Monthly Archives: August 2009

Update on Web2Access criteria

In the last week we have had many discussions about the evaluation checks and criteria we have been using on Web2Access.  E-mails from Mary Jane Barnett from the University of North Texas have helped to highlight some issues that have been of concern… “I have wondered why some of the sites have such low ratings on the deaf/hard of hearing evaluation.”

The toolkit for evaluation is progressing well and we needed to make sure we had a fair cross section of evaluation checks for all disabilities.  Those who are deaf or have hearing impairments may have the most problems with media content online, but not being able to hear videos is very different from the issue of not being able to see the animation or scenes and yet we had both under the title of Multimedia.   A decision was made to divide this check into two separate tests: -

  • Do all pages with audio or audio/video features relevant to the content offer alternatives?    0=No chance to add alternatives.    1=Possible to add text summary (number of characters may be restricted)    2=Possible to add full text transcript    3=Possible to add captioning and a text transcript. Sign language seen as an option that will be commented on.
  • Do all pages with video /animation features without audio or complex scenes with verbal descriptions offer alternatives?    0=No chance to add alternatives.    1=Possible to add text summary (number of characters may be restricted)    2=Audio description or extended text description.    3=Extended audio description with text description

Mary Jane made a further comment about how we reach the final results and we had to admit that any ranking really was not very relevant with the percentages in place.  So this part of the evaluation will be removed.  The icons represent the four criteria for each test and are set out in line with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and our own experience and those of colleagues on web accessibility.

Each service is evaluated against the test criteria and how they impact on a range of disabilities.  Sadly there is no way of accounting for individual skills and use of assistive technology.  This is why we choose to evaluate using freely available screen readers that do not require the skills of more complex screen readers and we admit we are rather harsh with our marking .

Mary Jane Barnett is on the Advisory Committee for the Expanding Accessibility Project of the North Texas Regional Library System as an Independent Librarian/Consultant and has been amazingly helpful with all her comments.  Her final point was about making sure everyone knew what products, services or applications we were evaluating for accessibility.  Off the cuff I said: “We sometimes find different wikis or blogs are actually developed using the same service such as Word Press or Mediawiki so we tend to skip that sort of repetition.  We choose those applications that have a free version and avoid those that require downloading onto a personal computer.  Finally all the sites need to be truly interactive to qualify as Web 2.0 rather than Web 1.0.

Thank you Mary Jane for being such a wonderful critical friend!  See you at Accessing the Higher Ground Conference in November, when I shall be presenting on all our projects!   Please add comments folks!

Browser plug-ins or add-ons can help accessibility

Safari, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox all have a collection of small utility applications to enhance web surfing.

There are now many ways of changing the look and way your browser works when you are working within web pages. Depending on your chosen browser you can add a series of toolbars or additional menu buttons and even complete search bars such as the one offered by the Google toolbar for Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox users.

Mozilla Firefox appears to have the largest collection of add-ins that can help with zooming with Nosquint for example, colour changes with Accessibar, text to speech – FoxVox, dictionaries – the British Dictionary as well as evaluating web pages for accessibility with such tools as WAVE and the Firefox Accessibility Extension add-ons.

Tim O’Brien has a blog about “A Collection of Accessibility Add-ons” for Firefox.

Microsoft have a similar page of add-ons for Internet Explorer and the Web Accessibility toolbar developed by Vision Australia can help with web page evaluations. There is also iespell checker

Mashable have provided their top 10 safari plug-ins and there are many more for Mac users on PimpMySafari. The most useful ones that may make life a bit easier when surfing are found under the ‘interface section’.

Critical Friends provide helpful comments.

Over the last week Deb Viney, Ginny Stacey and Mary Eld have been kind enough to give up time to visit us and work with us on our projects as critical friends. We really are very grateful for this help.

The pen drive /memory stick / USB flash drive, (debate as to the best name!) with its accessible menu – is this for staff or students?  If both. what does each group  need in terms of applications and guides and how do we divide up the folders?  Should we be able to access the applications immediately without having to go through a series of folders or categories or does there need to be a tree structure?

When it comes to overall design – do we need logos for the applications and icons for some menu items as well as text which can be enlarged?   A decision was made to use a colour contrast calculator to stop bad colour combinations when users change text and background colours to suit their preferences.

The Study Bar update on the previous blog has covered many of the aspects discussed in our meetings.  It was felt that it was important to improve aspects of the text to speech, as decisions about the items to be added to the tool bar had largely been dealt with by comparing the bar to the JISC TechDis User Preferences toolbar.

Web2Access walk-through to check the criteria has been completed, but it was clear that when discussing aspects of the evaluation for Web 2.0 services, there needs to be a considerable amount of support for some people.  The issue of who was going to use the site arose and what were the criteria for our choice of Web 2.0 applications – this needs to be added to the site!  Perhaps we could say services chosen should:

  • allow for interactions.
  • have no download requirements
  • offer free access not just a free trial.

A visit to Jane Hart’s Social Media toolkit provide more ideas for which Web 2.0 applications are used in elearning situations as well as other tools for learning.

The search facility has been added to each page on the Web2Access website and the anomalies that have arisen with the scoring are under discussion with the realisation that listing all those that have identical results is not very helpful.

A question was raised as to how the percentages were worked out.  It was noted that the criteria for the tests provide the results not how accessible the site is for a particular disability against another disability or application.  A phrase to explain this issue and the ongoing debate about the scoring and how it is illustrated is on the list of tasks to be completed!

Our explanation of Web 2.0 needs to be expanded and for whom the site has been designed as this came up whilst going through the test criteria.  It was felt the site is helpful for developers in its present mode but if we could add more supporting materials it would be useful for a wider audience.    We may also need to change some of the technical language used!

The Accessibility Cloud project was mentioned in passing and meetings with experts in the field of linking data are being set up in the coming weeks.