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Web Accessibility: changes and developments over 10 years from a UK perspective


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Presentation given at Universitat de Barcelona, 16th April 2009.

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Web Accessibility: changes and developments over 10 years from a UK perspective

  1. 1. WEB ACCESSIBILITY Accessibilitat de Web 10 years of development and changes from a UK perspective School of Computing University of Dundee, Scotland David Sloan Universitat de Barcelona, 16 de Abril, 2009
  2. 2. Outline of my talk <ul><li>Developments in Web accessibility research, policy and practice </li></ul><ul><ul><li>My view as a researcher and consultant </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A Web accessibility timeline: 10 years in 4 stages </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Early days - all about guidelines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility becomes part of Web standards movement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence emerging that guidelines weren’t working </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Now: a more enlightened approach to using the Web to improve accessibility? </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Who am I? <ul><li>Researcher and consultant at University of Dundee, Scotland </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A research centre specialising in information technology for older and disabled people since 1980 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Worked in web accessibility and user experience since 1999 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>My PhD is in the impact of web accessibility evaluations on organisations and individuals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I run the University of Dundee Web Accessibility service </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Supporting disabled people on the web <ul><li>Impairments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hearing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cognitive </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Solutions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>User has assistive technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web site designer uses best practice in accessible design </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Disability and innovation <ul><li>Examples of disability triggering innovation with wider benefit: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cassette tape recorder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kerb/curb cuts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Predictive text for mobile phones </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ford Focus car </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Web Accessibility in the Beginning <ul><li>“ The power of the web is in its universality…” </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility to computing technology had been badly affected by the emergence of the graphical user interface (GUI)… </li></ul><ul><li>… so W3C established the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in 1997 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bringing together expertise and knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG version 1) published 1999 </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Stage 1 - Advocacy and compliance <ul><li>Raising awareness of accessibility as an issue </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Developing business, moral, technical and legal arguments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Explaining how disabled people use the Web </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Encouraging conformance with WCAG 1.0 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tutorials </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluation tools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web audits </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Research and development <ul><li>UK: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Awareness-raising in Higher Education community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>RNIB and other charities begin promoting accessibility </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Elsewhere: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>WebAIM established </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mike Paciello publishes first book on web accessibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The rise of the ‘Text only’ web site </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluation tools: Bobby, The WAVE </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Flash, PDF - accessibility problems </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Web design 1999: BBC News
  10. 10. Business and policy milestones <ul><li>Legislation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Australia: Sydney Olympics 2000 web site unlawfully inaccessible under DDA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>US and UK: unclear as to whether disability discrimination legislation applies to Web </li></ul></ul><ul><li>UK: Tesco supermarket creates accessible version of their grocery web site </li></ul>
  11. 11. Stage 2: Accessibility and Web Standards <ul><li>Jeffrey Zeldman writes ‘Designing with Web Standards’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web accessibility books from Joe Clark; Jim Thatcher and colleagues; John Slatin and Sharron Rush </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>WCAG conformance becomes a technical skill along with knowing (X)HTML and CSS </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So accessibility is embraced by grass-roots web developers </li></ul>
  12. 12. Research and development <ul><li>Innovation in Standards-based approaches for web development </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Showcasing good practice - CSS Zen Garden </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More evaluation tools, some commercially priced/aimed at large organisations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yahoo! promoting web standards </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Academic research - transcoding existing sites to improve accessibility </li></ul><ul><li>Jakob Nielsen talks about usable accessibility </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility surveys begin to be published regularly: mainly using automated tools </li></ul>
  13. 13. Web design 2003: BBC News
  14. 14. Business and policy milestones <ul><li>UK: encouraging better design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>RNIB and Standard Life: See it Right web accessibility award </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visionary Design web site awards </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Global: benchmarking of accessibility begins to be a major activity </li></ul><ul><li>US legislation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act has impact on accessibility of web technologies: Flash, PDF </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Southwest Airlines web site case: confusion over ADA and the Internet </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Stage 3: Guidelines are not enough! <ul><li>UK Disability Rights Commission survey (2004) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most web sites failed basic WCAG conformance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yet some could be used successfully by disabled people </li></ul></ul><ul><li>E-learning developing concept of ‘blended learning’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Using multiple channels of supporting learning tailored to individual needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using available and appropriate resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This inspires development of ‘Holistic Accessibility’ approach </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Research and development <ul><li>Ongoing developments in web standards </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Refining design techniques to be more accessible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rejection of parts of WCAG 1.0 becoming obsolete </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Standardisation in e-learning accessibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Work on accessibility in learner profiles and learning object metadata: basis for ISO 24751 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Microsoft research on benefits of accessibility features: useful to c. 60% of people </li></ul><ul><li>Research on annotating web pages to enhance accessibility (e.g. for non-visual navigation) </li></ul>
  17. 17. Web design 2006: BBC News
  18. 18. Business and policy milestones <ul><li>UK: Legal and General case study gave business benefits of accessible web site redesign project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Result was more business and reduced costs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Policy and guidelines: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>EU desire to harmonise web accessibility measurement - policy, evaluation processes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Global: dissatisfaction with WCAG 2; formation of WCAG Samurai </li></ul></ul><ul><li>UK: Development of PAS 78 - a standard for commissioning web sites </li></ul>
  19. 19. Stage 4: Using the web to make the real world accessible <ul><li>Web 2.0 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web applications introduce new challenges </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User-generated content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>iPhone gives value to Mobile Web and accessible web crossover </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Emergence of a more practical view of Web accessibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>WCAG 2 published - acknowledging value of formats beyond HTML (PDF, Flash, JavaScript) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Holistic, human-centred view of accessibility becoming recognised as of value </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Research and development <ul><li>Rich internet applications and WAI-ARIA </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility and user generated content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reviews of accessibility of social networking sites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility and CAPTCHAs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tools to support accessible authoring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Content management systems (CMS) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Open Source accessibility more visible: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>research (e.g. AEGIS), products (NVDA screen reader), education (from Opera, Web Standards Project) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>More focus on ageing and accessibility </li></ul>
  21. 21. Web design 2009: BBC News
  22. 22. Business and policy milestones <ul><li>UK: accessibility maturing as a quality control measurement? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>BBC drops use of microformats because of accessibility issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UK government exposed over Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) web site accessibility problems </li></ul></ul><ul><li>EU: ‘Mandate 376’ aimed at increasing profile of accessibility in technology procurement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>And still a desire to harmonise web accessibility measurement across EU </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Achievements? <ul><li>Web Accessibility is no longer a niche issue or specialism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The human aspect of accessibility increasingly recognised - not just about automated checking </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Many) Organisations have visible accessibility policy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Accessible doesn’t have to mean ugly or boring </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many good examples of accessible and aesthetically pleasing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emerging technologies and design techniques are considering accessibility early on (or are being forced to!) </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Ongoing challenges <ul><li>Maintaining and enhancing profile of accessibility in evolution of the Web </li></ul><ul><li>Web content authors are increasingly not professionals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How do we help a Facebook or Youtube user - or VLE user - to create accessible content? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Matching users to their accessibility requirements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessible web pages require a user to have the right technology to access them… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… how do we meet this challenge if someone doesn’t know they have an accessibility need? </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Thankyou for listening! <ul><li>Questions? </li></ul>
  26. 26. Contact me <ul><li>David Sloan </li></ul><ul><li>Digital Media Access Group, School of Computing </li></ul><ul><li>University of Dundee </li></ul><ul><li>Dundee </li></ul><ul><li>DD1 4HN </li></ul><ul><li>Scotland </li></ul><ul><li>Email: </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @sloandr </li></ul><ul><li>Blog: </li></ul>