Internet Accessibility: Lead By Example - More Recommendations and Resources
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There is a wealth of information on the WCAG guidelines themselves, and links to many other related subjects, examples of programming practices, and applications useful in dealing with accessibility issues on the W3C WCAG 1.0 pages (http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990505/) and also at the WAI pages (http://www.w3.org/WAI/). Another site that has vast reserves of information on this and other key subjects is the Accessify site (http://www.accessify.com/default.asp).
An interesting initiative set up by Moore InnovationsLTDis to provide a service called WiderWeb whereby Moore act as an independent third party providing accessible translations of existing pages. You sign up for a yearly contract and any existing web pages you specify are linked to the WiderWeb intermediary sever, and when the original web pages is requested, the WiderWeb server provides an accessible alternative. This also improves the access to the pages by mobile devices. More information can be found on the Moore web site (http://www.mooreinnovations.com)
The Section 508 guidelines that relate to web design are very similar to some of the individual check-points of the WCAG. There are two guidelines however, that are not covered by the WCAG:
- When plug-ins or applets are used, a link should be provided for these to be acquired.
- An option should be provided that allows users to skip repetitive navigation links.
These are both very easy to implement and will increase the usability of any sight in general even when looked at from a non-accessibility viewpoint. Very often you'll see a 'skip navigation' link at the top of web pages and this is where this style of design has come from.
There is a lot of information present in these guidelines and manually checking through every one of your web sites pages manually may seem like a daunting task. If done manually, it is, but remember that putting these principles into practice when designing a new site will nullify the need for this in times to come. Additionally, there are a growing number of tools that will help you assess the accessibility of one of all of your web pages. These tools often donít pick up on some of the subtler check-points, where commonsense instead must be employed, but they can still provide a tireless and consistent check to a large percentage of your site (see the section on Watchfire and Cynthia says, above.)
Having a site that meets accessibility standards means more than just having a site that people with disabilities can access. Many of these standards can be useful in all kinds of situations when experienced by people that donít have a disability, for example; many of the corporate offices Iíve worked in have the PC soundcards deactivated be default for a large part of the staff population, visual presentations that are accessible in accordance with guideline one and provide synchronised captions that explain the presentation are the only way that the staff will be able to understand them.
Actively encouraging clients that rent server space from you or use tools that you provide to conform to accessibility standards will lead to the creation of sites that are of a higher usability and are more likely to be device compatible. Accessibility also plays a large part in the navigation and interaction of the web by people using the new generation of mobile devices that are Internet fluent.
Make the necessary tools available and people will use them, whereas if you don't include them in the first place, it is much less likely to happy. Leading by example can lead to cleaner code and better programming practises all round. Additionally, sites will be easier to maintain and less susceptible to future changes in user-agents tomorrow if they align themselves with the standards of today.
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