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Ada Compliance - Top 10 Mistakes

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A developer’s view of the top mistakes to avoid when integrating ADA Compliance & Web Accessibility solutions.

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Ada Compliance - Top 10 Mistakes

  1. 1. ADA Compliance: Top 10 Mistakes Introduction Recently, I published an article aimed at CEOs, CIOs, and other upper management that explains what ADA Compliancy is and why it should be integral when developing an organization’s Web site. This white paper is for the Web Developers who have now been tasked to make “it happen” by the astute CEOs, CIOs, and managers who recognize the consequences of ignoring my first White Paper’s call to action. For the majority of Web developers, terms such as Web Accessibility, Section 508, and ADA Compliancy are at least familiar if not completely understood. Feel free to take a few minutes and read a brief introduction to ADA Compliancy 1 before beginning this article. OK, did reading the above linked white paper make everything more clear? Don’t worry if you still have questions. As with each facet of Web Development, our industry is constantly changing and we continue to learn in order to fine-tune our craft. So, perhaps one of your IT managers has tasked you with making the company’s Web site ADA Compliant. They want to be sure that when individuals, regardless of disability and the severity thereof, visit the company’s Web store that they are able to easily navigate throughout the site, find what they seek, and make purchases. Now, before you open Notepad, Dreamweaver, or any other HTML editor and begin your foray into making a Web site ADA Compliant let’s discuss some of the top mistakes that many developers make. In discussing these mistakes I hope to prevent you from making them yourself. Top 10 Mistakes I’d like to take a moment to point out that the order in which I discuss the mistakes has no bearing on their importance, i.e., #1 has no more weight than, say, #6. While some of these mistakes are certainly more significant than others, it is really a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Mistake #10 Not fully understanding what ADA Compliancy is and how it relates to Web Accessibility. Solution: Educate yourself and your team by reading white papers (such as the one I mention in the introduction above) and articles that deal with this subject matter. Additionally, seek out the many Web Accessibility resources found online. My recommendation is to start at one of the following Web sites: • IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility Center 2 • WC3’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 3 Mistake #9 1 http://www.alpineinc.com/white_papers.html (ADA Compliance - What it is and Why You Should Care) 2 http://www-03.ibm.com/able/index.html 3 http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ 03.19.09 | Alpine UI Group | UIGroup@alpineinc.com | Author: Ezio Magarotto, Senior UI Architect/Developer
  2. 2. ADA Compliance: Top 10 Mistakes Not investing the time to complete a comprehensive study of your entire Web site to determine each of its ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility shortcomings. Solution: Once you feel confident that you can identify ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility issues you will want to invest a sufficient amount of time examining your company’s Web site in order to indentify each of the non-compliant areas. You should know that, the experienced UI Group 4 here at Alpine Consulting offers an ADA Compliance Study service. Our detailed report of your Web site is accompanied by a comprehensive list of Web Accessibility Recommendations. Mistake #8 Not drafting a complete plan of recommendations to tackle each ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility shortcoming. Solution: Like the adage I use with my Cub Scouts, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. This sentiment holds true with most endeavors and certainly with addressing a host of ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility issues. At minimum, create a spreadsheet to track all the issues and their accompanying recommended solutions. Or, better yet, follow Alpine’s lead and utilize one of the several issue-tracking tool applications (e.g., Bugzilla 5). Mistake #7 Not explaining to your manager (or client) the amount of time and effort required to implement ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility fixes. Solution: The more you delve into ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility the more you will become aware of the effort involved to correctly implement the numerous recommended tasks. While several ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility standards are relatively easy to implement, there are a host of others tasks, such as video captioning, that are quite involved. There is nothing worse than a manager (or client) who has unrealistic expectations because you failed to do your due diligence. Mistake #6 Going overboard with implementing ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility fixes. Solution: If you offer multimedia videos on your Web site but they are not integral to your sales, such as a product tutorial, it would not be wise to spend resources creating transcripts or making captioning. The same goes for adding a tab index to a form with one field. While ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility are hugely important so is your site’s performance. If it’s unnecessary leave it out. Mistake #5 Adding ALT attributes to EVERY image on your Web site. 4 uigroup@alpineinc.com 5 http://www.bugzilla.org/ 03.19.09 | Alpine UI Group | UIGroup@alpineinc.com | Author: Ezio Magarotto, Senior UI Architect/Developer
  3. 3. ADA Compliance: Top 10 Mistakes Solution: The ALT attribute should be used when you want to convey the meaning and function of an image to those who either cannot or choose not to view images on a Web site. The term “function” is very significant here as it describes what the image does. It could be a submit or general navigation button, or perhaps it is a piece of marketing collateral which details your revolutionary new product. Images whose function is to convey some message to the user should employ the ALT attribute. The mistake arises, however, when one adds ALT attributes to decorative images, or images which do not have a function for the user. A 1x1 pixel spacer or a curved corner does not have a function. Yes, they’re important as far as your site design is concerned, but they have no value to the user who cannot see them. The problem is that when a screen reader begins dictating the content on a page it will read every ALT attribute field it finds. This means that if you have made Mistake #3 the screen reader will state “submit” or “home” but will also unnecessarily read “left corner top”, “left corner bottom”, “right corner top”, and so on. Mistake #4 Forgetting to apply your ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility fixes to any dynamic code. Solution: When you begin the process recommended in Mistake #9 -- namely, dissecting your Web site to determine its ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility shortcomings -- be sure to take into account any dynamic content that is being built on the fly or is included within external JavaScript files. If you’re including image references in some piece of dynamic code be sure that the image is making use of the ALT attribute, if applicable, or that form fields have proper labels. Mistake #3 Not adding a NULL value to decorative imagery. Solution: As you delve deeper into ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility you will learn that the ALT attribute is usually the first item discussed. Today’s Web is highly graphical so it makes sense from an accessibility perspective that ALT be an item of consideration. As outlined in Mistake #5, while images of content and function should have ALT attributes, decorative images (e.g., a rounded corner) should not. However, you should not skip this step altogether. You’ll want to recognize the need for an ALT attribute and implement it with the correct syntax. For example: • Content image - <img src="widgets.gif" alt="Products"> • Decorative image - <img src="spacer.gif" alt=""> Mistake #2 Not sufficiently testing your ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility fixes in a real-life setting. Solution: Once you have implemented each ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility recommendation from your detailed plan (see Mistake #8) you’ll want to thoroughly test your site. But simply viewing the Web site via your normal method of opening Firefox or Internet Explorer will not do. Your testing environment will need to mirror that of the person who suffers from blindness, deafness, motor difficulties, or other disability when he or 03.19.09 | Alpine UI Group | UIGroup@alpineinc.com | Author: Ezio Magarotto, Senior UI Architect/Developer
  4. 4. ADA Compliance: Top 10 Mistakes she browses the Internet. For example, to test if the fixes aimed at those with poor eyesight or blindness are indeed working properly, you will want to employ a screen reader or screen reader emulator. JAWS and Window-Eyes are the most widely used screen readers. • JAWS 6 • Window-Eyes 7 Mistake #1 Not keeping abreast of the latest developments in ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility. Solution: In order to keep your Web site current with regard to ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility you will need to be vigilant. With new technology coming to the Internet constantly there is always the chance that the fix you made today will not be valid tomorrow. A recent example which illustrates this perfectly is the relatively recent Web 2.0 movement. While the technology Web 2.0 employs can bring amazing interaction and benefit to a Web site, it comes with negative implications for ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility. Below you will find a link to a detailed article on that topic. • Accessibility of AJAX Applications 8 In Closing While there are certainly many other areas in which to err during the process of an ADA Compliance and Web Accessibility initiative, if you can prevent any of the foregoing ten mistakes you will be well on your way to having a site that all Web visitors can use with confidence and ease. How Alpine can Help Contact the Alpine UI Group 9 today to schedule a Detailed ADA Compliance Report of your Web site accompanied by our Web Accessibility Recommendations. Please direct any questions or comments regarding this White Paper to Ezio Magarotto at emagarotto@alpineinc.com. About Alpine Consulting, Inc. Headquartered in Schaumburg, IL, Alpine Consulting is a professional Information Technology services firm focused on helping IT organizations deliver business value. Alpine Consulting specializes in e-business solutions, custom development and systems integration for medium and larger companies. Clients of Alpine Consulting have successfully implemented e-business solutions that have resulted in significant business process improvements, faster time to market and considerable return on investment. For more information on how Alpine can help with your e-business solutions contact us at 847-605-0788, info@alpineinc.com or visit our Web site at http://www.alpineinc.com. For more information about Alpine Consulting and our solution offerings, please contact Stan Duda at 847-605-0788 or sduda@alpineinc.com. 6 http://www.freedomscientific.com/products/fs/jaws-product-page.asp 7 http://www.synapseadaptive.com/gw/wineyes.htm 8 http://webaim.org/techniques/ajax/ 9 uigroup@alpineinc.com 03.19.09 | Alpine UI Group | UIGroup@alpineinc.com | Author: Ezio Magarotto, Senior UI Architect/Developer

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