TRY 2013: Implementing WCAG by Making Your Website Accessible for Everyone

If you’ve read my previous posts on web accessibility, then most of this will be a rehash. This is the version that I did for the TRY 2013 conference, where I reorganized a few things and put in different examples. Continue reading “TRY 2013: Implementing WCAG by Making Your Website Accessible for Everyone”

Making the Website More Accessible with HTML5 & CSS3

Presented at the Amigos Library Services’ HTML5 & CSS3 Online Conference a couple of weeks ago. It was recorded, but the recordings are not public, so instead, I’ve included my deck and a slightly edited version of the script that I used.

Continue reading “Making the Website More Accessible with HTML5 & CSS3”

Making Your Website Accessible Part 2: Implementing WCAG into the Structure & Layout

This is a repost of my blog post, which was originally posted on the ACRL TechConnect, but with a couple of small updates. Continue reading “Making Your Website Accessible Part 2: Implementing WCAG into the Structure & Layout”

FSOSS 2012: Accessible Applications

Attending FSOSS (Free Software and Open Source Symposium) 2012 this morning. One session in particular caught my eye since I’ve been looking into how to make our web services more accessible, but just writing about making anything we might offer students more accessible. So here are my notes:

Accessibility: Importance, Challenges, Technology, and Implementation

Chad Pilkey & Justin Robinson

A lot of people (10-20% of population) have a functional disability. Not just an ethical issues, but also a legal one.

Software student is working on is using Adobe Flex 4 with its own Accessibility Framework using API.

Need to plan ahead of time and can make it much more user friendly.


  • accessible rich internet applications
  • allows for dynamic content compatible with screen readers
  • assist HTML5 with flex-like accessibility features
  • useful to those who need it; invisible to those who don’t


  • flex: uncooperative components, potential obsolescence e.g label components will not be read (have to use built-in labels)
  • HTML5: not yet standardized, may remain that way for the next 2 years

Combined both in order to make up some of the limitations.

Need to test!


  • metadata
  • hot keys or way to skip past chunks of content
  • ability to change colours & fonts
  • larger buttons (don’t require very high precision)
  • a/v: transcripts, captions, volume control

There are definitely more considerations, but they didn’t list them all.

I didn’t include many notes on importance, types of disabilities, and screenreaders, etc., so more general information since I’m familiar with much of it and have blogged about it (which I’ll repost shortly).

OLITA Digital Odyssey 2012: Outside-In – Approach to Inclusiveness

The presenter spoke quite quickly,and there was a lot of points on the slides, so I didn’t catch everything. I also focused more on design aspects than anything else.

Defining Inclusive Design

  • design that is inclusive of the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other forms of human difference
  • designing for diversity

Digital Exclusion

  • access to online systems no longer an option
  • estimated social and economic cost of digital exclusion
  • required for government, commerce, education ,etc.

Bridging the Gap

  • developers design for the typical or average user
  • Assistive technology (AT) is intended to bridge the gap to reach anyone that requires alternative access systems
  • this bridge is inadequate: only some disabilities and only reaches a few countries

Specialized Assistive Technology

  • 28% of the world
  • rising in cost
  • decreasing in availability

Accessibility Legislation

  • necessary foundation for systematic change
  • AODA groundbreaking approach to legislating accessibility
  • but currently
    • hard to update
    • hard to keep current
    • accessibility requirements seen to constrain innovation
    • fear of implementing new technologies
    • one-size-fits-all solution

Global Consensus

  • need new approach
  • especially with an aging population, which needs more alternatives as they grow older

True Accessibility

Need New Approach

  • more inclusive of full diversity of learners
  • more relevant to educational demands
  • more timely and continuously renewable
  • contextualized or embedded in learner’s context

ARLIS/NA 2012: Designing for Diversity

This morning, I attended the ARLIS/NA 2012 Conference workshop on designing for diversity presented/facilitated by the OCAD Inclusive Design Research Centre. There was a lot of discussion on barriers and challenges with some discussions on solutions. Honestly, I’m not sure I learnt anything new, but there were some interesting discussions that happened.


Goal: digital inclusion

All their projects are open source, and include:

  • Engage: museum vistor experiences
  • CollectionSpace: collections management system, primarily by museum
  • Decapod: document digitization
  • Floe: inclusion in open education resources
  • Fluid: inclusive user experiences, umbrella project
  • Tecla via Komodo

User Experience Examples

We started with a discussion of general examples of good and bad user experience elements in our own personal experiences.


  • cord tangle
  • lack of browser interoperability
  • inconvenient touch keyboard layout
  • lack of flexibility in filling out forms e.g. 2 last names, accents
  • downtime
  • having to relearn interface of new version
  • can’t link direct to article
  • lack of search features
  • locked font sizes on email
  • meaningless error messages


  • responsive design
  • transparency
  • alternative interactions i.e. touch
  • augmented reality layer
  • switch languages
  • filter searching
  • free wifi
  • autologin
  • RSS
  • cloud sync e.g. dropbox
  • social bookmarking
  • bibliographic managers
  • citation linking
  • security
  • consistency


With respect to inclusion, what are some of the challenges or barriers at visual-based libraries/collections, image management, or other related products, services, organizations?

  • facilities concerns (i.e. older buildings)
  • alternative formats e.g. descriptions for image collections
  • cost/resources
  • expertise
  • attitude/awareness
  • vocabulary, translation
  • non-standardized vocabulary, but standardized doesn’t work as one size fits all
  • arranging physical collections to make sense
  • equipment/software inflexible

User Focus

Think about the user’s

  • goals
  • abilities and needs
  • expectations
  • pain points/frustrations
  • physical/environmental context
  • workflow context
  • current solution (if it exists)

User Modelling

While no linear or checklist, there are some important steps including working out scope (hunting and gathering of what are the possible problems), and behaviours (what happens when you interact, what want to achieve). Always a constant iterative work.


  • fictional, archetypal profiling of groups of users
  • humanizes abstract users

User states & contexts

  • enumeration of the various states and contexts users might be in
  • much more granular understanding of users
  • e.g. sensory, dexterity, cognitive, communication

One Solution Fits All

No one solution fits all, but if you’re restricted to one solution, then the key is to make a:

flexible, configurable environment.

Case Example

One of the situations we discussed is the physical reference desk. While the goal is for the desk to be a welcoming place where people know that’s where they can get help, the desk is frequently a place where there is a big standing only desk, which can be uncomfortable, tiring, and inaccessible.

Solution? Possibly, separate desks for different types of questions, with double monitors and possibly double keyboards for more in-depth or look up questions.

Do we need the desk? Particularly for directional questions, perhaps a desk isn’t even needed. For in-depth reference, the suggestion is to have two chairs on the same side of a table.

Media Access & Media Accessibility

Captioning is important to compensate to audio (poor, noisy background, not allowed), to quickly browse a video, catch details, show correct spelling, support for ESL, accessible, and it’s compliant. Description is important for similar reasons.

Captions and transcripts could greatly help with searching of media as well.

Few Media Players & Internet Plug-ins

  • Flash (DFXP, QTText)
  • Quicktime (QTText, SMIL, tx3g subtitles, CC tracks/Line 21 braodcast captions)
  • Windows Media Player
  • Silverlight
  • VLC
  • Flow Player – fallback to non-flash video
  • NCAM Player – find feature
  • JW Player – fallback to non-flash video
  • Magpie – Windows Captioning
  • Capcat (s?) -MAC Captioning

Information & Resources:

Future Tools

  • HTML5 video with track tag once built into browsers

Guidelines on Making Websites Accessible (for Persons with Disabilities)

This week, I started creating a WordPress theme for our website, and in doing so, spent a lot of time reading on making a website accessible for persons with disabilities. While we do have legislation stating that all university websites need to be accessible by next year (?) (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)), our university and library take pride in being accessible. For some reason though, our website is not all that accessible.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Now on version 2.0, most government and public organizations are being held accountable in being compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The guidelines divides up the requirements into three levels: A, AA, AAA. While the guidelines themselves are a little hard to decipher, w3 provides a customizable quick reference to break the guidelines down into a more readable document.

The Design

When it comes to the general design of the website, it’s actually fairly simple.

  • Order and use of elements should make sense even in text only (1.3)
  • Minimum contrast (1.4.3)
  • Text resize up to 200% in the browser without lost functionality (1.4.4)
  • Keyboard accessible and easy to navigate (2.1, 2.4.1, 2.4.5) – have different ways to get to your content
  • Make your site predictable (3.2)
  • Provide error identification, suggestions, and instructions (3.3)
  • Make it compatible with assistive technologies (4.1)

The bottom line: your website should work (and make sense) even without JavaScript and CSS, and in text-only mode.

The Difficult Part: Making A/V Content Accessible

I don’t think a lot of people realize that designing a website to be accessible is not the hard part. The hard part in an organization is making sure that the content posted on the website is accessible. In particular, audio/visual elements should have text alternatives, whether that be closed captions, alt text or transcripts.

In order to ensure that content is also accessible, web developers need to work with other staff whether inside their own department or in the greater institution to educate staff who are creating content, because even something as simple as images need text alternatives.

At a college or university, best to contact the accessibility centre/unit on campus to work with them. They might already have the tools or know-how to make a/v content accessible.

Making a WordPress Accessible Theme

So, why reinvent the wheel? That’s what I thought anyway, but there are some issues with using an existing theme and modifying it. I wanted one that was in HTML5/CSS3, and then I later discovered that it should also be using the WordPress Settings API (which was difficult because it was only added in 2.7 so not everyone is using it).

Long story short, I didn’t find any, but then in looking through the files, it turns out the built-in/sample WordPress theme TwentyEleven fits all of these requirements! They do not tout that the theme is accessible, but many of the elements are present in the theme.

I will be posting more once the theme is done (or mostly done anyway) with more details on any changes I will have to make, but I’m thinking they will be very few if any.

A Few Tools

You can find a rather extensive list of tools for evaluating accessibility on the w3c website, but one of the most useful I found was: WAVE, which provides different views of a webpage with alerts and errors (there is also a browser plugin version). There are also a number of good colour contrast checkers browser plugins.