In this week's episode I have a focus on web accessibility in general and for Joomla.
On the show I have an interview with Sarah Pulis and Kim Chatterjee chatting about accessibility, inclusive design, Global Accessibility Awareness Day and A11yBytes.
I also take a bit of time out to go over a few tips on how to make your website more accessible.
Referenced links in this show
Joomla Extension Directory categorisation Vulnerable Extensions List from Joomla Global Accessibility Awareness Day A11yBytes Access iQ™ Stamford Interactive SiteGround (Affiliate link) WEB AIM Contrast tool Adding WAI ARIA Landmarks to Joomla
Peter: Welcome everyone to the Joomla Beat podcast, the weekly podcast about designing, developing, managing and marketing your Joomla website and the delivery of this podcast is all made possible thanks to SiteGround. You can find out more infromation about them at joomlabe.at/siteground. You can check out a few reviews I did on how they do their customer support, and also another one that I'll have up soon about how they take that extra step in the sales process to avoid fraud. I haven't seen any other hosting company do it this way before.
They also do a lovely job of hosting it all and keeping my Joomla site secure. But they can't keep it safe from me and my tampering with the code that I have on there. Don't hack code on a live server people! It's just not worth it!
The site does need a little work but I've been holding out for the new design that I have that is taking just a little longer than anticipated to get out online.
This week I'll be doing a special show about web accessibility, inclusive design and Joomla. I have an interview with two experts in the field around the world of accessibility to talk about what it is, why you should be thinking about it and also about Global Accessibility Awareness Day which is happening this week on May 9th.
Now that is the highlight for the show this week but before we get into that interview I have a few announcements and news items as always.
Firstly I'd just like to thank everyone who have been giving me feedback on the show and joining in on the conversation for the episodes as well. Also like to thank everyone that has been giving me feedback on the show via the itunes store as well with a special shout out this week to Robert Liberman who left a 5 star rating and review for me on the UK itunes store. Thank you very much Robert.
So now into some Joomla news!
In the last episode of the Joomla Beat podcast I interviewed Sander Potjer who mentioned that the Joomla extension directory was being rebuilt! Now there has been a call out done for suggestions for the new categories for the Joomla extension directory. It appears that they're trying to make it neater and simpler in terms of its structure and there is a forum post where you put in your opinion to what that should be.
So if there are any site and information architects out there that might want to give their 2 cents on the clean up and restructuring of the extension directory, jump online and let yourself be heard and you can find the link to it in the show notes. http://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=262&t=801547
My next news segment for this week is the release of the Vulnerable Extensions List for Joomla or the VEL. You can find this at http://vel.joomla.org and Ill post links to that as well.
So what is it? We'll its as the name states, a full list of all the vulnerable extensions as they are found and posted on to the VEL website.
So now when you're selecting and extension to use for Joomla, you can quickly look at this list of vulnerable extensions and see if it is on there or not, and if it is, you might reconsider using it, or try fixing the security vulnerability yourself and hopefully passing it back on to the developer of that extensions. Now a lot of the time the vulnerabilities aren't intention, and the developer is usually genuinely unaware that there are issues, so if you ever see issues in extensions please share them with the extension developer and hopefully they'll take your comments into consideration.
Now that is all for the news segments for this week, so lets get straight into the interview session.
Interview with Sarah Pulis and Kim Chatterjee
Peter: So every year on 9th May is a Global Accessibility Awareness Day now and this is the second Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and it is a global initiative to raise awareness of digital accessibility and disability in general in a community. Now I have two experts with me today, Sarah Police from Access iQ™ and Kim Chatterjee from Stanford Interactive and they'll be talking about Global Accessibility Awareness Day and a little bit about what they do as well in the community. They also have an event that is on this week in Sydney Australia here, and they'll be talking about a couple of other events around the world as well. So, welcome girls, how are you two both today?
Sarah: Fantastic, thank you.
Kim: Coffee, coffee deprived, yes.
Peter: Yeah, it's a very early interview, I'm sorry. It happens sometimes. So Sarah, first of, how did you get started in the world of accessibility?
Sarah: Yes certainly. So the first time I truly came across accessibility was in 2002 and I was attending Australia's Accessibility Conference OZeWAI, and to this day, the moment, the light bulb moment for me was when as a part of a demonstration, someone turned off images in the web browser. And this was on a home page with a map of Australia, it was a real estate web site and when you turned off images, there was absolutely no way for someone to actually select the state they wanted to search on. And so, in one click of a button this website became completely inaccessible to someone who was blind, vision impaired, who was using a screen radar. And for me that was my light bulb moment. I still remember that feeling on that day and that's what I've carried with me through to my work here at Access iQ™, as the web accessibility evangelist.
Peter: And what do you do now at Access iQ™?
Sarah: I evangelize accessibility. I talk to whoever is willing to listen about accessibility and to those who aren't willing to listen… No but seriously, I'm one of the experts here at Access iQ™ in accessibility, we do a range of things, we, obviously as a no-for-profit, have a mandate to increase awareness of accessibility and Access iQ™ itself is actually a B2B organization so we provide training and content through our website to organizations as well as doing engagement pieces with organizations.
Peter: And Kim, could you introduce yourself and a little bit about what you do at Stanford Interactive
Kim: Sure, I'm Kim. I've been a UX designer for a while but I started accessibility I think around 2007, so I came late to the game and my light bulb moment was when I started to realize that all the different ways we had been learning or teaching did not actually include a lot of different cases. And we started to realize that, there's a lot of stuff that people did not actually know about how people used devices, about how they used systems, and in ways that the material that we were producing wasn't actually inclusive. So I've taken it on myself since then to try to educate as many people as I can. Hopefully, it works. I believe in osmosis.
Peter: Brilliant. Now I've seen you both present on many sorts of different topics about accessibility and everything around it as well. Now, for the listeners of the Podcast that have absolutely no idea about what web accessibility is all about, could you just give a little bit of rundown about what it is and explain to users why it's actually important to incorporate some of its stuff in the websites.
Kim: Sure, the way we believe the web accessibility, or the accessibility in general needs to be considered is that it's kind of like planning the perfect party. You have to consider everyone's requirements and you have to think of children and not giving them too much sugar, or gluten free or dairy free. If you're doing that level of consideration for your dinner party, how come you're not doing that for any product you actually design in the outside world. People have different requirements, you all do, you have preferences for how you set things up, how you've consumed information, how you produce information and everyone has preferences and their choices about how they want to read something, listen to something, and some people might not actually have a choice in those preferences, they might actually need those requirements and whether we are catering for those, that's what accessibility is about. It can anybody use your system, and for somebody to be able to use your system you have to kind of plan for all the different ways they want to use the system and so if someone has a mobility requirements. That is kind of a same thing as someone suddenly finding that they cannot use your device because they forgot a particular piece of technology or they left their mouse home or it's a high glare situation, it's similar to someone actually just struggling with the device. They are not all the same If you're not really considering how people are experiencing your application or website then you haven't really considered your audience
Peter: So now it sounds like it takes a lot of work and a lot of effort, to make whatever you're doing, whether it's an application or a website or something, to make it actually accessible. Is this true and if we're going down the path making things accessible, what else are the benefits other than just making it more accessible for certain audiences.
Sarah: I think when you ask the question, how hard it is or is it hard, the answer is yes and no.
Peter: Great, thanks.
Sarah: Exactly, it depends. There are a lot of things that you can do that should just be a part of good web practice, or good coding practice, so things like marking up your headings appropriately with the heading element. Now, that can be done on any website and that can have a huge impact for someone, for instance, who is using a screen radar which is a piece of software that actually reads out what's on the screen that uses speech technology, but using that particular application, a user can also lift off information from our webpage so, for instance, if you have marked up your headings correctly, they can actually lift off those headings and you can say, as much as a sighted person quickly scans a web page by looking at the heading, they can do exactly the same thing using their assistive technology. So there are a lot of things that you can do that are just a part of a good web practice. However, much like any application, the more complex your application becomes, the more accessibility does become difficult, because there are more considerations, but that's no different to any other complex requirements, usually it goes up with the complexity of your requirements. So it often baffles me that we see accessibility as something that is different to everything else, because it's not.
Peter: Now, there's some other benefit in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO) and other elements as well, which people may not be aware of, when marking up your websites to make it more accessible, it actually makes your web sites more accessible to search engines as well. A lot of people don't know this and it's just basic practices now. Now, can you explain a little bit about that and how it could affect search engines.
Sarah: Yes, definitely. There's a number of different things that you do from the accessibility perspective that do impact SEO. You mentioned before captions. If a video is not captioned, there's absolutely no way for a search engine to index that video, all that it can index is the text around that video that's on the same web page. Whereas if you do produce a close captions and close captions are in a separate text file in a particular format, then a search engine can index those, which means that your videos are more discoverable. This also applies for things like headings, which I've mentioned before, and also link text. So having a meaningful link text that tells you where the link will tell you, then they all have direct benefits of SEO.
Peter: Cool. And I'll actually be putting a text transcriptions of our conversations, of the interview as well to actually make it accessible. Now its an interview about web accessibility and if I don't make it accessible you know the audio-text as well, you know I'm missing on a point, aren't I?
Sarah: Not to mention that we'll come and bash you up if you don't. :)
Peter: Oh dear. And these girls both look really scary by the way. OK. In terms of tips and resources for people that are out there trying to make web sites and web applications or anything else accessible in terms of YouTube videos, whatever, where do we go to find this stuff to actually make it happen.
Kim: Oh gosh, there's this thing called Internet. It has everything on it. It's kind of how I learned about it as well. No seriously, one of the daunting things about accessibility for people who don't know about it is that there is always this perception that there's so much to learn and that's a part of where the resistance comes in. It's kind of that mentality of I'll do this later, I've got bigger things to do right now, but, for everything that you're actually trying to do, the content you're trying to create out there, so this is really important for content writers, there are lots of tips and tricks for any piece of content. If you're working on the video, just look up video accessibility, there's a material for audio, there are rules around that. The W3C, which is the World Wide Web Consortium, have the web content accessibility guidelines and while they may be technical, they do provide quite a lot of guidance for which we adhere to. I'll pass to Sarah. She actually has a fabulous list.
Peter: I actually might grab some websites of you both as well as some examples I can post up in a show notes, so other people can see some really exciting and visually nice websites are also accessible as well.
Sarah: Yes, certainly.
Peter: In increasing awareness of accessibility, like I mentioned earlier, Global Accessibility Awareness Day is just around the corner and you both are organizing a little event here in Sydney. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Kim: Yes, Sarah is organizing it. I'm just a sidekick. On Thursday, we have a really exciting event called A11Y Bytes and the way we spell A11Y is A-11-Y and it is our geeky shorthand for disability with eleven characters between A and Y, but the idea was to have a whole bunch of lightning talks, so really short, sweet presentations that really build awareness and raise empathy for all the different conditions that the society really has.
Sarah: So one of the things that was really important to us in putting together the event is not only that obviously we are supporting the Global Accessibility Awareness Day and what it stands for, but also that we've got a mix of presentations that are not just going to appeal to the accessibility community, which is sort of already converted, and that is what Global Accessibility Awareness Day is all about. It started from a blog last year, done by Joe Devon, which is that we need to take accessibility mainstream now. So we need to stop talking about it in communities that are already converted and actually take it out to the general web professionals. So what we've done with this event is chosen a really diverse range of presentations so we've got one person, Danni Breckon, who's actually speaking about gamestorming accessibility, so if anyone hasn't read the book gamestorming , it's all these different techniques that you can use in order to sort of change perception or introduce new concepts to teams, so she's actually going to talk about using these techniques to introduce accessibility to a team, incorporate it in there. We've also got someone from the Deft Society of New South Wales talking about AUSLAN interpretation, how you can include that in web content. Got the guys from Symo, and they are actually doing an indoor mapping project. So, exactly like outdoor mapping, using GPS, but they are actually doing it for indoors, so for things like shopping centres and what have you, in order to navigate round them. And they are actually going to talk about accessible design principles and how they apply that to their projects Symo. So we've got a really diverse range of presentations. It's about getting excited. The one thing, for me, about accessibility is that it can be so creative. And the ways we can actually use technology, not just on the web, but just use technology in order to improve people's lives or just, you know, give them more independence is just fantastic and this is what this event is all about, celebrating it, celebrating technology and celebrating what we can do to make technology more accessible and it is celebrating the uses, hard to pick up what to say, you know, it's about everyone's needs and preferences and, you know, one day we'll be old and we might not hear so well and see so well, so it might come to bite you.
Peter: These little steps just to make our lives a little bit easier, or everyone's lives a little bit easier. And it does sound like an action-packed fun-filled night with a lot of networking involved and where's it being held?
Sarah: It's being held at Mr B's hotel, which is right in the centre of Sydney CBD.
Peter: OK. Now, for a lot of the listeners of this Podcast, there are mainly international listeners as well, where can they find out more information about other events that might be happening around the world?
Kim: Ok, so , there's the Global Accessibility Awareness Day website, I believe it's GAAD 13, I can't remember what the URL was, but I'll pass that one to you. Basically, the guys who started this entire movement last year, are now compiling a list of all the events that are happening around the world. It's really heartening to see that just organically in all the different cities, people are actually betting together and just to see a profile of inclusive design and accessibility, so…
Peter: I'll make sure that those links are added to the show notes. Is there anything that you'd like to add?
Sarah: I was just going to add that Global Accessibility Awareness Day, you can follow them on Facebook and if you are on Twitter the hashtag is #GAAD.
Peter: Thank you very much. And the link to the website for A11Y Bytes, what was that?
Sarah: www.a11ybytes.org, and yes we are super geeky.
Peter: That's absolutely fantastic. I'm looking forward to the night. I'll be there as well. Thank you for your time this morning as well as for the interview it has been a pleasure chatting to you both.
Kim/Sarah: Thanks Peter.
Making Your Joomla Site More Accessible
Add alt text to all of your images on your website unless they are decorative images on your site. Use correct semantic mark up your headings in your content. Flow from H1-H6 accordingly to mark up your content. Arrange your content in a logical way. Add the :focus state to links on your website. Try and navigate around your website with the TAB key and try and figure out where the keyboard is focusing on. If you can't see where you are when tabbing then you need to add the focus state to your links. Consider colour on your website. Consider colour blind users and how they may see a website. Look at the contrast level of your text and the background of the text. If the colours are too similar with a low level of contrast, then it becomes hard to read. Aim for a high contrast level. WEB AIM Contrast tool, Adding WAI ARIA tags to your Joomla website acts as short cut links for screen readers