Widening the web – making web applications accessible

Everyone knows that it’s essential to build accessibility into projects at the earliest possible stage. However we created our accessibility principles before work even started on building EdWeb – our new Drupal based CMS.

I was lucky enough to get a poster presentation accepted at the EDUCAUSE conference in Orlando, Florida at the start of October 2014. The poster gave some practical tips on how you can go about creating your key accessibility principles for your particular project.

Widening the web poster.

Widening the web – how to make web applications accessible ito everyone. The full text is available in a PowerPoint slide – download link at the end of the post.

The whole project team was involved at the beginning of the project in creating a document of our overarching principles. It included everything from usability, through testing and coding standards to accessibility.

To try and distill down the vast amount of guidance and documentation on accessibility was no easy task but I wanted to create an easy to read and comprehensible small set of principles. The 6 I chose are as follows:

1. Readable. All text must be readable or have a text alternative for non-text content.

2. Keyboard navigation – must be able to navigate and operate the application using the keyboard alone.

3. Works with assistive software – the application needs to provide information to assistive technology such as screen readers.

4. Unique object labels – this always seems a strange one but if you don’t know what a particular piece of the application does there is no way you can interact with it properly.

5. Correct tab sequence – with a very form based application such as a content management system this really is important.

6. Customisable – the application should allow some personal customisations such as enlarging the font size. Thankfully a lot of these customisations now come as default functionality for every browser.

Standing in front of my poster looking a little crumpled and disheveled

This was the day before the poster session. I promise I did brush my hair and iron my shirt on the actual day!

I had about 20 visitors while I manned my poster during the hour long poster presentation session which was perfect. Some people had even searched me deliberately rather than just passing by which was great. Met some really interesting people and made some great connections. However I can’t deny that I was rather jealous of my colleagues Rhian Davies and Mark Ritchie who were totally mobbed with delegates. At one point I counted about 30 delegates around them so I was very impressed with that.

EDUCAUSE is a very big conference. It hosts over 300 sessions with 500 speakers, 250 supplier stalls for over 4000 delegates. On their website it states “the conference convened some of the brightest minds in the community” and I can argue with that!

We even had time to squeeze in a quick trip out to see the alligators on an air boat trip on Cyprus Lake hence my rather crumpled look in the photo.

The PowerPoint slide with the full poster text is available to download from the EDUCAUSE website.

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