Steve Krug is a usability expert who has helped client companies such as AOL, Apple, Netscape, Nexus, and Excite@Home develop products and Web sites that people can actually use and enjoy. He is the author of the book Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, now in its second edition, which includes a new chapter on Accessibility, "Accessibility, Cascading Style Sheets, and You." Steve's consulting firm is Advanced Common Sense, and his Web site is www.sensible.com. Steve spoke to Boston-IA on January 26, 2006.
Topic: "Real-Life Accessibility"
Date: January 26, 2006
Speaker: Steve Krug
Location: Bentley University
Steve Krug polled the packed classroom of attendees to find out how many of us had read his book. About half had read the first edition, and one or two people had read the second edition.
Many reasons are given for the rationale behind making Web sites accessible. For Steve, the most compelling reason is because it's the right thing to do, and we don't get that many chances to do the right thing. Very often, people do not make the best arguments to CEOs or to 20-something-year-old Web developers who are already overloaded with work. Sometimes the case is overstated with regard to the work required or the effect on the Web site. In addition, statistics about the disabled population are sometimes exaggerated, because the statistics include people who are near-sighted or are impeded by technological barriers as well as physical ones.
Is accessibility the enemy of design? Does a site have to be dumbed down to build in clarity? Does the design have to be watered down? Steve feels that the answers to these questions is, No.
Download Steve's presentation, access the text-only version of Steve's presentation, and read on to learn more.
Steve stated his views about the most important things you can do right now—or the least you can do—to improve accessibility:
Fix the usability problems that confuse everyone.
Do some testing with users, or respond to users' comments and questions regarding the site.
Read an article.
Steve suggested reading "Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work with Screen Readers," by Mary Theofanos and Janice (Ginny) Redish. This study describes 32 issues for blind users. Find the article at: http://redish.net/content/papers/interactions.html.
Read a book.
Steve brought along an array of Web accessibility books for people to look at with varying publishing dates and depth of information. Some of the books recommended and discussed were:
Start using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
Some advantages to switching to cascading style sheets are greater control of formatting, and design flexibility. In addition, you can put your content in the order that you want a screen reader to read it. And, perhaps most important, you can specify scalable units of measurement such as ems and percentages to allow the text to be resized.
People with disabilities can potentially override your CSS and use a different CSS to accommodate their needs, but this capability is really not well supported at the present time.
Tip: To test for reading order, copy Web page text in the browser window and paste it into Notepad.
For information about creating cascading style sheets, two good books are Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design and More Eric Meyer on CSS (Voices That Matter), both by Eric A. Meyer.
Go for the low-hanging fruit.
Tip: In addition to using mouseover and other mouse-dependent actions (called event handlers), use onblur and onfocus.
Steve then showed us his Web site (www.sensible.com), both before and after being worked on to be more accessible by Boston-IA's founder, P.J. Gardner. Steve and P.J. described a few of the "before" and "after" changes:
People in the audience offered favorite Web sites, accessibility tools, and other resources for background and examples:
Tip: Make an image of the page (JPG) and test the image.
© 2006 Barbara Casaly. All rights reserved.
Photograph © 2006 Harvey Bingham. All rights reserved.