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Re: writing accessible content pages in course management systems

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 00:52:15 -0500 (CDT)
Message-ID: <52030.>
To: "Janet Perkins Corbett" <Perky@uwyo.edu>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Hi Janet,

I guess you are going to have to read a lot of Help documentation, and
distill it into something that people will actually read and use. I am no
longer familiar with the products in your basket - I last used them
seriously in any way about 4 years ago, but I do know that there are a
fair number of things you can do with Word.

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines group -
http:///www.w3.org/WAI/AU - has looked at a number of these systems,
including Word, I think WebCT, and others. The chair of that group, Jutta
Treviranus, runs a unit at University of Toronto that has worked with some
of the e-learning system developers. There are other people out there who
have worked on various other systems. I suggest pinging them and asking
what reviews, instructions, cheat-sheets or tips they have - when I was
involved some years ago we published some of that information, which might
have been useful at the time. I hope the products have seriously improved
since then and that the information is out of date, but I rather suspect
that it would still bear reading :-\

If the departments are prepared to buy products you should look at
HiSoftware's AccVerify/AccRepair which works with MS Office documents -
and there may be others that do too. WAI sometimes maintains a page at
http://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/existingtools - I am not sure how up to date it
is, but last I looked (months  ago) it hadn't been touched for a couple of
years. I know the Education and Outreach Group, who seem to have taken
responsibility for it, have had the page on their agenda earlier this year
but don't know if they have actually updated it at all.

No tool will do all the work for you - although I trust you know that. The
quick things to look at are structuring the document - in Word this is
done with style sheets, which have a pretty good interface for users,
which repays teh effort of learning in general efficiency improvement very

If you choose the right ones and convert things to HTML the right way then
you should get well-structured HTML. You may need to run some free program
such as tidy over the results, or there is a product (I forget its name at
the moment) that is designed to batch-convert Word to HTML and can be
customised to get all the accessibility structure in - again, costs money.
You'd have to check what the current best process is, but I guess there
are still ways of doing it on the cheap or free.

In terms of providing alternatives for media components word has some
possibilities - it's easy for images, but when the interactivity of a
component is required it gets hard (in general, actually, because it moves
from being a simple technical process to thinking about the actual content
itself with a view to accessibility).

In any case I suggest you push strongly for the departments to provide
some actual face-to-face training for their staff - it is probably more
efficient than finding out what they do, writing stuff, testing it on
them, and going through the cycle 5 times. It is almost certainly more
effective than giving them stuff that people are too busy to really read
and absorb.

I hope that is a pointer in the right direction. Good luck - along with
all your knowledge, experience, and the help that you can get it is likely
to come in handy :-)



Charles McCathieNevile           charles@sidar.org

<quote who="Janet Perkins Corbett">

> I'm in the process of writing a guidebook for university instructors on
> how to create accessible web pages for use in course management systems,
> specifically eCollege and WebCT.  Many of our departments/instructors
> don't choose to use eCollege's option of "Course Development", where
> eCollege staff takes care of accessibility issues.

> Most of my target audience paste Word docs into the course management
> system's editor window.  Some upload their Word docs and use them as
> content pages. Some type directly into the editor. And I am sure, some
> do a combination of all those.
Received on Wednesday, 20 October 2004 05:52:49 UTC

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