UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

  • Email Subscription (Feedburner)

  • Twitter

    Posts on this blog cover ideas often discussed on Twitter. Feel free to follow @briankelly.

    Brian Kelly on Twitter Counter

  • Syndicate This Page

    RSS Feed for this page

    Licence

    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. As described in a blog post this licence applies to textual content published by the author and (unless stated otherwise) guest bloggers. Also note that on 24 October 2011 the licence was changed from CC-BY-SA to CC-BY. Comments posted on this blog will also be deemed to have been published with this licence. Please note though, that images and other resources embedded in the blog may not be covered by this licence.

    Contact Details

    Brian's email address is ukwebfocus@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter using the ID briankelly. Also note that the @ukwebfocus Twitter ID provides automated alerts of new blog posts.

  • Contact Details

    My LinkedIn profile provides details of my professional activities.

    View Brian Kelly's profile on LinkedIn

    Also see my about.me profile.

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Privacy

    Cookies

    This blog is hosted by WordPress.com which uses Google Analytics (which makes use of 'cookie' technologies) to provide the blog owner with information on usage of this blog.

    Other Privacy Issues

    If you wish to make a comment on this blog you must provide an email address. This is required in order to minimise comment spamming. The email address will not be made public.

Posts Tagged ‘WCAG’

Rethinking Web Accessibility for E-Learning

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Mar 2009

Online College Edu Blogger Scholarship ContestWhy would we want to rethink Web accessibility in an elearning context? Surely application of WAI‘s WCAG guidelines will provide universal accessibility? And the recently released WCAG 2.0 guidelines should improve things further.

As described in a paper on “Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility” the WAI approach is flawed when applied in an elearning context. The WCAG guidelines seek to ensure that information can be processed by people with disabilities using a variety of assistive technologies. But learning isn’t about the simple processing of information (effective learning isn’t provided by encylopedia!).

Figure 1: The Holistic Approach to E-Leaning Accessibility (which emphasises the importance of the learners needs and acknowledges that factors including accessibility, usability, local factors, organisational infrastructure and the learning outcomes all need to be consideredThis was the core of our initial work. Further research described flaws in WAI guidelines and provided evidence that, although a political success, WCAG guidelines aren’t being implemented to any significant extent. The reason for this isn’t that educational institutions aren’t aware of the guidelines or don’t care about enhancing the quality of learning for students with disabilities. And although there are instances in which accessibility could be enhanced relatively simply, there is a need for an alternative approach which recognises the complexities of user needs and requirements, the rapidly changing technical environment, our understandings of what is meant by ‘accessibility’ and ‘disability’ and our ability to implement desirable solutions (and not just policies) within our institutions.

Figure 2: Stakeholder model of accessibilityOur proposed approach (solution would be too bold a term) describes a Web Adaptability framework which builds on our holistic framework and focusses on the accessibility of learning outcomes rather than e-learning resources and the involvement of a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

And rather than a simplistic legal framework, institutions should deploy such approaches due to peer pressure, involvement of learners with disabilities in the design process, corporate reputation management, peer group pressure and sharing of solutions and failures.

Please join in the debate on how this goal can be realised!


Please note that this post was submitted to the Edu Blogger Scholarship contest and has been shortlisted in the 20 finalists. For details on why I am entering this contest see my previous post.

Posted in Accessibility | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

WCAG 2.0 is Now An Official W3C Recommendation

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Dec 2008

The WCAG 2.0 guidelines for Web content accessibility were officially launched yesterday (11 December 2009).  Hurrah – the very dated and flawed WCAG 1.0 guidelines are no more!  And organisations which require Web resources to conform to WCAG 1.0 should be quickly updating their policies, their training course, their workflow process, etc.  Although as the WCAG 2.0 guidelines have been under development for several years (the first draft was published in January 2001!) with a number of iterations of towards the published version having been released over the past couple of years this should have given organisations plenty of time to plan their migration strategy.

The guidelines are much improved, with an emphasis on conformance with four key POUR principles (resources should be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust). And although it should be remembered that the guidelines have not yet been proven to demonstrably enhance accessibility and there is little experience in how the guidelines will be implemented in a real world context it should also be pointed out that the WCAG 1.0 guidelines have been shown to be flawed. So there is no excuse not to move on.

The challenge will be knowing how to apply WCAG 2.0, based on the experiences we’ve had in the past.  And as I learnt from the Designing For Disability event I spoke at last week, the Deaf together with those with learning disabilities do seem to find visually rich content more accessible – although I should hasten to add that these findings were described as feedback from particular case studies and should not be regarded as universal truths.  Indeed I would suggest that it is a truth which should be universally acknowledged that universal accessibility is a pipe dream, and that we should be seeking to enhance access and widening participation.

Posted in Accessibility | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All UK Government Web Sites Must Be WCAG AA Compliant

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Oct 2007

The UK Government has published a Public consultation on Delivering Inclusive Websites document (TG102). This document (available in MS Word and PDF formats) states that all government Web sites must comply with the WCAG AA guidelines by December 2008. And failure to comply will result in the withdrawal of the .gov.uk domain.

Great, you may think. At last the Government is doing something positive for people with disabilities.

I would disagree – I think this is a flawed approach for several reasons:

  • The WCAG 1.0 guidelines are widely acknowledged to be out-of-date and inappropriate for the technical environment and ways in which the Web is used today. And this is not just what I think. Michael Cooper, who works for WAI (who produce the WCAG guidelines) admitted this is a paper he presented at the W4A 2007 conference. As I described in my report on the conference Michael write:

However, we recognize that standards are slow, and technology evolves quickly in the commercial marketplace. Innovation brings new customers and solidifies relationships with existing customers; Web 2.0 innovations also bring new types of professionals to the field, ones who care about the new dynamic medium. As technologies prove themselves, standardizing brings in the universality of the benefit, but necessarily follows this innovation. Therefore, this paper acknowledges and respects Web 2.0, discussing the issues and real world solutions.

  • The WCAG 1.0 guidelines are flawed and ambiguous, as described in a paper on “Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World“. For example a strict interpretation of the priority 2 guideline which states “… use the latest versions [of W3C technologies] when supported” would mean that a WCAG AA conformant HTML 4 Web site would be degraded to WCAG A conformance overnight when XHTML 1.0 was officially released! There are similar flaws when one considers use of GIF (a widely used, but proprietary graphical format) and PNG (an open and rich, but comparatively rarely-used W3C graphical format). Use of a closed graphical format such as GIF would appear to break the WCAG priority 2 guideline which requires Web developers to “Use W3C technologies when they are available and appropriate for a task“. But is there any evidence that use of GIF rather than PNG is a significant accessibility barrier?
  • It is unclear whether proprietary file formats such as MS Word and PowerPoint and Adobe PDF can be hosted on a government Web site. The document implies they can, provided the file formats are used in an accessible way. But doesn’t this conflict with the WCAG guideline given above? And if Word, PowerPoint and PDF formats can be used, what other proprietary formats can be used? Would a Flash-only Web site be permitted, provided accessible Flash was used?
  • Although the document supports use of both automated testing tools and manual testing, I fear that time pressures will result in priority being given to automated testing, perhaps based on the EU-funded automated accessibility checking tool, the limitations of which I wrote about recently.
  • The conservatism often found in the public sector will stifle initiative and innovation, even when this could provide more accessible services to people with disabilities.
  • The difficulties of ensuring that user-generated content complies with WCAG AA guidelines (e.g. ensuring the abbreviations and acronyms are marked up when first used in a page) will discourage government bodies from providing services which seek to actively engage UK citizens.
  • The requirement seems to ignore the benefits that can be provided within a particular context. A Web site featuring an anti-drugs campaign aimed at youths in the inner city may be more effective if it uses language likely to be understood by the target audience. But the danger is that such an approach would not be allowed, as the language would not be universally accessible.
  • The failure to address change control in the policy. When, for example, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are released which, based on the current draft, are more tolerant of proprietary formats, JavaScript and invalid HTML pages, how are Web site owners supposed to respond?

I fear the underlying rationale to this approach is based on the checklist approach which the government seems over-enamoured with. Sadly the requirements to comply with benchmark targets seems inevitably to lead to a fixation with addressing the targets themselves, and a failure to address the underlying issues. As I write the broadsheets are arguing that failures in hygiene standards are due to the NHS’s requirements to satisfy (and monitor) benchmark figures rather tackling the hygiene issues.

After a series of useful government services are withdrawn because of the concerns that they may break dated guidelines, I predict a government minister will face the wrath of Jeremy Paxman – and Jeremy will be able to make use of an anti-EU argument, as the consultation document does admit that “In 2002, the European Parliament set the minimum level of accessibility for all public sector websites at Level Double-A“. A good question for Jeremy will be “Do you have any evidence that compliance with these dated guidelines brings any benefits to people with disabilities?

It seems that political expediency (a Brown government seeking to make a statement, perhaps) has failed to acknowledge the limitations of the checklist approach. And this despite participation from the COI at the “Accessibility Summit II: A User-Focussed Approach to Web Accessibility” in November 2007. As described in a report on the event Kevin Carey, Vice-Chair of the Royal National Institute of the Blind and director of digital inclusion charity HumanITy argued that “At the moment the government is following highly specific [WCAG] points. Some work, some don’t“.

Sadly it seems that the recommendations of this group have been ignored. At least we’re not the only ones concerned about this new. In a comment on a post on New UK government web accessibility consultation on the Blether blog, Karls states that:

I’ve been reading this document today and I agree with Jack – it needs to lose the checklist mentality, extend the deadline (I understand that the author probably had to put some date there) and get every website tested by our friends at RNIB / AbilityNet / Shaw Trust / Nomensa using some kind of joined-up (consistent) testing scheme. I might have missed a few other big players out there but the point I really want to make is I don’t want to see .gov.uk sites get sucked in by snake-oil salesmen.

Your thoughts?

Posted in Accessibility | Tagged: , | 13 Comments »