Creating Accessible Online Information (Part 3)

April, 2005

Joint meeting of Boston-IA and the Boston Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) on April 27, 2005 (Part 3 of 4).

P.J. Gardner described the accessibility techniques she used in designing the Web site.

This article is divided into the following sections:

  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2: Barbara Casaly: Learning About Accessibility
  • Part 3: P.J. Gardner: Accessibility and the Web
  • Part 4: Judy Kessler: Accessibility in Documentation

This article is also published in PDF format in the Boston Broadside, newsletter of the Boston Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).

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Part 3: Accessibility and the Web

Understanding accessibility and the Web is not only an area of interest for P.J. Gardner, accessibility and the Web is a cause, and a cause that P.J. promotes articulately and with actions. She feels that accessibility needs more than just an interest group: accessibility deserves its own organization. Therefore, she founded Boston-IA.

The first step to learning and creating accessible information is understanding the accessibility audience, an audience that encompasses people who:

  • Are blind (using screen readers)
  • Are color blind
  • Have visual impairments
  • Have hearing impairments
  • Have learning disabilities
  • Are non-native speakers of English
  • Are users of older equipment or software
  • Are members of the growing population of senior citizens.

P.J. shared a list of bests:

To save us time with our research, P.J. also provided us with a rich list of her favorite Web coding tools:

Best Accessibility Hints

by P.J. Gardner

The text of the presentation is summarized below:

P.J.'s Best Writing Hints

  • Build text that can be re-flowed in different environments (browsers, window sizes, platforms, monitors).
  • Create clear divisions by using heading styles.
  • Chunk text using lists, tables, short, self-contained paragraphs.
  • Use style sheets and styles properly.
  • Write very clear link text, content that can stand alone.
  • Strive for clarity that will address the widest and most diverse audiences (include foreign speakers and people with learning disabilities).

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P.J.'s Best Accessibility Hints

  • Follow W3C or Section 508 coding standards strictly.
  • Create, whenever possible, flexible page layouts rather than fixed layouts.
  • Avoid using HTML tables to lay out Web pages.
  • Test page layouts, applications, and Web sites with people who have disabilities or other special needs as often as possible.
  • Never, never jump to conclusions about who your audience is— you will always be surprised.

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P.J.'s Best Web Coding Hints

  • At a minimum learn to read XHTML and CSS.
  • Work in XHTML 1.0 transitional.
  • Include a DOCTYPE tag at the top of every page.
  • Use lowercase tags and attributes.
  • Enclose all tag attributes in quotation marks.
  • Close all tags with end tags.
  • Use "semantic markup" (use tags to identify what things are, rather than what they should look like).

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P.J.'s Best CSS Hints

  • Separate presentation from markup using cascading style sheets.
  • Create external style sheets rather than embedding styles.
  • Use relative sizes (percentages and "ems") for fonts.
  • Assign red, blue, purple, violet, and black as dark colors.
  • Assign yellow, orange, green, blue-green, and white as light colors.

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P.J.'s Favorite Web Coding Tools

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P.J.'s Favorite Accessibility Page Evaluation Tools

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P.J.'s Favorite Browsers for Testing

  • Internet Explorer (latest version)
  • Internet Explorer 6.0 (in standards mode)
  • Firefox, with Web Developer plug-in
  • Opera
  • Safari (on Windows and Macintosh)

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P.J.'s Favorite Color Selection Tools

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Continue to Part 4

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