February 2012 Archives

Three New Accessibility Toolbars for Firefox

| | Comments (0)

If you're being asked to accessify a Website, Firefox plugins can be some very handy tools to have, and I have recently discovered three new ones which extend my functionality in addition to the classic Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar .

All of these toolbars are designed primarily for spot checks on a single page. However, if your site is templated (even Dreamweaver templated) you can catch a lot of template errors doing a one-page check up. You can also quickly check objects which normally cause the biggest headaches - images ALT tags, ill-structured tables and improperly labelled form fields. Modern tools are also letting detect ARIA page structures (or the lack of them).

WAVE Toolbar

If you like the WAVE report (and I do), you may also want the WAVE Toolbar. This toolbar lets you do a WAVE scan on your current Web page, even pages which require a login. I've always liked the WAVE report because it captures a lot of data for multiple tests, and quickly lets you know where your problems are on the page.

Juicy Studios Toolbar

The studio that gave us the Colour Contrast Ratio Analyser also provides a Juicy Studio Accessibility Toolbar which includes (yes) a color contrast tool. which reports on every text/background combination on your page (a plus for more colorful home pages). They also provide a nice table analyzer tool which shows if a table has the SUMMARY and the TH attributes and checks for SCOPE.

Jim Thatcher Favelets

This Favelets set is from accessibility guru Jim Thatcher. They run similar tests as the other tools, but results are in pop-up windows which are a little more screen-reader friendly. It also includes a very nice ARIA tool (as does Juicy Studio). It also checks for the presence of a SKIP Link.

Penn State is implementing a centralized scanning service, but I like having these tools in addition to those...just in case.

Accessibility Improves Search Rank

| | Comments (0)

You may have heard several accessibility experts say that implementing accessibility can improve your rankings in Google, but the article SEO and Accessibility Overlap documents the different WCAG 2.0 requirements that also makes your site more Google friendly.

The reason for all this overlap? As author Liam McGee comments:

Google[bot] is blind. Googlebot doesn't use a mouse. Googlebot sometimes has trouble with javascript. Like a blind person using screenreader software, Googlebot relies on structural cues in the content - denoting headings, paragraphs, lists and more - to make more sense of the page.

It just goes to show that you never know WHO could be visiting your Web site.

Multicultural Education Fail?

| | Comments (0)

I've always had a great passion for global awareness, but there are times when even I have to admit - some multicultural awareness assignments are not as helpful as they could be.

Asian History in High School

For example....my capstone assignment for 10th grade Asian history in high school. I recognize that Asian history, Chinese history in particular, is very long and complex and frankly pretty detached from Western history for the most part. You can't really expect to sensibly cover 2500+ years of history in two weeks, but here's the assignment I most remember from that curriculum.

"Pretend you're at the beach for vacation. Write two letters to friends and family - one from a Daoist perspective and another from a Confucian perspective."

For this assignment we were given some key quotes, but nothing like...when these philosophies developed or why they developed. Nor were we really given much information about historical events before the Opium Wars nor even really told that the last dynasty in China was actually not Chinese, but Manchurian (that would be WAY too complicated even if it might explain some other cultural patterns...).

"Despite the county's best intentions, somehow all of Chinese culture and history was boiled down to a vision of Arnold from Happy Days proclaiming "Confucius say..."

Best Answer?

The Fail Blog triggered this memory when it presented this timely answer to the another history assignment:

Assume the role of a Chinese immigrant in 1870 and write a letter home describing your experiences. Be sure to include your contributions and experiences in the West.

If the Adventures of Brisco County Jr are to be believed, experiences were not always positive and maybe not everyone had a chance to write a letter.

Nonetheless this student completed the assignment and for full authenticity wrote the answer in Chinese. I don't know if this was high school history or Chinese 101, but it made me smile to think what could happen if we REALLY could imagine what it was like to experience another culture.

Postscript

For the record, I do not consider Brisco County Jr to be an authentic historic source, but I give the TV show credit for acknowledging that there were Chinese Americans in the West and that it was not always a "good" immigrant experience. I also felt like it epitomized the media image clash I felt when reading the 1870 assignment.

I would compare it to writing a letter about coal mining (according to family lore, it generally sucked and led to lung disease) or surviving the Irish potato famine (an experience some may have wanted to forget altogether). In other words, this kind of assignment can also unintentionally trivialize genuine suffering.