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Tag: W3C

Top Accessible WordPress themes

This assessment is very simplistic and constitutes a basic preliminary review. It is not comprehensive nor exhaustive.

I chose themes from the Free Theme Directory and searched for Web Accessible and Accessibility. I narrowed my selection by considering which theme would be easily customizable, have good contrast between foreground and background, have elements in a convenient location and be aesthetically pleasing as is.

I then used the plugin Demo Data Creator to generate more content for posts, pages, comments and categories.

The following themes made the cut:

Precious version 4.0.1
At first glance the layout is pretty simple and effective. Convenient breadcrumb on top of page. Upon disabling the style sheets, nothing is out of order. Validates for XHTML 1.0 Transitional and CSS2.

Stardust version 2.7
Very stylish out of the box with flexible width. Has “Skip to content” and “Skip to menu” without CSS. By disabling the images, the date for each post is too dark. Validates for XHTML 1.0 Strict, but not in CSS with 6 CSS2 errors.

Whitepress version 1.1.7
This theme includes a skip to content, navigation and search form when disabling CSS. Has a nice javascript for going through the sidebar items, but also works when javascript is disabled. Uses fixed width for 1024×768 resolution. Validates for XHTML 1.0 Strict, but not in CSS with 1 CSS2 error.

Dodo version 1.2.1
This theme is what this website is based on. The color of the posts date and other meta information is also too light. By disabling the images, the text of the main menu has not enough contrast with its background. With a little tweek here and there, it’s really nice. Fails to validate with XHTML 1.0 Strict with 1 error, but passes CSS2.

Precious and Stardust passed the Firefox Accessibility Extension 1.5.61.0 rule set with only warnings signaled .The themes Whitepress (2 Fails) and Dodo (1 Fail) did not pass.

For validation, I used Markup Validation Service and The W3C CSS Validation Service.

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W3C has a new look!

The new and beautified World Wide Web Consortium website is proof that it can be done. Those of us that visit that site regularly know how extensive the site is and a task this big is daunting. Nevertheless, the improvement is welcomed.

Things to notice:

  • It’s scalable width size,
  • More breathable (meaning that there’s less content on the page therefore it’s easier to read),
  • Colours work well together,
  • Changeable views for desktop, mobile and print,
  • The skip link to jump to the main content.

Congrats!

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Pretty and accessible design

It is more and more apparent that accessibility can be beautiful. I came across Accessibility in Focus, a website for an accessible web award.

There was 4 finalist, one of them was the Salford City Council. A fairly large website. Its navigation is straightforward even if at first glance the site looks overwhelming. This site is proof that the size of a website is no excuse for accessibility.

The interactive award winner uses Flash. Although Orange Project conforms to the lowest priority level of the W3C WAI standards, I still think that Flash has a long way to go. While considering the site’s probable target audience, the design is a very successful one.

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Reviewing an authoring tool

I was going to do an evaluation of an authoring tool, but the WAI have thought of it already at www.w3.org/WAI/AU/2002/tools.

I found that the reviews were all a little outdated and I didn’t get a definite conclusion from any review. So I finally decided to go ahead and check out an authoring tool myself. I went for the markup editor developed in collaboration with the W3C, Amaya. It’s a WYSIWYG editor/browser. Many distributions are available. I will be looking at the Windows one.

I opened an existing file that I know is made to standard and it came out all distorted. I then created a page from scratch. I must admit that I’m not used to any kind of authoring tool. I have been using Notepad++ for a while. So it was a little strange. At first it took me some time to get used to the application itself, but after a while of playing with it, it was fairly simple to use. I did a trivial page with a menu, an unordered list, a form and an image.
Page done with Amaya

Page done with authoring tool Amaya
Page done with authoring tool Amaya

Formatting done to some text resulted in inlining style, there were extra open and close paragraphs, inserting the image required to enter an alternative text, and as for the other elements they were pretty intuitive.

It’s clear that you still need to know some basic concepts in web standards to make any web page complaint or accessible. This tool might be good for someone just starting, but I think I’ll just stay with my simple text editor.

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Evaluating a website for accessibility

The W3C has extensive information on how to properly evaluation a sites accessibility. Here are the underlining steps to ensure that your evaluation is full-proof:

For a preliminary review, select a page that is representative of the whole site or that most people will see. Try to choose a page that has tabular data, images and scripts. And then:

  • Examine this page for alternative text,
  • Divs instead of tables for page layout,
  • Use the keyboard instead of the mouse for navigation,
  • Test with different font-sizes and screen resolutions.

The Firebug and Web Developer extensions in Firefox will make your life easier in accessing the code and disabling images and even resizing your browser size. It might be a good idea to try a screen reader, and not to mention an Web accessibility evaluation tool like AChecker. These will enhance your understanding of the sites limitations and successes.

Another important part of evaluating a site is to get people with disabilities involved in the process. Some may have insights that other users will not.

For a complete procedure of website evaluation you have to go to the W3C – Web Accessibility Initiative page.

Although a little outdated, the WAI also provides a comprehensive checklist of accessibility guidelines (WCAG 1.0) and an useful template for the final accessibility report. They really thought of everything!

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Yet another post on Web Standards

What are web standards?

Simply put, they are a set of guidelines for web development and web designing. It represents the good practices of the profession. When I started creating websites I had no idea their were rules, but now that I know they exist and I know why I need to use them I cannot code without them. There are several sets of guidelines around the world, but the most widely known is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) web standards. Found at www.w3.org. This site is a little overwhelming for someone just starting to look into web standards, so I will attempt to provide some basic guidance and to list the most important elements.

Web standards are important because without them web accessibility is impossible. Web Standards make it easier for usability and even for code maintenance, reduce bandwidth use and increase cross-browser compatibility. Another great advantage of web standards is SEO (search engine optimization). Sure you can get all these even if you don’t follow the standards, but it will cost you.

The only disadvantage that I can think of, even if it’s not a valid reason to avoid web standards, is time. Time to learn it, time to implement the guidelines and time to test it.

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