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January 2003
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January Weblog

January 30, 2003

The W3C advanced the Voice Extensible Markup Language (VoiceXML) version 2.0 to the level of Candidate Recommendation. Many major companies appear to be contributing to and interested in this developing standard. The ability to interact using speech will be an invaluable feature for many disabled users, including those with visual impairments and decreased motor skills. This standard also keeps hearing impaired users in mind and has ways to ensure these users will have equal access to information. The W3C will accept comments and feedback on VoiceXML version 2.0 through April 10, 2003.

January 29, 2003

On January 23rd, I read an article that claimed Senator Edward Kennedy's site was Section 508 compliant. I consider that great news! I decided to check out Senator Kennedy's site to see it for myself.

I selected the low-bandwidth version of his site, figuring that was the accessible version. Unfortunately, I found out very quickly that it wasn't U.S. Section 508 compliant. I was terribly disappointed. I wrote a detailed email to the Webmaster that pointed out some areas of the site that were not accessible and why they weren't. Several days later I got an email back from them explaining that they're learning as they go on this project. They fixed some of the things I mentioned and they asked me to become an "access buddy". It sounds weird, but that means I'm available to help them make sure the site truly is accessible.

Why would I do it (and for free)? Probably because I hate hypocrisy, especially in politics. I wish other Congress people would take this kind of initiative to make their sites accessible to their entire constituency. If you know of other Congressional Web sites that are trying to become (at least) Section 508 compliant, I would love to hear about it. Please email me at <anitra at anitrapavka dot com>.

January 27, 2003

Wow! How cold is it outside? I think Hell just froze over. Not only did the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl (Go Bucs!), but now Corda Technologies claims to have made dynamic Web-based maps accessible! I didn't think this would be possible for at least another year. Their OptiMap product won't be released until February 3rd, but that still beats my timeline! I'm curious to see how it's implemented.

January 21, 2003

Lots of good things are happening! I was offered the role of Accessibility Section editor for WOW's new learning center and was invited to join the Web Standards Project (WaSP). Plus, WOW (World Organization of Webmasters) is running the first of a series of introductory level usability columns I'm writing. Top that off with the panel I was invited to speak on for the March SXSW Interactive Festival, and everything is coming up roses. Well, almost everything. I could use a better job. However, with the way the economy is, I'm happy to have what I have!

January 19, 2003

The W3C created a Timed Text Working Group (TTWG). Their goal is to "develop an XML based format used to represent streamable text synchronized with timed media like audio or video." That means, they want to use XML to do things like caption multimedia on the Web. If this standard is successfully implemented and adopted, it could mark a major advancement in making multimedia more accessible to the hearing impaired.

January 14, 2003

Web accessibility news has been slow recently, but I just found the neatest tool! The Colorblind Web Page Filter lets you enter a URL, select a colorblindness filter, and then creates a preview of how that page would look to someone with that type of colorblindness. This is awesome for quick evaluations. The two different red/green colorblindness filters and the grayscale filter are the most important ones to preview. (Red/green colorblindness is the most common form of colorblindness.) This tool visually demonstrates that not the color, but the color contrast (dark versus light shades) is what matters most if you want to create colorblind-friendly graphics and Web pages.

January 10, 2003

Yesterday, the W3C released its Document Object Model (DOM) Level 2 HTML Specification as an official W3C recommendation. What's most interesting about the release is that multiple staff members at the W3C (including at least one who worked on the DOM specification) recommend Web developers use minimal scripting on Web pages. They point out that scripts tend to be less accessible and more inefficient than other technology specifications the W3C is currently developing. I just wish the W3C would hurry up and finish the new specifications so we can start convincing vendors and developers to adopt them!

January 6, 2003

The article, "Accessible Web Pages: Advice for Educators" provides general Web accessibility resources. However, instead of using Bobby to judge Web page accessibility, I recommend using A-Prompt. It isn't Web-based, but it provides plenty of useful feedback and information. You can compare your pages to the Section 508 guidelines, the different levels of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or a customized combination of both guidelines. A-Prompt even provides options to automatically insert or change markup in your HTML pages to make the pages more accessible.

January 2, 2003

The U.S. government extended a Section 508 exemption for small purchases (under $2,500) until October 1, 2004. The previous deadline was Dec. 31, 2002. They hope that by then vendors will advertise and guarantee Section 508 compliance for their products so that government procurement officers or other government personnel will not have to independently test and assure compliance of products for incidental purchases. This is a further indicator that the government is trying to push the responsibility of compliance onto private companies.

Yesterday was considered the 20th anniversary of the Internet. Happy Birthday, Net!