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Re: Accessible web site examples

From: Lloyd G. Rasmussen <lras@loc.gov>
Date: Tue, 21 Jul 98 09:31:41 EDT
Message-Id: <47892.lras@loc.gov>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
On Tue, 21 Jul 1998 10:12:51 +0100 (GMT Day, 
Lee Davis   <L.S.Davis@exeter.ac.uk> wrote:

>I welcome the various sets of guidelines on accessible web pages,
>even if some are contradictory!  What we do not seem to have, however,
>are sets of real example good and bad web pages.  I'm thinking in terms,
>say, of running a course in accessible webpage design and providing
>real web pages (need not be anything large!) as examples of both.  One 
>thing I get confused about myself is TABLEs.  Bobby pretty much frowns
>on tables alltogther but many sites claiming to be accessible use them.
>I do not find tables much of a problem with Lynx myself. I understand 
>the problems with using a left hand pane of a table as a list of quick 
>links - mainly, under Lynx these popup first and make it awkward to get 
>to the content quickly.

I agree that Lynx straightens out the problem of tables that are used 
for layout, as long as they have <br> tags in those large columnar 
cells.  But blind people, for a variety of reasons, are using more 
browsers than Lynx nowadays.  If you use a Windows screen reader with 
Netscape, or with the plain vanilla Internet Explorer, and probably 
Opera, tables will be displayed as tables.  This is a fine thing for 
things like bus and train schedules, because it puts individual data 
items in separate cells, which can be painstakingly examined with your 
screen reader's mouse movement commands.  But since you don't know in 
advance how wide each of the columns will be, most screen readers 
can't parse the screen and read you, for example, just the center 
column of news.com or EE Times.  Because the text is written to the 
screen one column at a time, a setting to have the screen reader 
"speak all" as it comes in will read the columns in order, but 
subsequent reexamination of the screen will be on a line-by-line 
basis, jumbling the columns together.

When a screen reader such as Window-Eyes or WinVision works with I E 
3.02 and its Active Accessibility component, the screen reader does 
some parsing of the HTML and gives you the Lynx experience once 
again.  In W.E. you can turn AA off and see the page in its 
default configuration when you need to.

Jaws for Windows 3.2, as I understand it, uses style sheets, the 
PowerToys app, and accessibility settings in I E 4.01 to create its 
own "reformatting" of web pages.  I don't know what PW Webspeak or 
the W3 browser do. 

I think that the lack of Alt text, clickable server-side image maps,  
and the gratuitous use of scripts that make your screen reader/browser 
uncontrollable are three of the biggest accessibility problems facing 
totally blind web surfers.  Frames and tables come in the second 
tier.  As we move closer to high-bandwidth, high-impact, dynamic 
pages, who is in control of the timing will become more and more 
critical, as well.  Lynx's handling of the Refresh directive is 
instructive for this part of the problem.

>So, examples are what we need so we can say, 'no, look at this - this 
>is the way to do it.'
>Anyone know of any?  

I think the pages of the Library of Congress are not a bad start.  You 
can find exhibits where scanned images were not put through an OCR 
engine or retyped.  You will not find any D links anywhere.  But if 
you're after information, you're likely to find it, in my opinion.

-- Lloyd Rasmussen
Senior Staff Engineer, Engineering Section
National Library Service for the  Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress          202-707-0535
(work)       lras@loc.gov    http://www.loc.gov/nls/
(home) lras@sprynet.com http://home.sprynet.com/sprynet/lras/      
Received on Tuesday, 21 July 1998 09:30:43 UTC

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