Government Accessibility Initiatives
I spent two days earlier this week in presentations to largely government employees about accessibility issues. It was organized by GOL Communications and we were invited largely to do with our work on the working to establish a collaborative CLF themes.
There were more presentations about WCAG 2.0 than I'd ever heard prior to this event, and it was interesting to have it broken down int for principals that were pretty understandable. We must all strive to make websites perceivable, operable, understandable & robust. Surely focusing on those priorities as content developers would make our sites more useful for everyone. As CMS developers there is work that we need to do to better educate our users about how to manage this.
Fortunately, there is a community of accessibility advocates within Drupal who are looking at enhancing Drupal's accessibility. Who are looking to continually enhance modules, themes & understanding of accessibility issues. Certainly the 508 requirements that many american organizations must comply with has helped pushed along the communities efforts. The government of Ontario is pushing towards enforcing accessibility issues starting in 2011. There was a good presentation from the last DrupalCon on accessibility issues that I've embedded in our CLF Forum on clf.openconcept.ca.
I wanted to briefly touch on some of the approaches to testing accessibility though that I've been introduced to recently.
- First, with accessibility controls turned on it is really easy to zoom in and see how your site looks at 20X its normal resolution. It's useful to be able to quickly see how someone with limited visual range would see our site. This was the first time that I really felt that I understood the real usefulness of the CLF branding for many Canadians.
- Similarly there is the ability to both flip colours & use greyed out versions which are also used by some users. It's interesting to see what our sites look like backwards.
- Aside from hearing the Jaws screen reader in a real environment, I also had an opportunity to go seek the Firefox plugin Fang, which essentially emulates how Jaws displays content.
- Finally, thinking about how to build links around text so that they aren't too long, but are uniquely descriptive of what they are surrounding. Makes for an interesting challenge when creating content.
I've got some more sample screenshots of our CLF theme on Flickr, with particular attention to accessibility issues.
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.