Friday, July 14, 2006

Beyond Guidelines - Advanced Accessibility Techniques

Some accessibility techniques for your toolbox...

"When creating accessible websites, most Web developers and Web managers tend to follow the W3C accessibility guidelines. And rightly so - they are the most comprehensive accessibility resource on the Internet after all.

The W3C accessibility guidelines, or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as they're officially known, could go slightly further however. Fulfilling the guidelines will give you a very accessible website (remember though, they are just guidelines so shouldn't always be taken literally). For ultimate accessibility though, try implementing some of these techniques too:

Hidden text
Hidden text can be very useful for screen reader users. If there isn't sufficient text for these users to gain an understanding of a particular section, then you can simply create this extra information and hide it from sighted users.

The most common and useful page items to insert invisible text for screen reader users include:

- Headings - Every single section on each page should have a heading placed immediately before it. This way, screen reader users always know that the preceding section has finished and a new section has begun. So, before the main navigation begins, you should insert a heading labelled, 'Site navigation'. Although this heading is extremely useful for screen reader users, it may look rather unsightly visually, so you can just make the text invisible.

- Form labels - Every form item must have a label immediately preceding it - otherwise, screen reader users won't know what the form item is about. Date of birth fields, with three separate fields for date, month and year, are common culprits of not providing form labels for each form field. So, place the date of birth label before the three form fields, and then insert an invisible label before each of the other two form fields, 'Month of birth' and 'Year of birth'."   continued ...   (Via Usability News)

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