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Sin #4: Using Poorly Contrasted Colour Schemes

Blogs entails countless hours of reading on the screen. Colour schemes not enhanced for readability makes that task more difficult, more tiresome. Why are Poorly Contrasted Colour Schemes an Accessibility Sin? According to the University of Washington’s Department of Ophthalmology, 2.8 million Americans have colour blindness, which can express itself in many variations and degrees…

How to Add Accessibility to Your Blogging Workflow?

During a call for Third Tribe Marketing earlier this week, Chris Brogan mentioned that he would like to add captions to his videos, but he isn’t sure how to add that task into his workflow.

Workflow?

It struck me in that moment that workflow is another way blog accessibility differs from web accessibility. Any worthy web developer or designer implements accessibility from the beginning of the project and it is part of the job; accessibility flows naturally and seamlessly through the project.

But, for bloggers who do want to attract a larger, more inclusive readership, implementing accessibility guidelines in each blog post requires a conscious effort – at least, initially while learning what is required. Some extra time may also be required, particularly when it comes to captioning videos, which is a time-consuming and tedious, albeit necessary, task.

I can imagine these questions churning through bloggers’ minds:

  • How much time does implementing the accessibility guidelines require?
  • Is there a best order to implement them?
  • When do I fit these extra tasks into my limited blogging time?

What other questions am I missing? What other burning questions about fitting in “accessibility” do you have?

When I explain a particular accessibility tip – such as adding alt text to images – I offer why it is important and how to do it. Shall I also offer how long it might take and when it might be done? Would that kind of information be beneficial to you as bloggers?

To address Chris’ dilemma, there are a number of ways videos can be captioned:

  1. Some software, like Camtasia, offer a way to add captions during the editing process;
  2. With tools like Overstream.net,  captions can be added to videos already online;
  3. Pay a transcription service;
  4. Use Dragon Naturally Speaking to create the transcript;
  5. And the list goes on.

However Chris’ question was “how”  as much as it was “when”. Many of his videos are created on the fly – at the kitchen, waiting for his next flight, in his hotel room – in between his other countless commitments. Needing to stop to take time to add captions would likely mean many of his videos would not be shared online.

Realistically, what’s the solution? For Chris, perhaps it’s adopting a policy whereby someone within the Brogan Empire is tasked with ensuring the video is captioned within a specified time (i.e. 72 hours) of it going live. That kind of policy might fit into his workflow best. For another blogger, another policy might work better.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you fit accessibility into your workflow? Or, what information do you need to begin adding accessibility into your blogging routine?

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Google CAPTCHAs Nearly Blocked Me from Completing Work

One task on today’s to-do list was to set up a Google group for a client to discuss migrating the organization’s static site to WordPress. I haven’t used Google groups, but I have previously used Yahoo groups. Setting up a group in Google shouldn’t be that much different.

The first step required basic information: the group’s name, a brief description and an access level. Once done, I hit the “Create my group” button and was presented with a CAPTCHA for verification purposes:

Google CAPTCHA

Are you kidding me? With my once perfect vision whose only impairment is being forty-four years old, I could not make out most of the garbled letters, even after tilting my head in various directions.

After a few moments, I decided to click on the wheelchair icon to give the audio CAPTCHA a shot. From previous experience I knew audio versions were equally garbled, but I figured it couldn’t be much more undecipherable than this image of garbled letters – or what I assumed were letters.

Much to my surprise, I was presented with:

Google CAPTCHA with the message "Sorry, we are unable to handle your request at this time, please try again later."

What? Unable to handle my request at this time? What does that mean? All I requested was the audio CAPTCHA. I don’t want to try again later; I want to finish this task now. How is coming back later equal access?

I typed in my best guess. Obviously my guess was wrong because I was presented with a second CAPTCHA:

Google CAPTCHA

Again my middle-aged eyes could not decipher the distorted characters. Again the audio CAPTCHA was not available. Again I typed in a guess. Again I was wrong.

Had this frustration been required for submitting a blog comment, submitting an information request or ordering a purchase, I would have muttered “Forget it!”, closed the tab and not returned, ever!

But, this was legitimate work for a long-tem client. I had to complete this task. Again I tried:

Google CAPTCHAThe third time I hit the jackpot: the group was verified, finally. But this process should not be more challenging than winning in Vegas!

These darn things might be stopping most bots from proceeding, but how many humans are also blocked? There has to be another way to treat humans humanly while keeping out spammy bots!

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Accessibility Checklist for Blog Posts

Mind map When writing blog posts, bloggers can improve accessibility in several ways. Too many ways to remember, hence the “Accessibility Checklist for Blog Posts”! This quick reference is available as a downloadable mind map (PDF format – 182 kb) and as a text-based checklist below:


Does your post include…

Text?

  • Expand acronyms the first time used in a post
  • Explain unusual or jargon words
  • Identify the language of foreign words or phrases

Hyperlinks?

  • Ensure links are meaningful when read out of context
  • Avoid links like "Click here", "Here" and "More"
  • Ensure links open in the same window

Headings?

  • Use heading levels to indicate headings
  • Nest heading levels correctly

Lists?

  • Use unordered or ordered lists to identify bullet points

Quotations?

  • Use blockquote to identify longer quotes

Images?

  • Add an alternative text (the null or empty alt text may be appropriate)
  • Add a title (optional)

Audio?

  • Provide a transcript

Video?

  • Provide captions
  • Provide a transcript (optional)
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Sin #3 of Inaccessible Blogs: Omitting Alternative Text for Images

Glenda Watson Hyatt as a devil

Using images in blog posts has several benefits, including:

  • Providing a visual cue to the post’s topic,
  • Enhancing or illustrating a point made in the post,
  • Providing content that can only be represented visually, and
  • Breaking up long blocks of text.

Why is Omitting Alternative Text for Images an Accessibility Sin?

Individuals with sight impairments who use text-to-speech screen readers – software that reads aloud text on the screen – cannot access information presented graphically because screen readers cannot interpret images to read them aloud. Without alternative text provided for images, these individuals miss out on this content.

How to Absolve this Sin?

The solution is to use text equivalents or alternative text to provide the same information as that provided by images and graphics. Be sure to add an alternative text for every image. When writing alt text, consider what you would say about the image if you were reading aloud your post over the phone. If the image is purely eye candy, use the empty or null alt (alt=””).

Lesson 3 of Blog Accessibility Mastermind discusses alternative text in great depth and provides tips on writing them. Check it out!

What are Other Blog Accessibility Sins?

The Door to Accessibility: How Widely You Open It Is Your Choice

At times, beginning with a real-life example assists with understanding the nebulous concepts of web and blog accessibility. With that in mind consider this example: one of three options can be offered to individuals requiring assistance with opening a store door: A doorbell to ring for assistance with the door. An automated door that opens…

Sin #2 of Inaccessible Blogs: Using Consecutive One-Worded Links

Glenda Watson Hyatt as a devil

Hyperlinks are the connective tissue of the blogosphere. Oftentimes we scan blog posts and webpages for interesting and relevant links. However, sometimes the link’s purpose is unclear, particularly consecutive one-worded links, as in the following example:

Excerpt text with four consecutive, one-worded hyperlinks

Why are Consecutive One-Worded Links an Accessibility Sin?

Individuals with sight impairments who use text-to-speech screen readers can have the software scan for hypertext links. The destinations of the above one-worded hyperlinks are difficult to determine.

Individuals with mobility impairments navigate using only the keyboard use the Tab key to move from link to link. Following an ambiguous link only to find the information of no interest and then needing to backtrack to continue reading the original post is frustration at its finest; it’s a waste of precious time and energy.

Individuals with shaky hands find clicking on small target areas difficult and might inadvertently click on a link they did not intend. Again, frustrating.

Individuals with cognitive impairments might find such links confusing, and are left unsure whether to follow or not.

How to Absolve this Sin?

When providing several links in a row, consider the words you use for the links, and how these links can be defined in a clearer way. Do the links provide a clue as to where your readers, with or without impairments, will end up if they click?

For more tips and tricks on how to easily make you blog more accessible, check out the Blog Accessibility Mastermind.

The 7 Sins of Inaccessible Blogs

Introducing seven of the most common yet easy-to-correct blog accessibility errors… Sin 1: Using “Click Here” Why is “Click Here” an Accessibility Sin? Individuals with sight impairments using text-to-speech screen readers can have the software scan for hypertext links. However, oftentimes, the destination of the hyperlink is difficult to determine. Individuals with mobility impairments navigate…

Do CAPTCHAs Block Spam or Your Readers?

a screen shot of a CAPTCHAUnfortunately bloggers are inundated with spam comments. CAPTCHAs – Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart – are frequently used to weed out spambot comments from human comments.

However, because CAPTCHAs are typically images of distorted characters, this information is not accessible to screen readers, leaving people who are blind unable to post a comment. As Darrell Shandrow, a screen reader user, said visual CAPTCHAs are “no blind people allowed” signs.

CAPTCHAs do not keep out only people who are blind. With the distortion of characters or extraneous markings, people with learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia, can have difficulty deciphering what the actual characters are. Likewise, with poor colour contrast, those individuals with colour blindness or low vision can also have difficulty getting past the CAPTCHA step.

Personally, my once perfect vision is nearly forty-four years old and those darn things are stumping me more and more. Other times I don’t bother proceeding.

Screen shot of Blogger CAPTCHA with audio option One alternative is the combination of visual and audio CAPTCHA, such as the reCAPTCHA or the one on Blogger blogs. But have you ever tried listening to those ones? Totally garbled audio! If you happen to be hearing impaired and sight impaired – because disabilities don’t always come in onesies – you are completely hooped! Sorry, your opinions, ideas, expertise – or purchases! – aren’t welcomed here.

What is the solution?

Where possible, avoid using CAPTCHAs to block spam comments. Instead, use Akismet or other spam filters to control that unwanted spam. Make it as easy as possible for all readers to participate in your blog’s community.

If a CAPTCHA is absolutely necessary, use a simple text-based question – like “Which is hot: ice or steam?” – with a form field or dropdown box for the response. The key here is to keep the question simple and straightforward so as to not trip up people with cognitive impairments.

This morning I came across the WordPress plug-in is_human() with three verification methods:

  • Standard CAPTCHA Image
  • Simple Math Equation
  • Simple Custom Questions (with Question Generator)

Please do not use the image option! The other two options might be the best solution available to date, if, indeed, a CAPTCHA is necessary.

Disclaimer: I have yet to test this plug-in and am not yet vouching the plug-in is truly accessible; the concept is accessible. Your feedback is most welcomed.

What is the bottom line?

When using CAPTCHAs, be sure you are blocking spam, not your readers from commenting.

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What’s My Favourite in My Accessibility Toolbox?

Working as a Web Accessibility Consultant over the years, I have accumulated quite the toolbox for assessing accessibility of websites and, now, of blogs. One of my favourite tools remains the Colour Contrast Analyzer, available for both the PC and the Mac. Using this handy application, the contrast between a foreground colour and a background…