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Re: Popular Accessible Sites Request

From: Kelly Ford <Kelly@kellford.com>
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 06:18:13 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

At 09:39 AM 7/15/01 +0900, Davey Leslie wrote:
>I mean lower-case 'a' accessible--sites that have proven useable, and hence,
>have developed a good reputation among folks using, say, screen-readers. Not
>necessarily upper-case tripple-a Acessible with all the validations and
>banners and such.
Two of the leading factors in improved usability of the web to folks who 
use screen readers have little to do with compliance to WAI 
guidelines.  They  are the ability to cursor directly to the full text of a 
web page, much like a word processing document, and the resulting 
decolumnization of tables that is part of this process.  These are features 
found in programs like IBM Home Page Reader, Window-Eyes and JFW.  Lynx of 
course offers some of the decolumnization functionality which I suspect has 
a lot to do with that program's popularity in some screen reading sectors.

Before the features I'm describing existed with the combination of screen 
readers and graphical browsers, the average screen reading user had to know 
a lot more about window layouts and how to avoid the clutter of things like 
menu bars and such.  Not to mention multi-columned web pages, which can 
still be a problem if one's not using access technology that does this 
decolumnization.  The elements of the GUI are not necessarily bad, but 
rather there just wasn't an easy way to get them out of the way when one 
wanted to browse a web page in the past.

Today, by contrast, load a web page into any of the programs I mentioned 
and by default all you have access to is the content of the web 
page.  There's nothing to get in the way of getting at the content unless 
you specifically ask to use a menu and such.

To answer your specific question, I would say that web sites that make it 
easy to separate navigation from content tend to be most usable.  Including 
the "skip nav" option as CNN does is one example.

Having a predictable landmark can also be of value.  For example after 
selecting a section of interest on <http://www.nytimes.com> I know that 
searching for the current date will jump me to the stories in that section.

Also, news sites that offer "printer friendly" versions of articles tend to 
be more usable.  Again this is because you can separate the clutter from 
the content.

What's frustrating is when content is broken up with other navigation 
elements.  Typically this is done when you are reading a story and in the 
middle of the content links to previous articles on the topic are 
found.  You have no easy way to know how much of this clutter is present.

Now what would be better in my opinion is finding ways to go beyond these 
things that happen to work and building an infrastructure that built on the 
concepts.  For example, if you are going to offer a "skip nav" option, why 
not make it a "hide nav" option.  Eliminate the clutter until I ask for it 

Another direction that would help from a blindness perspective in my 
opinion, is finding ways to bring more structure into web pages.  For 
example if I tell a screen reading user that they are on a list box, or 
page tab, the majority of folks will know what actions they can take with 
these elements.

I could make a news site significantly more usable if I had a way of 
putting the content into more structures that screen reading users have 
been using.  For example I could have one list box from which the user 
selected major sections, another stories from a given section and then the 
actual content of a given story.  Now this wouldn't be very visually 
appealing so it is unlikely to happen any time soon.  I also fully realize 
that these comments reflect only one population of folks with disabilities.

If you are anyone else is interested in discussing more of a user 
perspective, one forum is a list I run called Webwatch.  You can join with 
a message to webwatch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.  Traffic on the list is 
generally low volume and it too is largely focused on screen reading and 
screen enlargement users.  And in fact you might want to visit 
<http://www.magnifiers.org> and the list mentioned there if screen 
enlargement is a sector of interest.

Two other good forums for reaching screen reading users are blindtech 
(blindtech-subscribe@yahoogroups.com) and vicug-l (send a message to 
listserv@maelstrom.stjohns.edu with subscribe vicug-l as the 
text).  Blindtech is a high volume list with a hundred messages a day being 
quite common.  Vicug-l is anothert low volume list.

Received on Monday, 16 July 2001 09:02:16 UTC

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