Web accessibility workshop

I was fortunate enough to attend a web accessibility workshop today being run by the Shaw Trust and CDSM. The workshop content proved to be a very interesting and thought provoking, with the user testing sessions very beneficial.

Although the automated tools such as ‘Bobby’ or ‘Cynthia Says‘ (and many others for that matter) are extremely useful, it was blatantly obvious from today that they really do only tell half the story in terms of true web accessibility. One tool that was recommended to us was a browser plugin (for IE only) called ‘AIS – Accessibile Information Solutions‘ which was very handy for checking the accessibility (from various aspects) of your web pages.

The user testing sessions today were conducted by people whom had various disabilities – dyslexic, colour blind, blind and limited movement (thus requiring various assistive technologies). It was fantastic to hear what these people had to say about accessibility and I learnt quite a few very valuable lessons.

In terms of technical bits, there were several areas which really needed attention, namely:

  • Don’t use italics – dyslexic people find it VERY difficult to read;
  • Colour contrast is more important that the colours in terms of colour blindness;
  • Always use heading tags etc – it helps screen readers read the content (and search engines too!);
  • Ensure that the tab index is always in a logical order;

There were plenty more, but the above were the less obvious ones (well to me they were anyway). The session has certainly given me plenty of ideas on how to improve the various sites that I manage. But perhaps more importantly it has given me a real insight into the world of web accessibility – which until I actually saw disabled people using my site I really didn’t appreciate. So thank you guys – you really have made me sit up and take notice *smile*