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A few thoughts on using dynamic web pages to improve accessibility

From: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 1999 11:42:12 -0800 (PST)
Message-Id: <199911101942.LAA08973@netcom.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Blind people and sighted people may work with web pages in very different ways
from each other.  Some of these differences are:

  1.  Both sighted and blind people need to get a sense of context from
      each page.  A sighted person can quickly scan to see what the page
      is about.  A blind person has to more grope through the page
      to get a sense of what is there in order to get a better understanding
      of the context.  This approach is slow and cumbersome.  Also,
      a blind person may jump to a conclusion to early.  What would
      be helpful is being able to hit a key and a summary of the page
      appears in a pop-up box.

  2.  Sighted people need more layout to understand the information.
      Usually, this is done with tables.  However, tables can be
      create confusion for blind people.  A more linear form is often
      preferable for blind users.

  3.  Searching in a web page is much slower for blind people than sighted.
      If the page is new, knowing what to search for is harder.
      The page should be designed to help minimize the need to search.

  4.  Jumping back and forth on a page is much easier for sighted people
      than blind people.  The page should be structured to minimize
      the need for that.

  5.  If the access keys are being used, blind users can benefit from
      being able to hit a key and have a pop-up box describing
      what special keys are available.

  6.  While sighted people can quickly skip over links at the top of
      a page, it is harder for blind people to do that.  An alternative
      design would be to put groups of links at the bottom and have
      keys which will scroll the page to the desired group of links.

  7.  Sighted people can often find links more easily than blind.
      If a page has some very popular links, it might be easier for blind
      users to have keys activate the popyular links to reduce the
      time searching.

  8.  It is often easier for sighted people to find forms on a
      page than blind people.  Blind users can benefit from having keys
      which will automatically scroll the page to a particular form.

  9.  Sighted people can often find the end of the form by some
      visual cuing.  Blind people often assume that encountering
      a submit button is the end of the form.  This can be in error
      if there is more than one submit button or if there are more
      form elements after the submit button.  Blind users can benefit
      from clear indication about the end of the form being reached.

  10.  A sighted person can quickly skip over a group of radio
       buttons or identify which radio button is selected.
       A blind person often prefers a drop-down selection list.
       It is easier to skip over and the user can quickly identify
       what the current choice is.

Currently, many web designers don't know how to design accessible static
web pages.  The general assumption is that they can be trained.  If they
can be trained for designing static pages for accessibility, why can't
they be trained in designing dynamic web pages for accessibility.

I believe that with the correct flexible software architecture for creating
dynamic web pages, a version of each page can be created to more closely meet
the needs of each of a number of disabilities.

My concern for accessibility is not only can a blind person do something, but
also how fast/efficient they are at doing it.

Received on Wednesday, 10 November 1999 14:42:33 UTC

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