Accessibility for All? - WebReference Update - 020122 | WebReference

Accessibility for All? - WebReference Update - 020122

((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) January 22, 2002

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This week the Doc continues his Web services series with a look at loading and parsing XML with JavaScript. We offer two book excerpts for your reading pleasure, on Jabber and JXTA. In our feature today we chronicle the spread of the Olympic web site accessibility story, and offer some pointers. In other news, don't miss for some standards-compliant wizardry, another 7+-2 story, and Amazon actually made a profit last quarter. Will wonders ever cease? *- link to us today *- newsletter home

New this week on and the Web:

1. BOOK EXCERPT: Programming Jabber, Pt 2 2. JAVASCRIPT: XML Loading and Parsing 3. BOOK EXCERPT: Early Adopter JXTA 4. FEATURE: Accessibility for All? 5. OTHER VOICES: * * The Myth of "Seven, Plus or Minus 2" * Crisis of the (Virtual) Commons * Professional JSP Site Design: Chapter 12 - Content Management 6. NET NEWS: * Where the Online Ad News Is Good * Amazon posts its first net profit

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. BOOK EXCERPT: Programming Jabber, Pt 2

Having downloaded and configured the Jabber server, it's now time to put it to good use. Starting and stopping the server is the main focus of this excerpt, with additional information on what to do when things go wrong. From O'Reilly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. DOC JAVASCRIPT: XML Loading and Parsing

The DOMDocument object allows for the loading, parsing, and manipulation of XML data from within JavaScript. We continue our JavaScript Web services tutorial by showing you how to load an external XML file and check for errors. IE only. By Yehuda Shiran and Tomer Shiran.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. BOOK EXCERPT: Early Adopter JXTA

Operating as somewhat of a peer-to-peer operating system, the JXTA platform provides the foundation you need to build peer-to- peer applications connecting any networked devices. In this excerpt from the Wrox Press title, "Early Adopter JXTA," we learn how easy it is to insert our own custom commands into the JXTA Shell.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 4. FEATURE: Accessibility for All?

The response to our accessibility reviews of the 2002 Olympic Web site was great. Folks using various browsers and platforms e-mailed in screen shots, cogent comments, and even offered some suggested workarounds. Keep those cards and letters coming. Shirley Kaiser's follow-up up post

What Shirley and I are trying to do (me in my slightly over the top fashion) is raise our awareness of accessibility and usability issues. The 2002 Olympic web site(s) offered a perfect forum with their world-wide scope. Shortly after I posted the review, we both got Slashdotted:

Metafilter chimed in and Evolt ran a piece wondering if the Olympics are heading for another "Accessibility Suit?"

The original design (circa Jan. 17, 2002) of the Olympic Web site relied entirely on JavaScript to doc.write frames (after redirecting a few times) that contained the actual content. Once inside, other accessibility problems appeared that we both discussed.

As founder of I'm all for the intelligent use of JavaScript, but using it exclusively to display a page is simply not accessible for some, and problematic for those platforms the designers did not optimize the site for. Users often surf with JavaScript turned off to avoid those intrusive pop-up/under ads.

Today it appears that the designers have made a change to the site, using external .js files to write the framed content. Also, the errors I experienced have mysteriously disappeared:

<html> <head> <script language=javascript> document.write("<title>" + (("nbcolympics")>-1) ? "NBC Olympics" : "Olympics") + "</title>"); </script> </head> <script language=javascript src=/x/inc/get_guid.asp></script> <script language=javascript src=""></script> <script language=javascript src=""></script> <noscript><p>Javascript must be enabled to view this site.</noscript> </html>

Ideally, accessibility should be integrated into the design process, not the final step. Making your site accessible means gracefully degrading for older or less-well-endowed browsers like screen readers and other user agents. It doesn't have to look perfect, just be usable (see for some DIV-based examples).

Adding alternate content with <NOFRAMES> and <NOSCRIPT> tags, and differentiating links from content isn't rocket science and is now common practice. However, using (X)HTML for web page display is the accepted way to display content. First make your site function properly, then add interactivity and floating DHTML gizmos later (if you must), not the other way around.

Here are some links for further reading:

Accessibility/Usability Info:

Microsoft's Accessibility Site:'s Usability Resources:

Joe Clark accessibility blog:

Jim Byrne accessibility blog:

Some of the usability and information architect experts also cover accessibility, such as:


Christina Wodke, elegant hack:

Lou Rosenfeld, author of "Information Architecture for the WWW":

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 4. OTHER VOICES:, The Myth of "Seven, Plus or Minus 2," Crisis of the (Virtual) Commons, Professional JSP Site Design: Chapter 12 - Content Management


Using XHTML strict and no tables, Philip Shaw has created a three- column standards-compliant showcase for his talents. DOM1 drop- down menus, example style sheets, and more can be viewed in standards-compliant browsers. Watch and learn. But don't copy. Philip Shaw, 2002

* The Myth of "Seven, Plus or Minus 2"

Can George Miller's 1956 guideline be applied to menus on the Web? James Kalbach thinks otherwise. Recent research has shown that breadth often wins over depth when it comes to navigational design on the Web. See also the Microsoft study we cited in last Monday's edition., Jan. 14, 2002

* Crisis of the (Virtual) Commons

News websites - where discussion boards and chat allow readers to question the official record, bicker with columnists, or offer dissenting political views - should be where democratic discourse is at its most vibrant. Readme, Jan. 21, 2002

* Professional JSP Site Design: Chapter 12 - Content Management

Eye candy brings them in, but content brings them back, especially if that content is kept up-to-date and topical. This chapter steps through a case study that develops an article management system for a news site, or any site that posts articles on a regular basis. Java Boutique, Jan. 21, 2002

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 5. NET NEWS: Where the Online Ad News Is Good, Amazon posts its first net profit

* Where the Online Ad News Is Good

While total spending fell in 2001, it's skyrocketing for sectors such as technology, cars, drugs, and travel. Tight targeting is the key. Business Week, Jan. 17, 2002

* Amazon posts its first net profit

In a fourth quarter marked by strong international sales and cost cutting, on Tuesday reported its first-ever net profit, on record sales, delivering on its promises to Wall Street., Jan. 22, 2002

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That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Newsletter Editor, aking at internet dot com

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