Thursday, July 23, 2009

Accessibility Talkabout

AccessibleWeb@U Meeting, July 23, 2009, Allen Auditorium

This meeting was a Talkabout; an agenda created on the spot (and modified dynamically) and discussions that go where they needed to go.

  • Reviewed new DOIT video about accessible design
    • Draft version is at
    • We felt it was a good overall statement of what accessible design is about
    • The final movie will be available through DOIT and UWTV soon
  • New UW templates are coming
    • The Web Council met this morning to hear progress on the new Web look for UW sites. HTML and CSS should be available by sometime in September.
  • Puzzle of site design development process: Why are accessibility considerations coming so late in the process?
    • Professional design process now often involves doing mockups with Photoshop, getting approval, then handing the Photoshop file to a coder
      • A variety of PSD to HTML conversion software and methods are available. See...
    • The method can work if both the designer and the coder are knowledgeable in accessibility and usability considerations in Web design
    • On the other hand, the process can produce fiat accompli designs that are hard to make usable or accessible
      • Narrow scope thinking in each step can miss opportunities for better design or deliver non-negotiable features to the next stage in the process
      • Design thinking insensitive to Web technology can result in features that can only be created with coding kludges (non-semantic markup, place-holder objects, complex div structures, etc.) which defeat accessibility and usability goals
      • Design conventions (habits) tend to be used to justify less usable/accessible design; it is safer to do what other people are doing (such as fixed width, fixed font-size, low contrast design) rather than use a goal-oriented criteria-based design process
      • Best design process has the following:
        • Clearly stated usability and accessibility goals, such as contrast, semantic markup, intelligible flow of content, and simple structure
        • Good, on-going communication between customer, designer, coder, and tester
        • People in the team with good knowledge of usability/accessibility who are empowered to direct attention to any problems and work with team toward good solutions
  • "Flexible Web Design: Creating Liquid and Elastic Layouts with CSS" by Zoe Gillenwater
    • Dylan is currently working his way through the book and recommends it
    • Flexible designs work better on a wider range of devices and allow the user more control of how they interact with the site, such as by scaling to an appropriate font size for their needs
  • Scripting issues and developments
    • Designing for mobile devices
      • Good structural flow helps; zooming in and out and scrolling around is time consuming
      • Buttons and other clickable areas should have sufficent size
      • Scripting needs to consider limited scripting feature set of many phones
        • Google is now offering the iPhone User Interface ( to faciliate creating sites with Google features for iPhones
    • Progressive enhancement (PE) scripting has major accessibility benefits
      • PE methods usually involve scripting that operates on html content, such as displaying content in an unordered list as a menu. If the scripting cannot be read, the content is still available in the HTML, which everything can read
      • Yahoo User Interface library ( offers PE versions of many of its scripts for menus, collapsible lists, and other functionality
      • JQuery ( has PE methods (for an example, see
  • Future AccessibleWeb@U Meetings
    • August - No meeting currently planned
    • September - Libraries AccHack
    • October - Accessible scripting principles and examples
    • Social Networking with Accessiblity people

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