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October 2002
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October Weblog

October 24, 2002

In case you were wondering or worried, the Access Board reassured everyone that the recent ruling against the ADA's applicability to the Web doesn't affect U.S. Section 508 Web requirements. Section 508 remains unchanged.

October 21, 2002

The ADA's applicability to the Web is definitely headed to the supreme court. One Federal judge ruled that an inaccessible Web site violated the ADA. The Atlanta mass transit agency's inaccessible MARTA Web site was found in violation of the ADA. However, on Friday another Federal Judge Ruled that ADA doesn't cover the Web, in regard to the case against Southwest Airline's Web site. Let's watch the courts and see what the final decision will be.

October 17, 2002

The W3C released their User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 as a Proposed Recommendation. You may send comments to the W3C about it until November 14, 2002. The related Techniques for User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 working draft was updated, too. published several good articles recently that relate to accessibility and usability. The article, "Making Do", emphasizes the difference between compliance with accessibility standards and genuinely improving the usability of sites. (There can be a huge difference between just complying with guidelines and making sites more usable for all users.) Unfortunately, most government organizations (on the Federal, state, and local levels) don't have the staff or resources to take this extra step.

The article, "The best testing approach", highlights the importance of usability testing. Whether you have in-house expertise and conduct the tests yourself or out-source it, have users test your sites and Web-based applications. Test early, test often. It's amazing what you can find out from usability testing. It can forever change the way you think about and build Web sites.

October 15, 2002

Slashdot has a review of the book, Constructing Accessible Web Sites. This book examines various facets of Web accessibility. It focuses on how to make sites accessible, assistive technology, and legal issues. I personally own and have read this book. I heartily recommend it. My favorite chapter is the one that discusses accessibility features added to Flash MX. If you're not familiar with this version of Flash, reading about the accessibility efforts and advances will be quite an eye-opener. Flash has come a long way. I applaud Macromedia's work, but Flash still has a way to go until it's as universally accessible as HTML.

October 14, 2002

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox current column is entitled "Making Flash Usable for Users With Disabilities". He provides general recommendations on improving the usability of accessible Flash sites. These tips come from a report based on preliminary test results of a few sites. The Nielsen Norman Group will conduct a larger study during mid 2003 when (hopefully) there will be more Flash sites that take advantage of the accessibility capabilities of Flash.

October 11, 2002

Wired News redesigned their site with XHTML and CSS! The markup doesn't validate, but don't hold it against them. Partly, the invalid markup seems to come from ads generated by other companies that get inserted into their pages. I'm not sure, but invalid markup may also be there to appease older graphical browsers, like Netscape 4. These aren't big issues. What matters is that a large, established, high-traffic Web site embraced better, newer standards. This switch will make it easier for them to make site-wide changes and improves their site's accessibility. One cool feature is the way they let users select the text size by clicking on a link that serves a different CSS to change the font size. I've seen this type of feature before, but I like the way they handled it.

October 10, 2002

The state of North Carolina passed a law that requires information technology be accessible. It covers all state municipalities, counties, community colleges, universities, agencies, and contractors creating deliverables or providing a service for these entities. Some other states already have similar laws. States without these laws are still required to comply with the U.S. Section 508 guidelines if they receive funds from the Assistive Technology Act of 1998.

Lasting link for 10-10-02

October 7, 2002

A blind user is suing Southwest and American Airlines over Southwest's inaccessible Web site. The lawsuit was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. While this legal tactic was used a few times in the past, the cases got settled out of court. The ADA's applicability to the Web has not been tested in court yet. The case seems to hinge on whether a Web site can be considered a "public accommodation" covered by the ADA. Should this go to trial, the outcome will set a major legal precedent. This case is definitely worth following.

October 6, 2002

The W3C released an updated working draft of the XML Accessibility Guidelines. Feel free to submit comments to the W3C.

October 4, 2002

The official U.S. Section 508 Web site provides details about the GSA's Assistive Technology Showcase. While the showcase is geared towards Federal employees, anyone may check out their Web overview of various assistive technology devices. Never seen a refreshable Braille display? This is the place to check out pictures of it and other devices.

October 3, 2002

October is National Disability Awareness Month. The theme for this year is "New Freedom for the 21st Century". The focus in on the impact that U.S. Section 508 has made on the Web accessibility initiative and the importance of making IT accessible.

October 1, 2002 has an excellent short tutorial on Building Accessible Tables. It focuses on how to properly mark up data tables, (not used for page layout). The information it provides is Web standards compliant and will work well for simple data tables, (tables without multiple levels of headings or rowspans.)