Online Poll : Examples of websites with good 'accessibility' and good 'usability'

On a regular basis, I am asked for examples of websites that provide good accessibility, good usability, or a combination of both. I certainly have a few personal favourites, but I would like to throw this question out to the Internet…

There are two main polls :

1) Which website do you think is an example of good ‘usability’?
2) Which website do you think is an example of good ‘accessibility’?

For each question, please either email me or add a comment to this blog post providing the website URL, and an optional explanation of why you are nominating this particular site. Please note that you do not need to answer both questions.

I will collate the results and report back by the end of the year. The results should be interesting!

Please pass this blog post on to your friends and colleagues… The more examples of ‘usable’ and ‘accessible’ sites we receive, the more conclusive our results will be!

Posted byCharlie M at 05:43 6 comments  

Title text on text links

Following a discussion I had with a colleague on Friday, I have decided to post a few paragraphs on the topic of using 'title text' on textual hyperlinks in HTML.

In one of the corporate websites I am working on, title text (the title attribute of the HTML anchor tag) is everywhere. You can't move your cursor without title text popping up left, right and center. What makes this worse, is that the title text is the same as the hyperlink text- this is unnecessary duplication, and just adds 'noise' to the website.

My colleague said that this "aids accessibility for blind user's", but it clearly doesn't. In fact, screen readers such as JAWS do not read title text as a default setting. This functionality has to be configured manually (through the JAWS verbosity options window).

The basic rule of thumb is : Title text should only be used to provide more information about the link destination. Use with caution, and certainly don't just duplicate the link text in the title attribute.

Title text is misused in many websites… don't let yours be one of them!

Please let me know if you have and thoughts or comments on this topic.

Posted byCharlie M at 03:16 0 comments  

Microsoft Accessibility Roundtable – Sharepoint 2010

Sharepoint 2010 logo

Today I visited the Microsoft offices in London to participate in a meeting concentrating on the accessibility improvements included in the upcoming release of Sharepoint 2010.

Sharepoint 2007 was plagued with issues and as a result, producing accessible web content was and still is very difficult. Consequently, HiSoftware have produced an ‘Accessibility Kit for Sharepoint’ that aims to repair some of these accessibility shortcomings.

In the following post, I will summarize my key takeaways from the meeting. The write-up is based on my experience and scribbles taken throughout the session. If you believe that I have misinterpreted events, please let me know and I will amend accordingly.

WCAG 2 & ARIA Overview

Nick Wilson (Managing Director of HiSoftware EMEA) introduced Thomas Logan (HiSoftware VP of Prodect Management) who started the proceedings with a quick overview of WCAG and also WAI-ARIA. This set the scene nicely for the subsequent presentations as Sharepoint 2010 (when used in conjunction with the HiSoftware’s Accessibility Kit for Sharepoint(AKS)?) aims to be WCAG 2.0 as well as WAI-ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) ‘compliant’ straight ‘out of the box’.

SharePoint 2010

Next up was Tara Hellier (SharePoint Partner Technology Advisor) from Microsoft, UK who presented an ‘Introduction to Sharepoint 2010’, and particularly the improvements the updated software will bring.

Tara admitted that Microsoft is fully aware that Sharepoint 2007 had several severe accessibility shortfalls. Therefore, Sharepoint 2010 has a key focus on meeting accessibility standards such as WCAG 2. 0 (to AA standard), Section 508 and also VPAT’s- Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. (If anyone has any further information on VPAT’s I would be most interested).

In addition, Sharepoint 2010 has been developed to incorporate best practises in the modern webdesign. As Tara stated “Usability + Standards = Accessibility”.

Tara discussed some of the key updates in Sharepoint 2010 in terms of functionality, some of which I will list below:

- Use of Cascading Style Sheets to format pages rather than tables (as was the case in Sharepoint 2007)
- Ability to include shortcut keys for keyboard access
- Incorporation of skip links
- Incorporation of WAI-ARIA into UI elements
- XHTML 1.0 definition compliant code to a ‘well formed’ standard.
- The ‘More Accessible Mode’ in Sharepoint 2007 is still to be available in 2010. The reasoning behind this is that even though the generated code and UI should be accessible to Assistive Technologies, Microsoft want to ensure that they have a product which is future proof… who knows what is round the corner in the accessibility world? I think this is commendable foresight by Microsoft.

Tara demonstrated some of the new accessible functionality in Sharepoint 2010, during which there was a comment from the audience. The audience member enquired whether Jaw’s was available on the presenters PC to test the functionality… as screenshots are not a very accessible presentation method! Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer was no, but the audience member was encouraged to test out the BETA version of Sharepoint 2010 (due for release soon), and Nick Wilson suggested that there may be an opportunity to test the software within the Microsoft labs at a later date. Looking back, this was really an unfair and inappropriate question- today’s meeting was never meant to be a testing session.

‘Compliance Sheriff’

After a quick coffee and networking break the session recommenced with a further presentation from Thomas, this time about the ‘Compliance Sheriff’ in Sharepoint 2010. I found this an interesting concept, and one which I think is often overlooked in CMS tools. How can you ‘ensure’ that the content uploaded to the Internet/Intranets is compliant to both internal (to the organisation) and external web standards (WCAG, Section508, etc)? The ‘Compliance Sheriff’ aims to ‘vet’ uploads by allowing scans on predetermined ‘checkpoints’. The ‘Sheriff’ can run checks at a set interval, and also has the ability to create new checkpoints.

Out of the box, the compliance sheriff has 233 checkpoints, many of which are based on WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Thomas demonstrated how to create and test custom checkpoints. This process was more complicated than I would have expected, and involved setting various test parameters (in the format of an If-Else statement) and using Firebug to find classnames from within the webpage code. Surely there must be an easier way?

Q and A session

The session was rounded off with a Q and A session which both Tara Hellier, Thomas Logan participated in alongside Robin Christopherson (Abilitynet), Nikki Ashington (Trinity Systems) and Peter Abraham.

There were several questions that raised some interesting points:

Migration of Sharepoint 2007 to Sharepoint 2010

Tara stated that there were 2 ways to achieve this:

- Migrate intact which would update the system to 2010, but would keep the 2007 look and feel.
- Migrate to 2010 look and feel.

Tara said that their partners are investigating the migration process further. This makes me a little nervous… If anyone has any further information about the Migration process between Sharepoint 2007 and 2010, please contact me!

Will the ‘Compliance Sheriff’ be able to scan content such as graphics (for example logos)?

Thomas stated that although this is not possible now, HiSoftware are looking into OCR technologies for graphics processing.
To me, this sounds like it could be a huge step forward to automated testing.

Are a lot of people holding back on implementing Sharepoint because of the compliance issues?

Nikki said that compliance is one of the biggest requests for the new version of Sharepoint, however, ‘compliance’ cannot be guaranteed. Even when using the new version user testing and re-engineering will be the key.


In conclusion, Sharepoint 2010 looks like a promising product with a key focus on producing ‘accessible’ and ‘well-coded’ web content. However, I think it is important to wait until we are able to test the BETA product ourselves before we reach any conclusions.

One comment that I would like to stress is that even if Sharepoint 2010 content does meet web standards, and comes out well in automated testing, this ‘rating’ should not be an alternative to user testing. User testing with as many different users as possible is the key to usable, accessible content.

If you have any comments about Sharepoint or this post, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Posted byCharlie M at 06:54 0 comments