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The Country of the Blind H.G.Wells

The Cycle of Accidental Systemic Discrimination

Integrating eramps into technology environments can be complex. Even the head of what is arguably the world's best collection of software developers, Bill Gates, expressed embarrassment at having released its Internet browser, Internet Explorer 4, before its accessibility features were fully integrated into the product (version 4.01 correcting this was released almost immediately).

IT people are busy and technology is very hard to keep up with. That is one important reason why trainers and consultants are used. It is also why eramps, if given any consideration, are usually at the bottom of the list for these busy people. Unfortunately, this tends to create an accidental but real self-stroking cycle of systemic discrimination:

The sad irony in all of this is that there is considerable support by senior management for the implementation of eramps and most IT people, given the knowledge, skills, and resources would gladly implement technologies that were accessible to employees with disabilities. In addition, within the federal public sector the Employment Equity (EE) Act compels government departments, agencies, and federally regulated corporations to comply to a set of regulations designed to remove employment barriers for the benefit of specific groups of people - of which persons with disabilities are included. These requirements insist that people with disabilities have the right to be accommodated in the workplace specifically and society in general.

Some Quick Tips

Here are a handful of Tips 'n' Tricks that you might find helpful for making your systems a little more accessible. Although taking a more strategic approach and focussing your energies towards  the underlying architecture of your technology environments is the best approach for improving accessibility, these tips may help you to "get your feet wet" and start thinking about the subject.

As Picasso once said

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it."


Alt for Graphics (& other multimedia)

This is the biggy. It's an easy one to miss, especially when you are in the rapid development mindset. It's probably the one thing you can do that - to quote Murphy Brown - gives you the most for the least.

The Paper on the Screen Trick

There are many instances where people have basically taken content that has been developed for paper and have uploaded it to the internet. Aside from the fact that reading on a computer screen is different from reading from a magazine article, when desktop publishing-type columns are moved to the screen,  problems can be caused for some people reading your site who depend on screen readers to interpret your content. Many screen readers read right across the page disregarding your columns. If you want to hear how a person who is blind might hear your site, try placing a piece of paper under the line you are currently scanning and read it out loud moving the paper down as you continue to read.

Use Client-Side Image Maps

Client-Side Image Maps are more accessible than Server-Side Image Maps because you can place ALT attributes in the link descriptions of a given AREA which can be read by a screen reader. As an added bonus this method is lightning quick compared to having your browser make a round trip to the server. Besides, like form field validation, image maps belong on the client.

Use Bobby

Bobby is a web based service that you can use to analyze your website for browser compatibility and accessibility for people with disabilities.

Use the New Label Tag

You know how difficult it can be sometimes to select that little radio button on a web page. Can you imagine how much more difficult it can be for someone with a co-ordination impairment? You might have noticed that most Windows products allow selection not only by the little radio button, but also to the label that describes the button. Don't you wish you could put that on a web page? Well now you can thanks to HTML 4.

First, you need to identify the radio button by giving it an id="somename" attribute:

Text Label: <input type="radio" value="V" name="R" id="fp4">

Then surround your label with the new label tag:

<label>Text Label:</label> <input type="radio" value="V" name="R" id="fp4">

Then add a reference to the radio button's id inside the label tag:

<label for="fp4">Text Label:</label> <input type="radio" value="V" name="R" id="fp4">

Voila! Now your users can click on the easier to access text label.

Include Punctuation in Tables

Using <P> and <br> tags appropriately inside your tables - even when it seems that you don't need to (because the table organizes things) will improve the odds that your site will still make sense if someone using a browser that doesn't support tables comes along and breaks your table.

Include an alternative to forms

Some browsers don't support the use of forms. As forms are the primary method for a browser to communicate back to the server (and the humans behind it), it's important that you provide and alternate method for those people who cannot use forms to communicate with you. Providing other means such as an email link, an easily accessible phone number, and/or a "snail mail" address can help you keep the lines of communication open for all of your audience.

More Tips...

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Last Updated: Friday, August 03, 2001

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