I’ve been reading up on accessibility and now I’m starting to applying what I’m learning to DrProject. I’m learning a lot about screen readers since blind users are a major target audience that benefits from improved accessibility. It’s fun, but a little weird at first, to experience the net through a screen reader like WebAnywhere. The Internet, in linear form!
I think the chapter on forms and user input in Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance has been one of the readily applicable. I’ve made some initial suggestions for making fields more accessible and Qiyu has already implemented them in some places. (Thanks!) I’m sure I’ll find additional accessibility issues in our forms with a little more looking, so I’m keeping that on my to-do list.
I was hoping for more solutions out of the chapter about navigation, but I think I’m going to have to do a little side-research on what’s the best thing to do with drop-down menus. Right now, when you load DrProject.org with WebAnywhere, you see that all 30-some navigation items and sub-items are displayed (and thus read) to the user. While it was useful to learn that users can easily skip to the first heading using header navigation, I think 30 items is too many to force a user to go through if they do want to find a menu item. In addition, the screen reader reads the disabled menu items amidst all the menu items without telling the user what they are. I will have to think about if there is an auditory equivalent to the visual cue for being disabled. Title text on a link to nowhere, perhaps? There may also be a way to structure the items so that chunks are skippable using screen-reader commands. Maybe putting the sub-menus in lists?
One of the things I’ll need to accomplish during my last few weeks is to summarize some of what I’ve learned so that others can pick up work on accessibility knowing where DrProject’s problem spots are. I’ll probably create a new wiki page on our Accessibility efforts. It would be neat if there were a way to embed an auto-generated list of all open tickets tagged usabilitiy…
Only three weeks remain of my summer in Seattle and thus of Season of Usability! I hope to be able to spare some time to continue work on DrProject, but it will have to take a back seat to my coursework.