Stuff and Nonsense

Malarkey is Andy Clarke, a UK based designer, author and speaker who has a passion for design, CSS and web accessibility.

Andy has been working on the web for almost ten years. He is a visual web designer and author and he founded Stuff and Nonsense in 1998. Andy regularly writes about creating beautiful, accessible web sites and he speaks at events worldwide. Andy is the author of Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design, published by New Riders in 2006.

Web Standards Project (WaSP) Accessibility Task Force

The Web Standards Project announces the WaSP Accessibility Task Force.

Accessibility is a hot topic again with many mature and interesting discussions taking place. Now the Web Standards Project (WaSP) announces the WaSP Accessibility Task Force. Bringing together accessibility specialists from across the world, the Task Force will work together with accessibilty organisations and technology vendors and others to help promote wider web accessibility.

Accessibility Task Force members include

This Task Force will play a role in assisting product developers and manufacturers to make improvements to support standards within their products. The Task Force will also work towards promoting a better understanding of web accessibility by designers and developers, corporate organisations and government institutions.

We need your opinions too

As I member of the Task Force and as Buzz has no comments enabled, I would value your comments, ideas and suggestions as to what you feel you would like to see the Task Force accomplish? What issues would you like to see brought to the attention of assistive technology vendors? What do you feel the Task Force can best do to promote wider accessibility?

Also new to WaSP

It is also very pleasing to announce that two of the people I most respect have agreed to add their talents to WaSP. Please put your hands together for Jeremy Keith and Derek Featherstone.

It's your call

Let rip.

Replies

  1. #1 On June 23, 2005 03:38 PM Roger Johansson said:

    Great! And very timely considering the recent discussions here and elsewhere.

    What I would like to see is (obviously) assistive technology get with the times and start making use of the semantic goodness that is available on more and more sites.

    But that is probably already on your list ;-)

  2. #2 On June 23, 2005 03:43 PM Ben Darlow said:

    In case I haven't said it often enough lately; dyslexia!

    I'm not dyslexic. But I still think it needs serious consideration given that there are probably more people with dyslexia than visual impairment / blindness using the web.

  3. #3 On June 23, 2005 03:55 PM Rob Waring said:

    Standardisation between vendors. At least we can remove one layer of complexity in coding by getting the vendors to treat code in the same way. It beats trying to fiddle how to hide content from them.

  4. #4 On June 23, 2005 04:26 PM Marco said:

    One thing I would like to see is more awareness of accessibility in an Intranet environment.

    I would be interested in any practises currently happening with both the Public and Private sector.

    I would guess that there would probably be more happening, Public wise, but would still like to hear of anything else going on.

  5. #5 On June 23, 2005 04:36 PM JohnO said:

    I think the best thing you can do to promote wider accessibility is to do a dry run. At SXSW a panel (can't remember who) took apart someone's ugly site, and made is standards compatible. It has also been done with slashdot. If you were to take a site (already with XHTML/CSS standards), and make it more accessible I think that would help us all.

    The splattering of topics across the web as a whole hasn't produced a 'best practices', or things you *absolutely* must do to be taken seriously, and not laughed at.

  6. #6 On June 23, 2005 04:40 PM Tina Vance said:

    I agree with Ben on giving consideration to dyslexia, but I think that should be widened to include more on cognitive disabilities in general. Cognitive disabilities are given some lip-service but it seems that they are largely ignored in practice. That's a large group of people out there in the cold. I'd like to see more information on how we can help them and what kind of help they need.

  7. #7 On June 23, 2005 05:34 PM Richard Conyard said:

    Fantastic :-),

    What activities have you got planned?

    One thing I'd love to see happen is a move against faux accessibility. It really gets on my goat when an organisation claims to be accessible, but clearly isn't.

  8. #8 On June 23, 2005 05:48 PM Mike D. said:

    Good to see more rational, practical, sane people joining the WaSP. I have high hopes for your initiative. Best of luck!

  9. #9 On June 23, 2005 05:49 PM Alex said:

    @johnO: Thoroughly agree John - This is the kind of thing I was hopping to get from @media and whilst it was really useful I felt there were still some contradictions in the presentations.

    For example it would be nice to say that the sites Malarkey produces are good examples of design standards and accessibility standards working well together. But on the other hand most of Malarkey�s sites are fixed width which I was found is generally frowned upon when it comes to accessibility.

    So one of the points I would like to see is an intelligent discussion about fixed width sites � is it ok that your fonts increase in IE but your layout does not? Or is this where we bring in Joe Clarke�s Zoom Layout?

    Or maybe I�m just a little too obsessed by the fixed vs elastic debate?

  10. #10 On June 23, 2005 06:07 PM Roger Johansson said:

    One very important activity would be to reach out to content authors that have little to no technical knowledge and make them understand accessibility. We as web developers and designers can make the framework of the websites we build as accessible as possible, but the content also needs to be created with accessibility in mind.

  11. #11 On June 23, 2005 07:48 PM Kev said:

    What Tina Vance said!

    And massive congrats to Gez - long an unsung and little known hero he's going to be an outstanding WaSP! (Ed says: (Task Force member))

  12. #12 On June 23, 2005 08:52 PM Andrea said:

    Congrats! Are you working only with assistive technology vendors, or other web services vendors as well?

    At the university we are dependent on vendor services for fundraising, student information management, financial information management, etc. As a general rule they are inaccessible nightmares. With California State universities now required to meet 508 web guidelines, we are all wokdering how we are going to accomplish this with the vendor products we use. It would be great if the WaSP could work with these folks as well.

  13. #13 On June 23, 2005 09:04 PM Francis said:

    One thing I would like to see from vendors is some willingness to offer developers a cheaper option to use their products. Most are priced so that they are unaffordable, meaning that people trying to create accessibile sites are forced to best-guess how their site actually works.

  14. #14 On June 23, 2005 09:36 PM Matthew Pennell said:

    Following on somewhat from Roger's point about content authors, I would like to see some pressure brought to bear on Content Management System vendors. More and more organisations (particularly local government) are opting for systems from large, successful vendors and paying 25 grand or more - for a system that fails on the most basic of accessibility concepts.

    I have been evaluating CMSes for months, and some of the blunders are shocking - one vendor didn't provide a means for content authors to insert headings; another converted blocks of text into a series of DIVs, all with class="paragraph"; none generated valid code.

    When challenged, it was clear that it was simply the case that nobody had ever asked for a working system - these same CMS vendors (wise to the new trend) are selling their systems as "AAA compliant", when they are clearly not.

  15. #15 On June 23, 2005 09:36 PM Tomas Caspers said:

    Acid3-test for screenreaders

  16. #16 On June 23, 2005 11:09 PM Matt Robin said:

    What a fine group to choose for this task...

    WaSP have taken a step in the right direction with the formation of this task force and I really hope this initiative proves successful.
    Accessibility is one of the hot topics now - but it's importance obviously can't be overlooked.

    Good luck to the team in their efforts!

    Additionally: Congrats to Jeremy and Derek on their new appointments with WaSP! :)

  17. #17 On June 24, 2005 12:35 AM Faruk Ateş said:

    Not to start a riot or offend anyone, but do any of these people have any experience building a Content Management System, or something alike? I don't mean "I've worked with development teams on CMS's before to help make them produce accessible output" - no, I mean do any of these people know how to create a CMS from scratch? Have they ever encountered any of the million pitfalls you get during the development stages?

    From what I can tell by their about pages, only Patrick seems likely to have any experience with that. I'd say such knowledge and experience is a very important if not vital thing for a Taskforce like that... after all, they're going to have to deal with people who make CMS's the most.

  18. #18 On June 24, 2005 01:14 AM Ben Buchanan said:

    Matthew Pennell: you have hit one my pet hates right on the nail there! :) I find it particularly galling to see major vendors peddling applications which produce "what not to do" markup. Even if you can update the templates, most of them will overwrite all of your changes whenever the system has a patch or upgrade applied. These major products are going to be the major battle ground in the next few years.
    --
    I would like to see a bit more consistency between screen readers; or a cheaper way to test them without taking their profits away (eg. send a URL, get an mp3 back, or trial copies limited to a couple of days). There are a few things that seem simple to clear up, like the eternal debate about whether to use alt="" or alt=" " (with a space). It's hard enough advocating standards/accessibility in the first place, but when people discover issues like that and start arguing the toss with you about *everything*.... you know what I'm saying :)

  19. #19 On June 24, 2005 06:06 AM Derek Featherstone said:

    @Faruk:

    do any of these people have any experience building a Content Management System, or something alike?

    No offence taken, and I'm sure it won't start a riot. What can I say, other than "its covered."
    Cheers,
    Derek.

  20. #20 On June 24, 2005 08:43 AM Veerle Pieters said:

    Hi Andy, it's nice to see that talented people are so committed to try to do the right thing. Congratz :-) Just right on time with all the discussions going on right now.

    I only just found out how difficult and complex this matter is. With the recent discussion on my site I get the feeling that minority groups might be too focused on supporting their target group only and loose the entire picture.

    Another obstacle is already mentioned here: the bad support of accessibility / standards in CMS tools. In a lot of circumstances we are the designer partner in a project who delivers XHTML/CSS templates to developers and it often happens that the clean code is totally messed up (actually slaughtered). So any help on that front would mean a lot.

    Anyway I'm sure you guys will do a great job and I'm looking forward to the first results :-)

  21. #21 On June 24, 2005 08:48 AM Michael Ward said:

    It's only been a few days since I suggested that this could be the next big battleground for WaSP (over on Derek Featherstone's Box of Chocolate). I'm happy to have pre-empted the announcement!

    I'm glad to see they you have picked up the mantle - and my biggest hope is that you can make the big tools at least more compliant (we're embarking on a Microsoft CMS based system at work! AARRGHHH!) and that the accessibility vendors can start parsing good markup in the way they should. Time for doctype switching for accessibility tools I think!

  22. #22 On June 24, 2005 08:55 AM Alain said:

    Great initiative!
    I wonder if actual people with disabilities or communities are represented in the TF. Sure accessibility is more than that, but no representation at all could undermine possible outcomes.
    Alain

  23. #23 On June 24, 2005 09:24 AM Tim said:

    Having posted similar comments on other sites, I'm sure I'm starting to sound like a stuck record, but:

    There needs to be better awareness that accessibility isn't just about conforming to a checklist or online validator. All corporate clients or employers worry about is How-Not-To- Be-Sued™, instead of worry about how accessible their sites are to their users…

    Somebody needs to beat this out of them with a stick.

    Note: This also includes clients or employers who say that web applications "can't be accessible".

  24. #24 On June 24, 2005 09:52 AM Jens Meiert said:

    Since at least one half of this "Task Force" consists of WCAG WG members or invited experts, I wonder where this should lead. Really, the other half should instead go ahead, promote accessibility (as we all do) and support our efforts at the WG - that would be a signal for the community.

    Ah, and while the WG really consists of members from across the world (US, UK, Canada, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Japan...), this new super initiative only consists of UK, US, and Canada members - which is not "from across the world". Gah.

  25. #25 On June 24, 2005 10:31 AM bruce said:

    Alain said "I wonder if actual people with disabilities are represented in the TF".

    Yup. Me.

  26. #26 On June 24, 2005 10:58 AM Richard Conyard said:

    The trouble is with CMS vendors and accessibility is more often than not their clients do not know enough about accessibility to know that the vendors triple A claims are a load of old rubbish.

    Matthew, perhaps a piece highlighting the vendors, their claims and the truth might be in order?

  27. #27 On June 24, 2005 10:59 AM Robert Wellock said:

    Can I ask a few simple questions:

    Out of the seven people listed, which of them are people who have an 'officially recognised disability'?

    If so would they like to enlighten us about their firsthand experience of coping with the said disability with regard to interacting with the internet?

    Purely on the law of averages statistically at least two people on that list should have a disability.

    I hear Bruce said he did though I would have expected at least 50% of them if it were to be anything nearly representative of such a Task Force.

  28. #28 On June 24, 2005 01:28 PM Isofarro said:

    Good luck guys and gals. You have my personal support and best wishes.

  29. #29 On June 24, 2005 02:32 PM Karl Dawson said:

    This is fantastic news, congratulations and good luck to all involved!

    @Michael Ward: We've got Microsoft CMS here at work too but we're only just getting a look at it - gotta love non-techs buying kit eh? Still, Interesting Times ahead..

  30. #30 On June 24, 2005 02:37 PM Ian Lloyd said:

    I never knew that about you Molly - the photosensitive epilepsy. And to think that we *think* we know you from your blog (and from meeting you face-to-face on a number of accassions). What does this say? Well, it is a timely reminder that many people who seem outwardly perfectly 'normal' (I hate to use that phrase, but you know what I mean) do have issues that they have to deal with, and that's what makes this an important topic to get right. It's not necessarily a small minority that can be affected.

  31. #31 On June 24, 2005 02:42 PM Faruk Ateş said:

    Ian,
    My sentiments exactly. I didn't know that about Molly either, and it does indeed prove how important this issue really is. :)


    Derek,
    Ah, excellent to hear that! :-) I'm satisfied, now. Even more so after talking to you about it ;)


    Molly,
    Oh, that's good to know. I should try and look into bringing our CMS in touch with the TaskForce once we go International, then. :-)

  32. #32 On June 24, 2005 02:53 PM Jonathan Snook said:

    I think, as others have mentioned, it's important to include pressure on CMS developers. I had actually approached WaSP to receive some direction. Unfortunately, at the time, the person Molly put me in touch with failed to follow up. I suspect we'll see some good stuff from the new team.

  33. #33 On June 24, 2005 02:55 PM Robert Wellock said:

    Well, you won't always find out unless you ask and 70% of disabilities are "hidden" � thanks for clarifying the ambiguity.

  34. #34 On June 24, 2005 06:20 PM goodwitch said:

    Well, if that isn't the Magnificent Seven, I don't know what is! "They were seven - And they fought like seven hundred!"

    So many great ideas have already been mentioned...and I agree with them all (how often can you read thru 34 posts and find that much you agree with???)

    Ideas I'd suggest for your list:

    Published vendor accessibility ratings - provide something like a accessibility consumer report for browsers, CMS, vendors, assistiive technology...

    Affordable automated accessibility testing tools - okay, I know accessibility can't truly be measured by an automated test, but when you are sitting on over a million pages...the automated testing tools can help turn your head in the right direction.

    I'm so fortunate that my University was able to purchase Watchfire, but how many other webmasters out there can't afford tools like LIFT and Watchfire.

  35. #35 On June 24, 2005 08:36 PM Andrea said:

    how many other webmasters out there can't afford tools like LIFT and Watchfire?

    Unfortunately, most can't. An affordable checker that I could let loose on my site of several hundred thousand pages would be a great help -- good call goodwitch.

    I am spending this entire week hacking a vendor fundraising product to be as accessible an valid as I can make it, and I'm embarrassed about what I'm going to end up putting out there. I called the rep this morning and she had no clue about accessibility at all. So my cry is don't stop with the CMSs!

  36. #36 On June 25, 2005 12:24 AM patrick h. lauke said:

    jens meiert wrote: "Ah, and while the WG really consists of members from across the world (US, UK, Canada, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Japan...), this new super initiative only consists of UK, US, and Canada members - which is not "from across the world". Gah."

    maybe we should start comparing the size of WaSP's TF against the size of the mighty W3C WGs? i might be naive, but i don't see it as a major problem if the task force - which will work with vendors to implement standards which *were* formulated by multicultural, world-wide working groups - may not necessarily cover every possible nationality, creed, race, disability or combination thereof.

    also, i'm sure i speak for all my TF colleagues when i say that we will not work in a vacuum. any indication of best practices, suggestions, queries, pieces of advice, requests, etc from the community will be taken into consideration. und wir werden natuerlich auch versuchen, uns ueber die verschiedenen gesetzlichen bestimmungen und speziellen beduerfnissen anderer laender - insofern diese einen einfluss auf unsere ziele haben - schlau zu machen.

  37. #37 On June 25, 2005 07:25 AM Jens Meiert said:

    Schoen gesagt, Patrick. Das sollte man auch voraussetzen koennen. - Viele Gruesse.

  38. #38 On June 25, 2005 02:01 PM Bob Easton said:

    Congratulations to all seven of you! I'm hoping there will be a lot of good interaction with technology vendors, starting with the assistive technology publishers and moving on to the CMS publishers.

    There's so much that needs to be done, and so much opportunity for improvement that I'm absolutely certain your focus will produce good results.

  39. #39 On June 25, 2005 02:55 PM Matthew Pennell said:

    @Richard Conyard: "Matthew, perhaps a piece highlighting the vendors, their claims and the truth might be in order?"

    I had considered writing something, but I thought it prudent to wait until I had decided which one to purchase before offending them all... ;)

  40. #40 On June 25, 2005 03:17 PM Richard Conyard said:

    Matthew,
    Strikes me as a bit odd that a CMS vendor might take offence, especially if it were handled in co-operation with the vendor, it's almost a free audit!

    Maybe this is me being completely stupid (as I am inclined to do), but why not form it in the nature of a competition?

    Run several categories of small, medium and large. Enter the CMSs into the correct category and review passing the notes back to the CMS vendor initially with say two weeks to take corrective action either in their claims or in their product. After that release the results to the public also stating the status of corrective action.

    You'd have to state those CMS products that did not wish to be vetted though.

    I know for certain we'd enter ours. Not because I believe it to be perfect, but because I could only see us gaining out of the experience.

  41. #41 On June 25, 2005 09:38 PM Malarkey said:

    Woooaah! Joe Clark has just responded in the finest style. Way to go Joe :)

  42. #42 On June 25, 2005 09:44 PM Matthew Pennell said:

    Richard,

    The main problem with running an independent assessment of major CMSes is that the enterprise level ones simply do not offer any kind of trial or demo without the MD of the company and his pet technician coming to perform the demonstration, preferably to the people holding the purse strings.

    I think without the clout of something like the CMS Task Force that Molly alluded to earlier (*koff*, if you're looking for volunteers) ;) or perhaps an organisation like GAWDS, it would be very difficult to perform an adequate comparison across all categories.

  43. #43 On June 26, 2005 01:13 AM Sean Fraser said:

    Will the WaSP Accessibility Task Force “Guidelines” supplement or supplant W3C WAI's WCAG 2.0?

  44. #44 On June 26, 2005 11:20 AM Richard Conyard said:

    Thanks for the reply Matthew.

    I believe GAWDs may have compromised themselves a little with the release of QneCMS, however any movement in this area would be good.

    Molly if you're looking for volunteers, even just to make the tea to actually get something going in this arena count me in!

  45. #45 On June 26, 2005 04:56 PM Roger Johansson said:

    I started writing a comment but it got a bit long so I posted it on my site: To-do list for the WaSP ATF.

  46. #46 On June 26, 2005 05:24 PM lkyoder said:

    I would like to second Andrea's (#12) suggestion to look at public higher education. Online course management software is a problem, as is much of the content that online instructors produce.

    Despite Section 508 (which is taken about as seriously as the speed limit on an empty desert highway), even the computer and web design faculty are largely ignorant of accessibility concerns. (I'm an English professor, by the way.)

    In this environment, it's very difficult to initiate change. So maybe even looking at ways to influence institutional culture would be helpful? Sadly, at this point, law suits do seem to be the only thing that gets anyone's attention.

    Leslie

  47. #47 On June 26, 2005 08:26 PM Matthew Pennell said:

    Richard: GAWDS compromised itself by not being what many of its own members assumed it was.

  48. #48 On June 29, 2005 04:43 PM Paul Martin said:

    I have often thought of giving a talk about the importance of web accessibility. The most dramatic presentation would involve two versions of a simple web page, one version accessible and the other not, with mp3's of a screen reader output for each. There has to be someone out there with the resources to generate a demo like that. You could then post it on the web for anyone to use. I don't know any other way of getting people's attention to the problem.

    If it helps, we could take up a collection to buy you guys a screen reader or two. $10 apiece from each reader of this weblog could probably do it.

This article was originally published by Andy Clarke on his personal web site And All That Malarkey and is reproduced here for archive purposes. This article is published under a Creative Commons By Attribution License 2.0.

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