An accessible website is compatible with the assistive technologies used by people with disabilities. Dreamweaver MX 2004 automates many elements of creating accessible sites and prompts designers to provide information when necessary. It has also been modified to provide better keyboard access and to work with screen readers. (From the book ASP Web Development with Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004 by Rachel Andrew et al., Apress, 2004, ISBN: 1590593499.)
Accessibility and Dreamweaver MX 2004 - Accessibility Standards (Page 5 of 11 )
Accessibility policies vary from country to country, but many countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, the European Union, and Japan have adopted policies based on standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In 1994, the W3C began investigating accessibility issues that might be encountered by people with disabilities on the emerging world wide web. This group led to the formation of the Web Accessibility Initiative ( WAI). The WAI consists of several efforts to improve the accessibility of the web. Perhaps the most widely used document is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG is comprised of 14 accessibility guidelines that are further broken down into prioritized checkpoints.
Priority 1 checkpoints are the actions designers must take to make a site accessible.
Priority 2 checkpoints are the actions designers should take to make a site accessible.
Priority 3 checkpoints are the actions a designer might take to improve the accessibility of a site.
The priority 1 checkpoints of the WCAG serve as the basis of accessibility standards in almost every country where a formal policy has been adopted. The exceptions are Canada and the United Kingdom, where web designers for the national governments are required to follow both the priority 1 and priority 2 checkpoints of the WCAG.
In the United States, the law governing web accessibility is commonly referred to as Section 508. Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act prohibits federal agencies from buying, developing, maintaining, or using electronic and information technology that is inaccessible to people with disabilities. Originally enacted in 1988, Section 508 made little progress until Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act ten years later. This amendment to Section 508 mandated standards for accessibility. It also gave members of the public and government employees with disabilities the right to sue agencies in federal court and file administrative complaints for noncompliance.
As of June 21 2002, all federal web sites were expected to comply with the standards mandated under Section 508. These standards are based on the priority 1 checkpoints of the WCAG, with one priority 3 checkpoint thrown in for good measure. Section 508 does not make any provision for priority 2 checkpoints of the WCAG.
The difference between Section 508 and the WCAG is subtle but important. Section 508 was intended to define when a problem was severe enough to serve as the basis of a lawsuit. The WCAG defines a set of goals for accessible design. As a result, the Section 508 standards are designed to be evaluated more easily. This has made the Section 508 standards a popular basis for accessibility policies at the state, local, and institutional level. Designers in these settings are often under no federal mandate to follow the Section 508 standards. Instead, their local accessibility policy may require use of these standards. This distinction can be confusing but it is important. The consequences for noncompliance may vary significantly from place to place.
The Section 508 standards consist of six parts. Each part addresses a different type of technology. The full set of standards for each section may be found at the following URLs:
Most relevant to this discussion are the standards for web content outlined in section 1194.22. These standards are listed as follows. It is important to note that in cases where plug-ins such as Macromedia Flash content are used, the Software and Operating System standards outlined in section 1194.21 apply. To learn more about the Section 508 standards, visit http://www.section508.gov or http://www.macromedia.com/macromedia/accessibility/.
The section 508 standards for web-based intranet and Internet information and applications are as follows:
A text equivalent for every nontext element shall be provided (e.g. via “alt,” “longdesc,” or in element content).
Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example, from context or markup.
Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated stylesheet.
Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.
Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps, except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.
Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.
Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.
Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.
Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2Hz and lower than 55Hz.
A text-only page with equivalent information or functionality shall be provided to make a website comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.
When pages utilize scripting languages to display content or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.
When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in, or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with §1194.21(a) through (l).
When electronic forms are designed to be completed online, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.
Skip navigation mechanism enables people using screen readers to avoid listening to every link in the navigation bar on each page. Typically, designers create skip navigation by linking a small transparent image at the top of a page to an anchor just before the main content. The Alt text description for this image would read, “skips to content” or “skip navigation.”
This chapter is from ASP Web Development with Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004, by Rachel Andrew et al., (Apress, 2004, ISBN: 1590593499). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today.