Accessibility workshops

My del.icio.us shows that Friday I attended an accessibility workshop given by Jon Gunderson of UIUC. I’m happy to say I didn’t learn that much, which means I’ve been paying attention. But that’s not to discount the value of the workshop. I did pick up some good ideas, got a chance to use some new software, and basically spent the whole day thinking about accessibility, which is a good thing. Maybe only 3% of the workshop was new to me, but that 3% makes a huge difference.

Gunderson showed the Functional Accessibility Evaluator, which is pretty cool; it evaluates pages and sites with an emphasis on accessibility affordances (e.g. the use of headlines), not just standards compliance. He also demonstrated the Accessible Web Publishing Wizard, a tool for making MS Office HTML more accessible, which is critical since for many people it’s a primary web authoring tool. Gunderson also spoke at length about the connection between web standards and accessibility; in some ways, his presentation was more about the former than the latter.

Update: I forgot to mention the most important thing I learned: there’s a bill in the Illinois legislature (SB0511) making web accessibility a requirement for government sites. Note the first amendment broadens the definitions considerably from the original (which was mostly about visual impairment). Good; maybe this will put some teeth into IWAS.

On Wednesday I will be part of a universal design workshop, reprising my Thirty Minutes presentation. I’m really looking forward to this. Today I’m making a PowerPoint for the show (w00t!).

Apropos accessibility, this summer I’ll be rebuilding the English & Journalism site from the ground up, which won’t be that hard since I’ve templated it extensively via CSS and server side includes. Here’s a preliminary do list:

  • Revamp and improve headline structure
  • Cut navigation way back and move to end of page
  • Liquid layout based on new WIU design
  • New front page with a lot less text
  • Search on every page
  • Write code for a dynamic site map
  • Rewrite code for directory, integrating with WIU more (if they will play…)

Part of this is driven by my desire to improve accessibility, applying what I’ve learned since I designed the site in Summer 2004, but did not have time to implement. In the end I hope to create a model for accessible, usable design that WIU will consider back-applying to its new web site structure. On the one hand, I’m pleased by the new design’s standards compliance and its improved accessibility. On the other hand, I think usability took a hit, and I’m convinced that it’s time to put fixed-width layouts to bed. (I need to do that around here as well.) But before I work on that, some other things demand my attention.

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5 Responses to Accessibility workshops

  1. stacey says:

    Are you going to post the slides from you presentation anywhere?

  2. cbd says:

    Yep, I’ll get ’em online as soon as I can. They won’t be very exciting.

  3. cbd says:

    OK, my not-so-exciting handout and presentation are posted. For now, these are tagged PDFs; I’ll add XHTML+CSS later.

  4. stacey says:

    Cool! Thanks! I really need to update our little library’s site and implement your suggestions. It’s gonna take me a little while to wade through your list links but some of them look really, really good! Oh man, my “to do” list is getting really long…sigh. 😉

  5. cbd says:

    If you give me your site’s address, I can look at it and get you started… and I can suggest a different process if you have time. Look at my long term practices…

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