From the makers of the DAT now comes the WAT for accessible web dev

Those canny developers at Vision Australia last year made my life easier with their Document Accessibility Toolbar for MS Word that you can find here: https://www.visionaustralia.org/services/digital-access/document-accessibility-toolbar/

Now web developers  can try out their Web Accessibility Toolbar for Internet Explorer here: https://www.visionaustralia.org/services/digital-access/resources/web-accessibility-toolbar-ie

Teaching yourself accessibility

If you want to create accessible documents, websites or digital newsletters for your community radio station, you might benefit from checking out these online courses.  Accessibility means making sure your content is available to as many people as possible, increasing audience, participation and social justice. Become an #A11y today!

Some free online courses:

Udacity have a 2 week free course:

Web Accessibility with Google: Developing with Empathy “In this course you’ll get hands-on experience making web applications accessible. You’ll understand when and why users need accessibility. Then you’ll dive into the “how”: making a page work properly with screen readers, and managing input focus (e.g. the highlight you see when tabbing through a form.) You’ll understand what “semantics” and “semantic markup” mean for web pages and add ARIA markup to enable navigating the interface with a range of assistive devices. Finally, you’ll learn styling techniques that help users with partial vision navigate your pages easily and reliably.” Free, 2 weeks.

Future learn 5 week free course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society “With a better understanding of users’ needs, technologies can be developed to be accessible & provide a more inclusive environment”

Some paid and subscription options:

Lynda.com (subscription only) has a number of accessibility courses :

  • Chad Chelius’ Creating Accessible PDFs shows you how to take an existing PDF and make it accessible: “When you make your PDFs accessible, it means adding tags, bookmarks, alt text, and other information that makes the files readable to users who are visually or mobility impaired. Using Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign, it’s now much easier to create valid, accessible PDF files. In this course, Chad Chelius explains why accessibility is important and what features an accessible PDF should include, before showing you two workflows for creating accessible PDFs: one in Word and one in InDesign. He also covers making an existing PDF file accessible using tools in Adobe Acrobat.”
  • Joe Dolsons WordPress Accessibility: “If you build a website with WordPress, build it with accessibility in mind. Making your content, themes, navigation, and other site features accessible helps everyone including visitors who want to find your site through search engine results. This course, merging WordPress coding with accessible web design techniques, helps you make sure your website meets modern accessibility standards. You’ll learn how to use the power of WordPress to quickly build a beautiful and accessible website that can be used by people with different types of abilities. Author Joe Dolson provides a broad introduction to accessibility and then focuses on practical steps to make sure your WordPress themes, plugins, and content are accessible and usable to all.”

Australian Professional certificate in web accessibility, 6 weeks starting in Jan 2019:

For those seeking a professional certificate to add to your CV, this fee-help course is for you. By Distance Ed at the University of Adelaide in collaboration with the Centre for Inclusive Design.

“Now you can gain an internationally-recognised professional qualification in web accessibility. The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility (PCWA). What sets it apart? The PCWA:

  • Is for everyone who wants to upskill, no matter where you are – students take the course from North America, the UK, Europe, South East Asia, Australia, and more.
  • Teaches the essential principles and techniques for achieving accessibility compliance.
  • Helps organisations meet obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act in Australia, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more, to not only reach more people more effectively, but to lessen the litigation risk resulting from inaccessibility.
  • Assists Government departments (and agencies or contractors doing Government work) to meet mandated accessibility requirements as outlined by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).
  • Guides management on international best practice in accessibility, including adherence to the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and Section 508, etc.
  • Provides students with the opportunity to discuss, share, connect and interact with other professionals facing similar challenges.
  • Enhances your skills through learning from specialist lecturers and completing graded, practical assessments and validates your new-found expertise.
  • Gives you hands-on experience of how people with various disabilities access the web.
  • Enables teams to develop websites, apps and digital communications that work for more people, including the ageing population.

GitHub list of accessibility courses:

Free, paid, university, private colleges, webinars, certificates, and meetups of A11ys.

Lots of useful accessibility training links at GitHub

Argh! My website is invisible!

So you’ve made a kickass website for your radio show, podcast or station.  It does everything you want it to do.  But did you know that to some of your users your website could be invisible?  To others, your website might be confusing and hard to navigate because of cognitive disability or low literacy?

Infographic: Websites should be perceivable operable understandable and robustThe accessibility of public institutions is required by law, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.  While we are all familiar with the need to have ramps in our buildings, we are less likely to have considered if our web interfaces with the community are accessible.

Challenges to people with a disability in accessing web content can be visual, cognitive, motor skills or hearing-related.

1 in 5 Australians have a disability (ABS 2015).  Of the over 5 million Australians who listen to community radio, around 30% of them have a disability, while 11% of all listeners have a vision impairment or blindness.  In a 2012 survey, as many at 44% of Australians have low literacy, making everyday tasks that require reading and understanding difficult (ABS 2012).

According to a Vision 2020 report (2015) there are 575,000 people who are blind or vision impaired currently living in Australia.  Vision Australia predict that the number of Australians who are blind or have low vision will grow to 564,000 by 2030.

The blind use screen readers to access the digital environment, essentially reading aloud your web content to users, from top to bottom, with software such as NVDA or JAWS.  Screen readers are also used by some people with cognitive or learning disabilities who may find reading challenging, as an additional way to absorb content.

Unfortunately some web content is not compatible with screen readers, so is essentially invisible.

  • Flash animation, already invisible to iphones, is also invisible to screen readers;
  • Images with no “Alt” descriptions are invisible to screen readers;
  • PDFs that are heavy on graphics may be confusing or not easy to read by some screen readers;
  • Screen readers can also read in a variety of languages, so if you set the “lang” attribute incorrectly, it will read the text in the wrong language.  And probably not make much sense either;
  • Links that are not accessible by using the TAB key (hover-over menus and links);
  • Form fields that are not labelled properly;
  • CAPTCHA for preventing spamming of forms is inaccessible as it relies on graphics;
  • Tables for layout are a verbal nightmare for a screen reader;
  • Carousels or slideshows for images:  if they are fast or not stoppable, they can be unreadable even to sighted users, and invisible to users of screen readers;
  • Some widgets in WordPress and other CMS.

All these problems are easily fixed or avoided!

  • The simplest way is to choose a Content Management System that supports accessibility.  Joomla, WordPress and Drupal are generally pretty good according to Media Access Australia;
  • Alternatives exist to CAPTCHA, hover menus and other graphic based issues that are unreadable to screen reader users  eg.  This fix for image carousels https://www.w3.org/WAI/tutorials/carousels/;
  • If you can’t part with your graphics heavy version, you can make a basic html low-tech site alongside your fancy site with a front page link for screen reader users;
  • Get your users to test it!  If you have a blind or vision-impaired volunteer, why not seek their advice on what works for them?

For more detail about how a screen reader works with a website see https://webaim.org/techniques/screenreader/  In fact Webaim here: https://webaim.org/ is your most valuable resource when thinking about how to make your internet presence accessible.

Webaim have developed the WAVE accessibility tool.  Just type in your sites web address and it will tell you what does and doesn’t work (requires knowing some technical terms)  http://wave.webaim.org/

And Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines here:(ATAG) https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/atag/

The A11y Project (“A community-driven effort to make web accessibility easier”)  also offers this checklist for web developers that you can check off while editing your code (warning:  jargon and code!)  https://a11yproject.com/checklist    Also many other useful tools at this site for developers.

If it’s all too much for you, and let’s face it, web dev is highly technical and needs good attention to detail, you can find numerous services offering to help you become accessible for a fee such as Media Access Australia and others.

References:

About the Author:

Kim Stewart is a Doctoral researcher at Queensland University of Technology and community radio producer at 4ZZZ.  She coordinates the Ability Radio Project, getting the voices of PWD onto the airwaves straight from the local community.

Ability Radio Project: https://abilityradioproject.wordpress.com/