Accessible Usable Design
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August 28, 2002
I watch business news releases and have been fascinated by the alliances being forged in the name of Web accessibility. For example, since June 2002, Deque Systems, the creator of RAMP (accessibility evaluation and repair software), aimed for a partnership with Mercury Interactive. On August 21, they announced the integration of RAMP with Mercury Interactive testing software. Then, five days later, Deque Systems got a contract from the U.S. Department of Education. Mercury Interactive also advertises adding Web accessibility to their testing processes, expanding its appeal. Mercury Interactive even offers a free "Cyber" (online) Seminar about it. Section 508 means good business. Both companies benefit and so do users.
I'm interested in trying the RAMP software. Deque Systems offers a limited-feature demo version of RAMP, which I will check out. On the surface, it appears to be a more robust, pay version of the A-Prompt accessibility software. I couldn't find any prices for RAMP. That does concern me. While the Department of Education may be able to afford expensive software, smaller agencies (both state and federal) without a reasonable I.T. budget may feel left out in the cold.
August 24, 2002
The article "Federal Web sites need better accessibility" discusses a study that was based on a 2002 survey of 148 Federal Web sites. In the survey they used the Bobby tool to test the sites' accessibility. Based on these results, they claim that most Federal sites are inaccessible. Perhaps that's true, but it's hard to say since that data is not reliable. Bobby, like most automated tools, often gives false negative and false positives. That's because there are only so many automatic checks it can make. Many elements must be checked manually. Also, automated tools may not recognize certain workarounds that do, when used by a human, make the site more accessible and usable. Bobby testing is not an acceptable alternative to user testing. There was no mention in the article of real people testing the sites. What matters is how usable a site is to a real user, not what some automated tool says.
August 21, 2002
Jakob Nielsen put his "two cents' worth" into the debate about font sizes on the Web. His Alertbox entry, "Let Users Control Font Size", accuses browsers, (specifically Internet Explorer), of not being able to resize fonts well. While some good ideas are presented, Nielsen's information is incomplete, or even wrong, at points. Jeffrey Zeldman's commentary on it points out some specific flaws.
I support Nielsen's general initiative. It would be awesome if browsers would universally adopt a feature that would easily let users resize fonts, no matter how the size was specified. Too often, when I mention a browser's font sizing capability to non-Web-savvy people, I see wide-eyed looks of surprise. Until better solutions are commonly available, we need to raise awareness about what people can do with tiny text. Use your browser to increase the font size or get a different browser, like Opera, that acts more like a screen magnifier.
August 12, 2002
The Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) California will be held in San Francisco on September 21st. If you've never heard it, you should find out more about this AIR event. If it's anything like past events, it will be a great experience that benefits everyone involved.
When Bobby was acquired by Watchfire, the URL change affected links and bookmarklets.
Scott was kind enough to provide us some updated Bobby bookmarklets.
Although there's a redirect set up for now, update relevant links on your site(s) to Bobby's new URL.
August 6, 2002
The Watchfire Corporation announced today their acquisition of BobbyTM, a popular Web accessibility checker from CAST. They've already added their own branding to Bobby. It will be interesting to see how Watchfire, a private company, handles Bobby. Bobby desperately needs to be revised. Unfortunately, it often gives users a false sense that their site is accessible.