The Dollars and Sense of Enterprise Access

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This week I attended the 2014 US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) conference in Orlando, Florida where I was honored to speak on the subject of accessibility. I took part in a panel discuss where I spoke with a number of very knowledgeable people from a number of organizations that included Sprint, Verizon, and IBM. I of course represented Northrop Grumman and I focused on policies and procedures around accessibility. If you are interested in this subject, you will find the PowerPoint deck at the end of this post. Today more than ever, we conduct our lives in a digital medium. In many cases, a task may only be able to be completed digitally. Awareness of the nature and implication of legislation and policy regarding accessibility is significant in shaping organizational policy. In the era of the Internet, accessibility, or the lack there of, often erects obstacles to employees, business partners, and the general public. An article titled Accessibility in Practice: A process-driven approach to accessibility by Sarah Horton and David Sloan make a number of very interesting points: Involve people with disabilities effectively. Remediating accessibility barriers early. Introducing accessibility into the development process may be experienced as a disruptive. Electronic, …

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Tools provide a false sense of accessibility compliance

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When you set out on the journey to achieve accessibility you will naturally turn your attention to tools to help facilitate they journey. If you paid attention, you had noticed that I stated journey and this is for a very good reason. The fact is, today’s websites are not your father’s website, which is to say they is little to no content that is static. The dynamic state of a website means that the content changes at any given interval and for this reason, accessibility is a continuous process. Although the tools are worthwhile and enterprises should procure and use them, it is important to realize that the tools are mechanical in their approach and of narrow scope. By itself, a tool does not guarantee a usable site; any more than spell check guarantees that the author’s document will be well written and comprehensible. The tools focus on the “letter of the law” rather than the spirit of the law. They ensure compliance with guidelines, but the guidelines have limitations. Most accessibility efforts center on the needs of the visually impaired users rather than People with Disabilities (PWD) in general. Accessibility in Business Develop a vision and statement that commits …

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Alternative text for images

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Text alternatives are a primary way of making visual information accessible, because they can be rendered through any sensory modality (for example, visual, auditory or tactile) to match the needs of the user. Providing text alternatives allows the information to be rendered in a variety of ways by a variety of user agents. For example, a person who cannot see a picture can have the text alternative read aloud using synthesized speech. The alt attribute on images is a very important accessibility attribute. Authoring useful alt attribute content requires the author to carefully consider the context in which the image appears and the function that image may have in that context. For example, the frog here is described as “A cute frog standing with one finger pointing in order to gain attention” for the alt text value. <img src=”frog_attention.png” alt=”A cute frog standing with one finger pointing in order to gain attention” /> The guidance included here addresses the most common ways authors use images. Additional guidance and techniques are available in Resources on Alternative Text for Images. The following are example scenarios where users benefit from text alternatives for images: They have a very slow connection and are browsing …

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A short introduction to creating accessible Microsoft PowerPoint documents

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PowerPoint documents are typically used for presentations – in which case tips such as the ones below will allow you to create a truly coherent presentation for all those who are attending it. By using large point text and avoiding cluttered screens, you are making the presentation easier to read for people with visual disabilities as well as people without. If you are planning on transmitting the PowerPoint electronically (such as putting it on a website), make sure that it is adequately structured and configured as to allow screen readers to read the information and understand the PowerPoint as it was meant to be understood. Also make sure that you address your notes and handouts if you plan on sharing them. For presentations Use high contrast between foreground and background Use a minimum of 16 point font Use a sans serif font – such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana Use a plain background – avoid busy patterns Avoid cluttered screens (too many images or words) For electronic transmission Use the default text regions provided by the different layouts – avoid using textboxes If uploading to a website, upload either an HTML or pdf version of your PowerPoint as well Add …

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A short introduction to creating accessible Adobe PDF documents

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Creating or converting existing documents into accessible formats is a somewhat simple process. if you are not familiar with accessibility, particularly with PDF documents, then a great place to learn about the specifics is the PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0 from W3C.  Before you begin, set the styles for titles, headings, and text in your document. By setting the styles before you begin creating the document, you can simply select the exact style of text you want without having to modify every section. These styles provide the document’s structure for the tagged PDF file. Also before you begin, set the overall format and spacing of your document. While writing, be sure you select the correct style and format for the text you are creating. This includes titles, headings, and paragraph spacing. Instead of using the Enter key to add spaces between paragraphs, go to Format, Paragraph, Indents and Spacing tab, and in the Spacing section, select the amount of spacing you want before or after the paragraphs. Add alternate, descriptive text to all images. By including alternative text for images, screen readers are able to describe the image based on the text you provide. Group together small illustrations used to …

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