Accessibility and Usability & Your Websiteil

Getting up at 05:00 is not my idea of fun. Nor is driving to Newcastle, and getting lost before attending a workshop on; Accessibility and Usability & Your Website, organised by Netskills.

Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product (e.g., device, service, environment) is accessible by as many people as possible.

My own accessibility skills are self-taught and I’ve always found the internet provides plenty of articles for web developers of all levels. During the obligatory intros, I cited my aims of the course as “..filling in any gaps in my knowledge”. As it turned out, there weren’t many gaps and in some areas, my knowledge exceeded the course content.

My gaps where more in my thinking and approach rather than in how to write accessible code. Some of the hands-on sessions on the webaim site give a feel for problems some visitors have using the web. Try the these simulations for yourself;

WCAG 1.0 was published in 1999, Accessibility badgesand although many found implementation of the guidelines difficult, but despite that they’re still around today. Of the 14 guidelines only 3 relate to usability. The first 10 focus on markup, and this really forms the cornerstone to accessible websites. The hands-on exercise to use the guidelines to evaluate a site demonstrated how difficult they are to use and why they have spawned so many third party tools (wave, Bobby [defunct], vischeck fae) to attempt to automate conformance, often with badges so frequently seen on government sites.

WCAG 2.0 is long overdue, started in 2001 it has had its critics. Many feel that its simply too complicated to make any site accessible. Personally speaking, I’ve never read either of the guidelines through, completely. You try it, its like pulling teeth. I tend to refer to it when I feel I need to.

The day was enjoyable, but the course felt a little stale, and that might be down to a long wait for WCAG 2.0. In addition, working with AJAX and Web 2.0, opens up more questions regarding accessibility and usability, which are being talked about and written about, but which the course didn’t cover. I’ve fed all of this back so if you go to one in the future, let me know if its been included.