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Site Review Request: MIT OpenCourseWare

From: B.K. DeLong <bkdelong@pobox.com>
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2003 13:19:34 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Hi all -

I've been working with MIT's OpenCourseWare (http://ocw.mit.edu) project 
for about a year now and since I started, Web accessibility was at the 
forefront of my mind. For those not familiar with the project, Wired 
recently did a overview that published this week:

Anyway, we're about to do a massive republish of all 500 courses (we have 
about 200 up now) on September 30th - the day of our official launch. Prior 
to that, I'd like to revisit the work I've already done on our site 
templates to make sure they are accessible as possible.

Our current site is made up of a series of templates:


* Main Site (http://ocw.mit.edu)

* Generic Global
(such as "About OCW" - 
http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Global/AboutOCW/about-ocw.htm )

* Department 
(http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Civil-and-Environmental-Engineering/index.htm )

* Course Home Page

*Second-Level Course Page 


With these templates, everything between the main header for the page (in 
red and designated with a <p class="pagetitle">) and the footer is 
controlled by the template with the exception of the Course Home Page.

Known issue:

Like many Web developers, I was hit with a graphical spec. with which to 
design the site. In sticking to that specification, I had to use static 
tables for layout rather than dynamic tables or CSS positioning. So the 
only "Error" that should show up in Bobby is an AA - "you are not using 
percentages instead of pixels for your tables". If and when we do a 
redesign, part of the RFP will be an XHTML + CSS only site.

Some things I am aware of and am working on:

1. Changing <p class="pagetitle"> to an actual <h1> to make it easier for 
screenreaders to get to the meat of a document.
2. Modifying the stylesheet to use percentages instead of pixels - I need 
to map the various inheritance schemes to do this.
3. Running Adobe's "Make Accessible" plugin is standard procedure for every 
PDF though some (like those using Type 3 fonts or that are inordinately 
complex) get corrupt through this process and are not run through it.
4. We've started a campus-wide committee to address PDF accessibility in 
the form of educating Professors and TAs about how to format source 
documents (MS Word, TeX) and plan to offer templates.
5. An Accessibility Statement.

Other than that, I've run all our templates through the HTML Validator, the 
CSS Validator and Bobby (I STILL haven't found a decent accessibility 
checker aside from reading the WCAG directly).

A majority of the body text for the Second-Level Course Pages still need 
work as they were entered by one of 30 different authors and the authoring 
tool (eWebEditPro - part of our CMS) seems to want to reformat some 
elements as XHTML.

My primary concentration is everything controlled by the templates. But if 
I ever have time, I will go back and fix the 500 courses and their 5000 
related HTML pages ;)

Questions I pose to you, the reviewer:

1. Should I look into tabindex and accesskey for the common navigation 
elements throughout the site?
2. Should I be grouping all the left-hand navigation links or top 
navigation links in some way?
3. What about letting people know that a certain link will "open up" in a 
new window, i.e. target="_blank" - should I give these links a special title?
4. What am I missing?

I think that's everything - if you decided to help us out and take a look, 
please review pages that use at least one of each template. Comments, 
suggestions & criticisms are most welcome and please feel free to forward 
this onto other mailing lists.

Thanks in advance.

B.K. DeLong
Web Production Specialist
MIT OpenCourseWare


+1.617.797.2472 (cell)
Received on Wednesday, 27 August 2003 13:21:28 UTC

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