Internet Accessibility: Standards for a Modern Host - Guidelines Thirteen and Fourteen, and Final Comments
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Guideline thirteen has the most check-points out of all of the guidelines, but none of these check-points are priority one. This guideline can be safely bypassed if you are working towards an a rated site rather than a double or triple a conformance site, such as during a phased accessibility site reconstruction. The guideline is concerned with navigation schemes and the first four check-points are that the text of any link should be consistent with its destination, so avoid the use of ‘click here’ style links, metadata should be included on all pages. This metadata could be in any one of several recommended metadata platforms, such as the Dublin Core, or RDF standard for web content, or XMP for images. An overview of an entire site should always be provided with either a contents or sitemap style page and finally that navigation schemes within a site should be consistent. The remaining priority three check-points advise that navigation bars are favoured where possible, related links should be grouped, different types of searches should be facilitated for different knowledge levels of user where a search facility is provided, lists or other structured segments of information should be front-loaded, meaning that a description of the upcoming information should always be provided, for example ‘the following list indicates…’ instead of ‘the list you have just read indicates…’ Finally it states that information should be provided regarding document collections, such as slideshows, and that if ASCII art is provided, a vehicle for bypassing it should be provided.
The final guideline in the WCAG recommendation states that documents should be clear and simple. Check-point one reinforces that the clearest and simplest language should be used. This is a priority one. Check-points two and three, which are priority three, state that graphic or audio information may accompany text when they facilitate understanding and that your presentation style should be consistent across all pages.
As I mentioned in my last article, 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.
Hopefully in coming months, we'll see more and more hosts that see the advantages of compliance. And following the hosts' lead, we should see many more corporate and public sites widening their user base by using these guidlines.
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