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Re: A few thoughts on using dynamic web pages to improve accessibility

From: Leonard R. Kasday <kasday@acm.org>
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1999 08:46:14 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Hi Scott,

You talk at the end of your note about the potential benefit of dynamically
generating different versions of pages.  Of the examples you gave the one
where the benefit is most obvious is the radio button vs. drop down list.
Radio buttons are more convenient in many situations for sighted people
(especially when there are a lot of ratings arranged table fashion) but in
a previous discussion on this list blind users pointed out the advantages
of dropdown lists while screenreading.    And this isn't just a
hypothetical situation: I'm facing this exact situation right now while
advising some folks how to make an online survey.

In the other examples though, you described solutions that didn't require
dynamic generation. Could you give additional examples in which the
advantages of different forms is more obvious?  For example, a case where
text is laid out in a table, and is understandable when linearized, but
could be read more conveniently if not linearized?

By the way, reading order is one situation where style sheet layout could
do the same thing as dynamic generation.  To bad we can't count on that in
visual browsers at the moment.


At 11:42 AM 11/10/99 -0800, Scott Luebking wrote:
>Blind people and sighted people may work with web pages in very different
>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.
Leonard R. Kasday, Ph.D.
Institute on Disabilities/UAP, and
Department of Electrical Engineering
Temple University

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Received on Thursday, 11 November 1999 08:42:49 UTC

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