Accessibility 2.0 – A Million Flowers Bloom

On Tuesday, I was at the Accessibility 2.0 conference hosted by AbilityNet. The conference introduced some important topics currently effecting web professional, touching on accessibility with Silverlight, support of HTML5 and WAI-ARIA on assistive technologies as well broader discussion on accessibility on mobile devices. The events were organised into a series of presentation and discussion panels from a group of distinguished speakers

Christian Heliman keynote “Finite Incatatem – Accessibility is not black magic” slides are available on slideshare, the main focus of his presentation was to increase the profile of universal design (accessible design/development practices) in web development and particularly to include accessibility early on the development phase. He also, introduced the work done on Easy YouTube player an attempt at making YouTube videos more accessible to people with disabilities. Further presentation on making multimedia accessible is presented by Open University at Techshare 2009, with an interesting comparison of media players including easy-youtube.

Silverlight accessibility was touched on by Saqib Shaikh (Microsoft), who introduced Silverlight as cross platform, cross browser, open standard and demonstrated accessibility features built into the platform such as colour contrast, keyboard access and the potential to create accessible videos. A series of demonstration were made showing how screen readers (NVDA) interacted with an open source accessible Silverlight media player particularly reading closed captions/audio descriptions from W3C timed text files associated with the video.

Steve Faulkner presented on HTML5 and WAI-ARIA, he reported current browser support for HTML5 is limited, with Microsoft Internet Explorer yet to fully support this. HTML5 form controls were poorly supported by assistive technology at present, with very few exposing even basic keyboard access. The HTML5 canvas element was criticised for being an accessibility black hole, since no content is exposed to assistive technologies, although workaround for producing accessible content have been suggested. Video element was also criticised for lacking support for caption/subtitling at least in the first release of the standard.

Steve compared WAI-ARIA support reporting support was much better across browsers and assistive technologies such as JAWS, NVDA and ORCA. JAWS public beta shows support for a variety of roles from Drag-drop to ARIA Live Region used commonly with AJAX. He also demonstrated the use of landmark roles to mark specific regions of a page and quaintly described as “super charged skip to content links”.

Two discussion panels were held during the day, the first was on “Accessibility beyond the desktop discussion” and second on “To comply or not to comply? That is the question”. The first considered the impact of mobile technology on accessibility and considered how content could be presented accessibly to wide group of people. The second considered the challenges of producing accessible web solutions within the constraints of a work environment, presenting the issues faced by developers and offered recommendations. Detailed transcripts of the discussion panels to follow shortly with links to slides as and when published by AbilityNet.

Update – Speaker presentations


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