Nothing is vital for Science: nothing can beCharles Sanders Pierce
A bit of blogging lethargy recently, after returning from a week's holiday in rainy old St Ives. Admittedly, work has kept me away from the more pleasurable side of the web through the last few days. Seems to have been lots going on in my time away, but with time currently short and sweet, I will fire off this post in similar vain.
Just really want to have a little rant about where things are (or are not) going in the realm of Accessibility. Just picked up on the formation of the EuroAccessibility Consortium from the (still below par) RNIB Press Centre. So, I though I'd delve a little deeper and had a look at the towers of strength that would be representing Ol Blighty in this very justified initiative.
Well the RNIB rebuild has already been documented extensively, but I decided to have a quick reccie of the other sites, since they must surely represent pillars in the Accessibility community.
Didn't get very far since I got held up on the first page of the Access in Mind website. There are a number of very useful accessibility tools in Opera 7 which I enjoy running over numerous sites I visit around the web.
At this point, the testing ground to a halt and I fired up my blogger. Ok, it can be argued there is the base menu to cover the failure in Test Two, but once the text is enlarged, this menu is not visible without scrolling, leaving no navigation readily available on screen. This hardly RNIB See it Right certifiable.
Another quirk is the one-pixel defined skip navigation container visible in top left of screen. I am guessing this has probably been used to avoid JAWS missing it if declared
display:none in the style sheet. But wait a minute….Doesn't CSS define alternative media types??? Surely this container could be hidden on screen media, while made accessible on a separate aural stylesheet. Alas, the AiM
CSS file doesn't do it many more favours, with a lot of repetitious and redundant declarations. Again, maybe an accessibility guru would turn around and say these rules and this layout is necessary to support Screen Readers or Braille browsers, as has
occurred in the RNIB debate over recent months. But it is this very thought that stirred a rant in me.
I feel this approach to accessibility is not resolving the issue, but simply turning it on it's head. Building websites for less-abled users at the expense of all other users. This is certainly not what the WAI and Web Standards is all about. The tools are readily available now to make a site that is accessible to all, offering the benefits to each user based on the agent they have chosen to use, or the abilities they have. Sometimes workarounds are required for more complex design issues, but this doesn't mean the basics should be ignored. While clearly important, blind, deaf and visually impaired users are not the only demographic that accessibility addresses. What about portables, low bandwidth users, text users, legacy users etc etc….?
Phew, I have had my say….
Relates to Browsers
Netscape RIP. End of an era perhaps?
It has been learned through public and private sources that AOL has cut or will cut the remaining team working on Mozilla in a mass firing and are dismantling what was left of Netscape (they've even pulled the logos off the buildings). Some will remain working on Mozilla during the transition, and will move to other jobs within AOL.
4. The non-profit and independent Mozilla Foundation has been started and will control Mozilla development. Notice the new web site at www.mozilla.org 5. Mozilla is NOT dead, far from it. 6. AOL TW will donate $2 million over the next 2 years. Since the Mozilla Foundation is non-profit, companies (including AOL TW) can continue to donate money basically for free since they can use it to reduce their taxes. AOL will also continue to support Mozilla in areas such as domain names, servers, bandwidth, etc. 7. IBM and Sun, among other companies, have said they will continue to support Mozilla.
Finally… 9. MOZILLA IS NOT DEAD 10. MOZILLA IS NOT DEAD 11. MOZILLA IS NOT DEAD Summary of what has happened by Cygonea
Relates to Browsers
Just got around to updating my Opera browser to version 7.11 the other day, and only just discovered some nice additional features.
If you don't use Opera or have never tried it, why not download the software and give it a go. The only thing as a developer now is I have to remember to keep checking my sites on the rusty IE, before getting too carried away with the stylesheet capabilities offered in Opera and Mozilla. Hope the next MS operating system hosts a more compliant browser!?
Relates to Accessibility
I see that Joe Clark's Building Accessible Websites is now available to read on line. I will certainly be having a browse over the next few weeks.
Over the weekend I finally decided to give my modem a grilling and download OpenOffice.org. I have heard a lot of favourable reviews about it around the web and been wanting to do a comparison to MS Office for a while. Besides the four hour plus download time (inluding the developer manuals), I have been immediately impressed. At first glance it does not appear to have the depth of MS Office (I currently use 2000), yet at the same time, the GUI is visually clear and very easy to get to grips with. I had read in an Amazon review, I think, that the learning curve was quite steep. Well, I see this as far from the truth. If I were to recommend a suite for a newcomer to Office tools, I would certainly push this over Office. The interface presents less steps to some common formatting tasks, like table creation/insertions and style manipulation.
What I have found most exciting is the clarity and simplicity of building extensions using both Basic (OpenOffice version) and more extensive UNO interfaces with Java over TCP. My Java experience is not extensive, but I had a client-server connection up and running within a few hours with data manipulation functions on a Calc (Spreadsheet, Excel equivalent) file. Having built numerous application in VBA for Access, the Basic IDE was familiar, and the object library is readily navigable. The flexibility to program custom interfaces (with component libraries available for Python and C as well) seems to be far more available than in MS, where much information is buried away in cryptic files on MSDN. The Developer's Guide [Note 14MB PDF] and the API Reference Manual are both good places to start learning.
So, OpenOffice.org may not have the depth of features that MS Office has, or perhaps I haven't delved deep enough yet anyway? But, this is an Open Source Project, it does not cost anything, and is a must for a small business considering an alternative to MS Office or the starter MS Works. Perhaps the one thing it does lack is an integrated mail client, like Outlook, but then it would appear Mozilla can be readily integrated with it's own mail client.
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