Posts Tagged ‘accessibility’

Another interesting article, DOJ vs. UC Berkeley: Forcing Online Content to Be Accessible,  about accessibility, lawsuits, and more.

UC Berkeley is figuring out what to do next as the U.S. Department of Justice tells it to make its online audio and video content accessible.


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Free Tools Article by Emily Griffin at 3 Play Media

You don’t have to be an expert web designer to make your site accessible to users with disabilities. There are plenty of tools and resources to guide you through an inclusive web design process.

Accessibility tools included in the article are:

  1. CynthiaSays from HiSoftware
  2. WorldSpace Single Page Analysis from Deque
  3. Tenon Tester
  4. WAVE Toolbar
  5. Karl Groves’ Diagnostic.css
  6. AChecker
  7. HTML_Codesniffer
  8. Total Validator Pro
  9. WCAG Color Contrast Analyzer
  10. WCAG Contrast Checker
  11. PEAT
  12. NVDA
  13. Window-Eyes
  14. Fangs

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This article from Faculty Focus came across my desk today.  Here’s what I want to mention.  There are two major challenges to making online courses accessible – Technical Challenges and Pedagogical Challenges.  The author of the article, Emily A. Moore, says that creating an online course is more analogous to publishing an e-textbo0k than it is to teaching a traditional face-to-face class. So, here’s are some technical strategies:

  • Present instructions, handouts, and other digital texts in one of the following two formats – HTML or Tagged PDF.
  • Present content in as flat a navigational structure as possible.
  • Avoid using frames.
  • Chunk videos (and name the chunks).
  • Provide closed captioning for all videos

Here are pedagogical strategies:

  • Cut extraneous material.
  • Write clearly and succinctly.
  • Provide accessible alternatives to inaccessible materials or activities.
  • Annotate links meaningfully.
  • Avoid pronouns.
  • Uniquely identify and annotate all figures and illustrations.
  • If you use repetition, use it both deliberately and economically.

For details read the article.

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Today I came across an article from the  Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind.  The article,  Making Online Courses Accessible for All by John Christie, was brief but included several key points which are of interest to those working to make online courses accessible.

One is that faculty members who teach online have to make their materials accessible to all.

Online courses should be accessible from the beginning. Professors should not wait until a disabled student self identifies.

There is a short paragraph about a recent suit at the University of Montana. For more details on the suit see the separate article  entitled Disabled UM students file complaint over inaccessible online courses (from the Montana paper Missoulian).

The specific allegations listed:

• Inaccessible class assignments and materials on the learning management system, Moodle.

• Inaccessible live chat and discussion board functions in the learning management system, Moodle.

• Inaccessible documents that are scanned images on webpages and websites.

• Inaccessible videos, and videos in Flash format, that are not captioned.

• Inaccessible library database materials.

• Inaccessible course registration through a website, Cyber Bear.

• Inaccessible classroom clickers.

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lynda.com contains a treasure trove of online courses (or tutorials) on many technical and web subjects.  To get the full benefit a subscription is required, however, there are many courses include many free online sections.

One which ties into my screen reader posts is found here:  Web Accessibility Principles

I recommend viewing all the videos in section 1, Getting Started with Web Accessibility. These are available to everyone whether you have a subscription or not.

The video Experiencing a website via a screen reader provides a good example of how screen readers work.  In this less than six-minute video the viewer can see how a screen reader works with a badly designed web page and then how it works with the same web page when improved . See my post on screen readers.

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Designing for Screen Reader Compatibility (from WebAIM)

Audio interfaces present content linearly to users, one item at a time. This contrasts with the way in which most people use visual interfaces by skimming the entire page at once.

Here are some ways that screen readers can “skim” through content. This has implications for those who create web pages.

  1. Since a screen reader can generally jump from link to link using the Tab key, it is important that link labels are clear and should make sense when read out of context.
  2. Users can jump from heading to heading, so it is important to organize your pages using headings.
  3. Create a way to skip the navigation links and allow users to jump directly to the main content, if possible.

Seven Screen Reader Usability Tips/ (from sitepoint)

  1. Use descriptive headings.
  2. Use descriptive link text.
  3. Provide information in lists.
  4. Employ logical linearization, that is, put important information, like directions,  at the top of the page.
  5. Use short, succinct alt text for images.  This should be descriptive, but not overly wordy.
  6. Write short, front-loaded paragraphs.
  7. Write descriptive page titles.

NOTE: These tips will help all your users, not just those who use screen readers.

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First, let’s define a screen reader.

Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer. A screen reader is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen. A command can instruct the synthesizer to read or spell a word, read a line or full screen of text, find a string of text on the screen, announce the location of the computer’s cursor or focused item, and so on.

from American Federation for the Blind (opens in a new window)

Now, watch a video of a user with a screen reader.

I’d like to share a video of Neal Ewers  of the Trace Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. He shows how he uses a screen reader and talks a bit about what this means for designers.

Next, try to simulate using a screen reader yourself.

The directions for this simulation point out  that you may be frustrated trying to find the answers to the questions on this  website for a fake university.  The creators have tried to simulate what blind readers experience when using many web sites.

WebAIM Screen Reader Simulation (opens in a new window)

Now, download a screen reader to your own computer and use it with any website or document.

NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) software (opens in a new window) enables blind and vision impaired people to use a computer by communicating what is on the screen using a synthetic voice or braille. You can use this to see what your  web page will sound like in a screen reader. If you are trying to simulate blindness, just turn off the monitor and try to navigate a web page using only NVDA.

NVDA  is a screen reader for Microsoft Windows that is totally free, yet fully functional and portable. You can download it to your PC, or to portable media such as a USB stick which you can use with any computer at school, work – anywhere!

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