Fangs, Unique Strings and Drupal Discussions
I started a discussion about the need for unique strings withing the Drupal Groups Accessibility forum. The new WCAG 2.0 standards discourage webmasters from linking to different places with the same text. This does totally make sense and has some reasonable SEO implications as well. "Read more" is useful only if you have the visual reference to know where it is situated. "More about Example Article Title" is a much more descriptive way to link to a new page, but it is harder to program. It's also difficult when you have other types of generic links at the bottom of a list of articles encouraging visitors to comment, send to a friend, etc.
I highlighted the Fangs for Firefox extension in the discussion and Cliff totally extended it. I thought it would help the discussion to post up some pictures for how Drupal's discussion forums would sound to a visually impaired person. I'm not actually going to record a reading of this at this point, but using fangs I can display what Jaws would read. It's really hard to make sense of. It's a bit better when it is broken up by heading and formatted (see image below).
The list of headers appears like this:
And links view is available as:
There's a good description of how to use Fangs to asses accessibility for the Macintosh (Windows version also available) through the Fluid Project wiki. Their Simple Accessibility Walk-through was also quite interesting.
It won't ever be able to replace user testing. In talking to people at the CNIB I was informed that there were actually several people working to evaluate websites with a range of different visual impairments and adaptive technologies. Each one of these will view a site slightly differently. However, it is a very good start to allow web developers and content producers to quickly get a sense of how a visually impaired person would access their content.
About The Author
Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.