H697 Accessibility

I was not initially clear about reading Tufte in the same week as accessibility, but now it begins to make sense. Visual representations won’t be of much use to blind site users, but using graphics to communicate information could be really helpful for people who have trouble parsing text.

I was very struck by what Joe Clark bringing up people with learning disabilities. When I’d thought about accessibility, I’d pretty much only thought about screen readers, and the need for captions/transcripts of anything with audio (I have a few friends with hearing aids and it’s made me very aware how few YouTube videos with the CC button actually have CC). But I know so many people with learning disabilities and Processing Disorders. I think that remembering these populations could really challenge us to go beyond simple text-on-screen websites.

By Jens Langner (http://www.jens-langner.de/) (Own work) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Basically, a processing disorder means that the individual processes input in a different manner than the “average” person. This might manifest in reading text in a non-linear fashion, or an inability to correctly interpret facial expressions. My thinking is that we recognize and work with this by giving people more than one way to get at the information. Not just repetition, but more like a museum, where you can read the panel text, look at the image, and/or do the interactive. If you provide multiple ways of getting at the same (or similar) piece of historical information, you make history more accessible to multiple people. I imagine have text, images, and some third or fourth piece, each of which reinforces the other, might make content more accessible to those using screen readers. Or possibly just more redundant.

I confess that trying to figure out how to write accessible code is a bit daunting when I’m only just getting a handle on css and html. However, I suppose it’s best to learn to speak well when I’m only just learning, rather than have to un-learn later.

In a nice moment of synchronicity, this piece about accessible dropdown menus came across my twitter feed this weekend. I tweeted it with the class hashtag (#clioS12), but wanted to share it here as well for those not on twitter.

Tool of Choice: Actually a combination. I find myself using “View Source” (command + option + U in Chrome on a Mac) to see how other people have built their sites, especially students from previous years of this class. When I find unfamiliar pieces of code, I go search the W3 Schools for more information. It nicely lays out attributes, for a sort of quick-reference on what a tag does and how it can be modified.

Comment this week: David’s post, which also brought to mind a quick thought from last August.

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