It’s been trendy for a while now to play with transparency to simulate layers, but guess what? Yeap, you know it. It’s not valid under CSS2.
Stuff like opacity: .4 -moz-opacity: .4 filter: alpha(opacity=40) for the moment out of the question. We all have to wait patiently until CSS3. Yeah you heard me CSS3. If you did’t know, CSS2 is the current cascading style sheet language recognized by most of your browsers and it’s getting a face lift. Alas, the due date is unknown at this point.
Firefox 2 and Firefox 3 let the user add plugins to the browser. There are about a million of them that you can find either on the menubar under Tools and Add-ons or at their website at addons.mozilla.org. The add-ons that any web developer must have are Firebug, to debug the code and make adjustments on the fly; Web Developer, to disable, highlight, display, outline, and validate just about anything on any web page; and a recent discovery of mine Firefox Accessibility Extension.
Although Firefox Accessibility Extension has similar features than the Web Developer add-on, it’s still pretty sweet. Not only does it give the user a toolbar, but also an extra heading on the menubar, between Tools and Help, which I personally prefer rather than having a bunch of toolbars taking up space on my browser. The greatest feature of this extension for a web developer is that you can validate your web page for accessibility. Its FAE Rule Set is based on Functional Accessibility Evaluator 1.0.1 developed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
If you have any mistakes these are listed in a window with a description of the error. Obviously there’s a learning curve where you have to know the terms that the report is referring to, nothing a little research won’t solve. These rules are very straightforward, but not exhaustive. This tools gives you a simple and fair reading of your page and this is already a very good starting point.
The article Why web standards are important in web design by Dustin Brewer is absolutely a must read. It explains quite well the fundamentals of web standards. Brewer does not only relate the topic in terms of what it represents to the designer or developer, but he also looks at the clients perspective. If this doesn’t convince you to adopt web standards, I don’t know what will.
I have been using this tool for some time now. It’s simple and straight forward. It will tell you if your colour combinations are good or not. Large and bolded text are categorized differently than smaller text. The program also tells you what priority your combination represents. Priority 3 (AAA) is the lowest level, so for all intents and purposes, this is the minimum requirements. Although the page is a little clutered for my liking, I bare it. After all it’s free!
Content management systems (CMS) have become very popular in the last 3 years or so. They usually are pretty easy to install and to upgrade, but not all of them have accessibility in mind. What often happens is that the theme designer has to make it her or his business to create a site as accessible as possible.
They explain the major challenges that people with disabilities face while using a regular CMS and give us advice on how to choose a responsible system. Most of the systems they recommend have an accessibility page stating there attempt to respect accessibility guidelines. This is valuable information that can help anyone accessing the site. Read this article before considering any CMS.
I just read Accessibility Laws In Canada by Tara Cleveland, A little dated, but really worth reading. The author writes about the legal incentive for web accessibility in Canada. According to Canadian codes, Websites should be accessible, unless, of course, the site doesn’t provide any goods or services online, post job opportunities, or have any employees that need to use the site to do their jobs. Which frankly is a big chunk of websites. So push your boss and youself to make all websites accessible.