maintenance of your code. So because the code is consistent any HTML coder can take up where you left off. And because there is a clear separation between layout and content. Basically, your content is your HTML code and your layout would be integrated into your CSS. Then it becomes much easier to look at things and to decipher what is what. There’s also an increase of navigation for your user. Navigation means going through your page without getting lost or your code be what it’s intended to be. For example, when it’s a paragraph you should put the <p> tag, when it’s a list you should put the <li> tag, sorry the <ul> and the <li> tags because it’s what it is, it’s a list.

Basically what web standards are, are good practices for HTML and CSS. It’s just as simple as that. You are a professional and you should follow the standards. That’s as clear as it can be.

It has also been proven to be very effective in terms of search engine optimization. Have you ever heard the term SEO? This is related obviously to Google and Google likes web standards because it’s structured and they know where to find the headers and the different parts of your pages which they are keen to look for, so it’s not just about your meta-tags.

[Exit Music] To learn more please check out my blog at where I also have listed some useful links. Bye for now!

Audio from ccMixter entitled “Café Connection” by Morgantj under Creative Commons.Creative Commons

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