A new web accessibility Standard
BS 8878 : Web accessibility. Building accessible experiences for disabled people. Code of practice

By the end of November 2010, we should have a new web accessibility standard.

The new document has been developed by the British Standards Institution (BSi) and will be known as BS 8878 : "Web accessibility. Building accessible experiences for disabled people. Code of practice". Several copies of the draft documents can be found here : http://www.bsigroup.com/en/Standards-and-Publications/How-we-can-help-you/Consumers/Accessibilty-day/BS-8878-form/Thank-you/

The new accessibility standard aims to discuss web accessibility without needing specialist IT knowledge, unlike WCAG which was largely a technical document & really designed for web developers. Here is how the BSi explain the new document :

BS 8878 has been designed to introduce accessibility, usability and user experience for disabled people to non-technical professionals, some of whom may be completely new to this subject. It gives guidance on process, rather than on technical and design issues, including recommendations for:

• Involving disabled people in the development process and using automated tools to assist with accessibility testing
• The management of the guidance and process for upholding existing accessibility guidelines and specifications.

Based on PAS 78:2006, Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites, BS 8878 will inform organizations of their legal responsibilities in relation to web accessibility, calling on them to appoint a specific person or department to oversee activity. Responsibility could fall within the Marketing, PR or External Relations departments that typically look after the organization’s website, or it could be Operations staff, Product Managers, HR Managers or others who are responsible for internal web applications.

I will keep you posted as more information becomes available.

Posted byCharlie M at 03:21 0 comments  

Social networking & the Internet is beginning to scare me...

Although this post is not strictly about Web Accessibility or the online User Experience, I thought it may be of interest to my readers. The thing is, social networking and the Internet is beginning to scare me.

A few weeks ago I received an email which recommended I become ‘linked-in’ with several people. The people were a mixture of work colleagues from all different sources- people who I have worked with, design agencies I have used and people I have emailed or are stored in my work and personal email address book. I don’t even use linked-in!

Linked In logo
It seems that the information collated in this email was drawn together from my web browsing behaviour, webmail use and the (limited) information I have disclosed on my social networking pages. It just goes to show how your ‘personal’ information can be used as your ‘Online Profile’ develops.

Coincidentally, this week Google boss Eric Schmidt warned of the use of social media, and predicts that people may have to change their names in the future to escape from their Online past…

"I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," he says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites.”

Source : The Wall Street Journal.

Eric Schmidt image

Google is everywhere, and their products are superb. The Chrome browser is lightning fast, Gmail is a great email tool , Google Maps is very useful (and fascinating), YouTube is a great resource for learning and general amusement and Picasa is a easy to use photo album tool (with face recognition technology… to automatically identify you and your friends in photos). However, when using these tools, the personal information you disclose is immense… Google knows your browsing habits, your interests, your friends, what you email about, what makes you laugh, what you want to know more about, where you walk/drive to and even what you look like. Now combine this with your information, updates, groups, relationship status, employer and friends on Facebook / Twitter / Bebo and builds up a very detailed profile about you.

What makes this even more concerning is the use of mobile technology, especially running Android (the Google Operating System). Not only does Google know your habits when you’re using your computer, they also know your activities when out and about…

“Let's say you're walking down the street. Because of the info Google has collected about you, "we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are." Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are. “

Source : The Wall Street Journal.

Android Logo
The information you share Online may not be anything you want to hide, and most likely will not be malicious or illegal, but do you really want strangers to know about you? In the same way that in the ‘real world’ most people would be wary of giving strangers a handful of old photographs of themselves or discuss their date of birth, first pet and employer, we need to be more cautious with our behaviour online.

So what can you do to prevent an ‘Online Profile’ being built about you? Very little, if you do want to take an active part in the Internet and Online Communities.

My advice is to always be very wary of the information you disclose online, and to always ensure you sign out of social networking and email tools when you have finished your session. And most of all, be conscious & vigilant of how the information disclosed could be used as part of your wider Online Profile.

I hope this post (rant?) has been of interest, and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Posted byCharlie M at 08:47 0 comments  

iPhone 4 Accessibility features

As I am sure you are all aware by now, the iPhone 4 launched on 24th June 2010 in the UK. It certainly looks like a great device (despite the initial teething issues…), although I am trying my hardest to resist one. For me, Apple’s world domination is becoming rather unnerving...

iPhone 4 picture

This said, I have been extremely impressed with the accessibility features built into the iPhone 4. Apple’s continued support for accessibility is really commendable, and I hope Apple's rival companies begin to follow suit.

Here is a quick rundown of the iPhone 4 accessibility support :


- Screen reading with VoiceOver.

VoiceOver is “the world’s first gesture-based screen reader”. This allows the user to hear a verbal description of item they are touching. VoiceOver speaks 21 languages and works with all of the applications built into iPhone 4.

VoiceOver also features a ‘rotor’. Rotating two fingers on the screen changes the way VoiceOver moves through a web page. This allows the user to move through webpages by headers, links, images, etc

- Video calling with FaceTime.

Facetime makes it possible to have iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 videocalls. This is a perfect medium for sign language conversations.

- Support for wireless braille displays

iPhone 4 supports more than 30 Bluetooth wireless Braille devices - no additional software needed.

Braille keyboard picture

- Touch Typing

Touch Typing is a new way for blind or visually impaired people to use the onscreen keyboard. Running your finger across the keyboard, and listening to VoiceOver speak each letter aloud, enables quicker typing than before.

- Zoom and magnify.

Zoom lets you magnify any application up to five times normal size.

- White on black for higher contrast.

Provides higher contrast for certain visual impairments.

Higher Contrast on iPhone4 image

- Optional mono audio.

Enables you to change stereo sound to mono, which is useful if you have limited hearing in one ear.

- Support for closed captioning.

iPhone supports the playback of open captions, closed captions, and subtitling.


I hope you have found this post interesting. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Find out more about me and my Accessibility / User Experience work here and don't forget to follow me (@simplicityUX) on Twitter.

Posted byCharlie M at 01:54 0 comments  

Revised Web Accessibility regulations in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Last week (on July 23rd 2010), the United States Department of Justice issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding (amongst other things) new regulations of how the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) should be applied to the Internet. Please see the full ANPRM here : http://www.ada.gov/anprm2010.htm

Here is a passage from the 'Department of Justice' press release:

We are working hard to ensure that the ADA keeps up with technological advances that were unimaginable 20 years ago,” said Attorney General Holder. “Just as these quantum leaps can help all of us, they can also set us back – if regulations are not updated or compliance codes become too confusing to implement. To avoid this, the Department will soon publish four advanced notices of proposed rulemaking regarding accessibility requirements for websites, movies, equipment and furniture, and 9-1-1 call-taking technologies.

The press release continues to discuss Web Accessibility specifically :

"State and local governments, businesses, educators, and other organizations covered by the ADA are increasingly using the web to provide information, goods, and services to the public. In the web accessibility ANPRM, the department presents for public comment a series of questions seeking input regarding how the department can develop a workable framework for website access that provides individuals with disabilities access to the critical information, programs, and services provided on the web, while respecting the unique characteristics of the internet and its transformative impact on everyday life."

This could be a great step forward for Accessibility in America, and I'm certainly interested to see how Web Accessibility will be addressed in the updated ADA. I will keep you posted of any further developments.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Posted byCharlie M at 03:07 0 comments  

The Accessibility of Javascript hyperlinks

Statement : Using Javascript for hyperlinks will cause accessibility issues.

Approximately 5% of Internet uses will not use, or will not have JavaScript functionality enabled in their web browsers. This basically means that these people will be excluded from using your webpage to its full potential if it is coded using non-accessible JavaScript hyperlink techniques.

Simple solution : Use real hyperlinks instead.

The constant use of Javascript hyperlinks in webpages (even when not strictly required) is something causes major frustration to users and accessibility experts alike. Whereas some accessibility guidelines are not strictly necessary, but are encouraged to make users browsing experience easier or more rewarding (such as skip links), the use of non accessible JavaScript links actually prevents users from viewing content, or being able to navigate through your webpage at all.

In addition, search engines cannot successfully follow JavaScript hyperlinks. This means that your internal webpage links will not be spidered if they are implemented using JavaScript alone.

This was only intended to be a short post / rant, so I am not going to include any examples at this juncture, but I encourage you to see some excellent examples of accessible javascript links here :

Accessible Javascript Links : http://cross-browser.com/talk/accessible_js_links.php
Creating Accessible JavaScript : http://www.webaim.org/techniques/javascript/eventhandlers.php
Using real links : http://diveintoaccessibility.org/day_13_using_real_links.html

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any comments on this topic.

Posted byCharlie M at 04:43 0 comments  

Relative font sizes Vs. Browser zoom functionality

I was recently asked a question about whether we can rely solely on the browsers inbuilt zoom functionality instead of using relative fonts in our web design. This is an issue which seems to have two strongly conflicting schools of thought… here was my response, please let me know your views on the subject :


To be honest, I don't think there is a straight answer. However on the whole, I would say that relative font sizes are *still* important in accessible webdesign, particularly as you can never be sure who, or indeed, how the user will access your site.

Most of the modern browsers do have great "zoom" functionality. They use what is called "page zooming" which quite literally zooms in on the entire page (text, imagery, formatting, etc). However, some older browsers (IE6 springs to mind…) only gave the option to "text zoom". This scaled the text size up (or down) while maintaining the layout of the page. Since several old browsers are still used by some users, we should strive to support these older browsers as much as possible.

My opinion is that we should still code webpages using relative text sizes. This really gives the user (and the web designer to some extent) the ability to make their own choice as to whether they increase the size of the text alone (using text scaling) or zooming in on the page using "page zoom".

Relative font sizes can be fiddly to get right, but I usually find it pays off in the end. Some websites can display better if the text has been scaled, rather than zooming. One of the main reasons is that page zooming often results in horizontal scrolling, which I believe to be a usability no-no, particularly as it reduces page scannability. Admittedly, text scaling can make webpages look terrible (if the layout was not designed to be liquid) but it usually maintains the page dimensions and retains normal (vertical) scrolling.


Posted byCharlie M at 03:32 0 comments  

Apple Computers are infuriating... according to FHM UK

Ok, so this post is not strictly related to web accessibility or user experience. I just wanted to share with you what the UK’s FHM magazine thinks about Apple Computers. The following quote was included in the February 2010 edition in an article about infuriating things in 2009. Apple computers appeared alongside Facebook, Cocaine, Celebrity perfumes and Barack Obama…

FHM Magazine February 2010 image

Apple computers

“Despite the temptation to hate them too, we reserve judgement on the iPod and iPhone. Apple’s dodgy little girls’ computers on the other hand, suck harder than a Murray Mint addict in a decompressurised airliner. Just because one architect thought it was clever not to use a PC back in the ‘70s anyone who so much as likes the Stereophonics uses a ‘Mac’ as a badge of creativity. “Newsflash”, as you Destiny’s Child-justifying morons would say: you’re not an artist, photographer or musician. You’re a mediocrity. “

Do you agree? Let me know what you think!

P.s. I love my Mac!

Posted byCharlie M at 05:38 1 comments