25 Jun 2009 | Posted by admin
I recently attended Demystifying WCAG 2.0 and Web Accessibility, an excellent event hosted by the Irish Internet Association. The seminar was about Version 2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2) which was released in December 2008 (almost 10 years after Version 1) by the W3C. Below is a summary of the content covered at the seminar, with links to useful sites mentioned.
WCAG2 Structure Consists of:
- 4 General Principles.
A WCAG2 website must be:
- 12 Guidelines
- 61 Success Criteria
- The notion of Priority 1, Priority 2, Priority 3 is gone - so now there is just A, AA and AAA conformance.
- You must be explicit in how your pages conform. This can be very time-consuming and it must be textual- you can’t just stick the WCAG2 logos on to your website!
- If your site conformed to WCAG1, then it more than likely conforms to WCAG2 (for more information on updating your site from WCAG1 to WCAG2 conformance, visit www.w3.org).
- Test your site on real users - that is the best way to discover accessibility problems.
- Testing your web pages for conformance has become easier than Version 1, e.g.if you are testing for Colour Contrast, WCAG1 - Checkpoint 2.2 states: “Ensure that foreground and background color combinations provide sufficient contrast when viewed by someone having color deficits or when viewed on a black and white screen”.However, WCAG2 - Guideline 1.4.3 states: “The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1“
Tips & Tools for Making Your Website Accessible
- Make sure your documents are well-structured e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2 then Heading 3 etc.
- If you have PDFs for the user to download, it is a good idea to also offer the content in Word (doc) and or HTML format also.
- Webaim.org - plenty of useful resources on Accessibility.
- Webaim.org’s unofficial WCAG2 checklist
- Customising the WCAG2 Quick Reference - this allows you to select/deselect the references to particular parts of WCAG2, so that you only need to view the areas that are relevant to the page you are testing for accessibility.
Making PDFs Accessible
Accessible PDFs have a “tag tree”, that can be edited (using Adobe Acrobat) and contain elements similar to HTML e.g. alternative text on images, that screen readers can read out to users. Therefore, HTML accessibility is very similar to PDF accessibility.
When creating a Word or HTML document that you intend to convert to an accessible PDF, make use the the inbuilt styles e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2 etc, as these map to the tag tree in an accessible PDF.
Word 2007 has a free plugin that allows you to save a document as a PDF.
It is advised to make your “source document” accessible e.g. your Word document. Keep a Word version of the final accessible document.
Don’t forget to provide a link to Adobe Reader, so users can download the software needed to view the PDF, if they don’t have it previously installed.
- For more information on Adobe Acrobat and accessibility, see www.adobe.com/accessibility.
- Author IT - a tool for authoring content and publishing to multiple outputs. It can be used to restrict the user from formatting text that might impinge on outputting accessible PDFs
Obligations of Web Designers/Developers under Irish Law
- Disability Act 2005 - Part 5 covers access to public information. If you are tendering for a public serviced website and web accessibility is not mentioned in the tender doc - point it out! All government bodies must specify web accessibility in tenders for websites.
- Code of Practice - public websites should conform to WCAG AA standard (note, no version number given)
If you deem a public service website not to be accessible, approach an enquiry officer or the Office of the Ombudsman.
Other Legislation to be Aware of:
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) & Optional Protocol - www.un.org/disabilities (Ireland have signed the convention, but have not yet ratified it. The purpose of this convention is “To promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.” The convention contains an entire article on Accessibility (see Article 9).
CMS Systems and Publishing Accessible Content
Most CMS systems will output accessible content, but it user training is often required to ensure this happens.
If you are copying and pasting content from e.g. Word - check if the CMS has an option to clean up the nasty tags that are often embedded in the content from Word.
Some Accessible CMS Systems
Other Useful Resources on Accessibility
- WAI-ARIA: http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/aria.php - a toolkit that can be used to describe widgets using rich semantic descriptions.
- Universal Design IT Procurement Toolkit - primarily designed for Irish public service bodies. However it may be of use to anyone who wishes to buy accessible hardware of software.
- myurc.org - The Universal Remote Console Consortium works to promote and implement Universal Remote Console (URC) standards and support services, facilitating user interfaces that are simple and intuitive to use, including future interface technologies such as task-orientation and natural language interaction.
Open Source Screen Readers
Some of the Best Irish Accessible Sites
- Department of Social & Family Affairs
- Mayo County Council
- Access Cork.ie
The Speakers at the Event were:
- Joshue O’Connor, Senior Accessibility Consultant with NCBI Centre for Inclusive Technology (CFIT).
- Dónal Rice, Senior ICT Advisor, Centre for Excellence in Universal Design.
- Alexis Donnelly, Lecturer, Computer Science Dept., Trinity College Dublin.
- Charlie Pike, Director, TPG (Europe)
- Rick Love, Web/GIS Team Leader, Mayo County Council.