BS 8878:2010 is a new code of practice developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI) which describes a process to ensure that websites and online services provided by an organization are accessible to all web users including persons with disabilities. BS 8878:2010 will formally be launched on Tuesday, 7th December 2010.
BS 8878 is not intended to be a technical specification. Instead, it sets out a process and brings together and summarizes the information needed by organizations providing web services to understand how to embed accessibility requirements into their production processes at all stages. Additionally, BS 8878 also provides information on why accessibility should be an integral part of the planning and design process by listing out legislative, commercial and ethical reasons.
It also states that the ideal situation for assuring accessible experiences is that organizations produce web products that confirm to W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and associated standards.
We welcome this new code of practice and hope that this will provide a better understanding of the importance of accessibility to an organization providing web products. Most web accessibility standards are inherently technical in nature and are difficult to understand by non-technical members of an organization. BS 8878 fills this information gap.
We at Adobe are always striving to provide the best experiences for our users irrespective of their disability. At the same time, we are also trying to make it easier for web developers, designers and content authors to create accessible content and applications on the web using various Adobe tools.
- Adobe is an active participant in W3C’s Web Accessibility initiative (W3C-WAI) and made contributions to the development of the WCAG 2.0 standard.
- The Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document published by W3C now includes techniques for Flash content and helps define a way for authors to comply with WCAG 2.0.
- We are also working on a collection of PDF techniques, which we aim to have available in the next round of the techniques document update.
- The Adobe Accessibility web site contains several useful resources for authors, end users, and those getting started learning about accessibility.
There was an important ruling today on accessibility from the Canadian Federal Court that is worth a read.
A blind woman filed suit against the government of Canada stating that the government “violated her rights under section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982″. In short the findings of the court were that many web sites for the Canadian government are not meeting the Common Look and Feel standard (CLF). The Court found that the government should update the CLF standard to utilize WCAG 2.0 instead of WCAG 1.0 and that there is sufficient evidence of compliance problems that need to be addressed that the Court found that the applicant was discriminated against due to the need to access information and apply for employment via these websites. The Court is allowing the government 15 months to come into compliance.
There are a couple of points raised in the ruling and in a Globe and Mail online article (Court orders Ottawa to make websites accessible to blind) that I would like to clarify. The points are as follows:
- From the ruling: “The applicant testified that in June 2007 she attempted to access information on the consumer price index and unemployment rate from the Statistics Canada website. She stated that actual statistics were, however, only available in “pdf” format, which is not accessible to screen reader technology.”
- From the ruling: [reported by a witness for the applicant] “…for example, “flash” is a technology that cannot be read by many screen readers. If a website uses “flash” technology, the user will not be able to access that content…”
- From the Globe and Mail article: “Many blind people use screen readers, computer software that translates electronic text into audio. But the readers aren’t foolproof — for one thing, most can’t decipher PDF files, a format often used to publish documents online.”
None of these is accurate. Even in 2007, most screen readers could read PDF and Flash capably. In fact, the screen reader used by the applicant was capable of reading both PDF and Flash. The points above indicate that most screen readers can’t read PDF or Flash, but it is more accurate to say that most can, including JAWS, Window-Eyes, NVDA, and others. Adobe provides a “read out loud” feature in Adobe Reader that provides basic access to PDF documents, but most users who are blind will depend on a more full-featured assistive technology.
This is not to suggest that the applicant didn’t encounter challenges, she clearly did. Authors of HTML web pages, as well as authors of PDF documents and Flash content need to make sure that they follow accessibility standards, and if authors don’t, users suffer.
We have techniques available for complying with WCAG 2.0 when authoring Flash, HTML, and techniques for PDF are in the works (there are training resources available for PDF at Adobe’s accessibility site in the meantime). The information that authors need is available, this ruling will undoubtedly stimulate an increased interest in these sources of information.
Adobe is committed to helping authors comply with accessibility requirements, whether using HTML, PDF, or Flash. Here’s a few links to relevant information:
- Dreamweaver (HTML authoring): http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/dreamweaver/index.html
- Acrobat (PDF authoring): http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/acrobat/
- Flash Professional (Flash authoring): http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/flash/
The Adobe Digital Publishing team released updates yesterday – Adobe Content Server 4.1 and Reader Mobile 9.2 SDK. Of primary significance to accessibility, Content Server includes a new permission setting for Text To Speech which will provide the ability to indicate if a book can be voiced by a ‘Read Out Loud’ feature of a ebook reader.
Access technologies for people with disabilities use TTS, but this is considered a different case, and the upcoming Digital Editions 2.0 will provide the ability for assistive technologies that utilize the operating system’s accessibility API (e.g. screen reading software such as Window-Eyes, JAWS, VoiceOver, or NVDA) to read book content whether the TTS permission is enabled or disabled. This ensures that print-disabled users have the same fundamental access to eBook content as non-disabled users. However, devices with ‘Read Out Loud’ functions not dedicated to the support of people with disabilities are expected to honor the TTS permission’s setting.
More information about the release of Adobe Content Server and RMSDK 9.2 is available from the Adobe Digital Publishing blog.
Yesterday Reader X was released and with it a new feature for security sandboxing. I want to alert assistive technology users to some implications of this feature, as they may be affected if they are using Windows XP.
Sandboxing works without issue for assistive technology users with Windows Vista or Windows 7. Your version of Reader will install with Protected Mode enabled and you don’t need to do anything different to read or interact with PDF documents.
Windows XP users who use assistive technology have a little different situation. When one of these users opens a PDF file they will get an alert that indicates the following:
“Adobe Reader has detected that you may be using Assistive Technology on your computer. While using Adobe Reader with Protected Mode enabled on Windows XP operating systems, some Assistive Technologies may not be able to read some document content. If you do encounter problems, turning off Protected Mode may help. This can be done by choosing Edit > Preferences > General and unchecking Enable Protected Mode at startup.”
What this means is that some assistive technologies are not able to navigate the security sandbox. So, as an assistive technology user, you should first check to see if you are able to access PDF content with your AT – JAWS and Window-Eyes users will need to disable Protected mode in the Reader preferences. There are many assistive technologies and many possible system configurations, so we encourage you to try for yourself. For an accessible PDF file to try, here is a simple test PDF file. Feel free to post your results as comments.
Update: This post initially indicated that Window-Eyes 7.2 was able to read in protected mode, but I received incorrect information on this point and was corrected by contacts at GW-Micro. The key issue is that the sandbox blocks COM interfaces, which includes current accessibility APIs, so it does make sense that Window-Eyes doesn’t work within Protected mode on XP.
I spoke on Flash accessibility at MAX in Los Angeles, CA at the end of October. The talk, Creating Accessible Flash Content with Flash Professional, is focused for a general audience that is familiar with Flash. I’m providing the slides and a link to the recording of the session here for people who couldn’t attend in person.
Today the W3C published an update to the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document and the Understanding WCAG 2.0 document. The Techniques document now includes techniques for Flash content and helps define a way for authors to comply with WCAG 2.0.
Like other sufficient techniques, the Flash techniques do not describe the only way to comply with WCAG 2.0 but define a collection of techniques that an author may choose to utilize. The table below provides a listing of the WCAG level A and AA success criteria and the Flash-specific and General techniques that authors can employ to meet the requirements of the success criteria.
As always, please send comments on existing techniques or suggestions for additional ones. This represents the first pass at the techniques for Flash, we’ll be working on adding more in the future.
|1.1.1 Non-text Content||A|
|Audio-only and Video-only (Prerecorded)||A||
|1.2.2 Captions (Prerecorded)||A|
|1.2.3 Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded)||A|
|1.2.4 Captions (Live)||AA||
|1.2.5 Audio Description (Prerecorded)||AA|
|1.3.1 Info and Relationships||A|
|1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence||A|
|1.3.3 Sensory Characteristics||A|
|1.4.1 Use of Color||A||
|1.4.2 Audio Control||A|
|1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum)||AA||
|1.4.4 Resize text||AA|
|1.4.5 Images of text||AA|
|2.1.2 No Keyboard Trap||A|
|2.2.1 Timing Adjustable||A|
|2.2.2 Pause, Stop, Hide||A|
|2.3.1 Three Flashes or Below Threshold||A||
|2.4.1 Bypass Blocks||A||
|2.4.2 Page Titled||A|
|2.4.3 Focus Order||A|
|2.4.4 Link Purpose (In Context)||A|
|2.4.5 Multiple ways||AA||
|2.4.6 Headings and Labels||AA||
|2.4.7 Focus Visible||AA|
|3.1.1 Language of page||A|
|3.1.2 Language of parts||AA|
|3.2.1 On Focus||A||
|3.2.2 On Input||A|
|3.2.3 Consistent Navigation||AA|
|3.2.4 Consistent Identification||AA|
|3.3.1 Error Identification||A|
|3.3.2 Labels or Instructions||A|
|3.3.3 Error Suggestion||AA|
|3.3.4 Error Prevention (Legal, Financial, Data)||AA||
|4.1.2 Name, Role, Value||A|
Today I am thrilled to attend an event at the White House where President Obama signs into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This act includes a number of provisions intended to increase access to video programming on television and the internet, require as access to the user interfaces used to access information online via smart phones, and require access to on-screen menus for DVD players and set-top boxes.
Specifically, the bill establishes that:
- Within one year of passage of the Act that the FCC will define regulations to make Advanced Communications Services accessible to and usable by people with disabilities (Section 716)
- Effective three years after passage of the Act, internet browsers built into mobile phones will need to support accessibility in the browser’s features and functions (Section 718)
- Within 60 days the FCC will establish a committee to advise on video programming and emergency access, and that group will develop reports (Section 201)
- a report within 6 months which includes deadlines for the delivery of closed captioning services
- a report within 18 months recommending the schedule for the delivery of video description
- Within 6 months, the FCC will set a schedule for requiring closed captions on video displayed online, for video that was delivered with captions on broadcast television. (Section 202)
- The FCC will commence an evaluation within one year of the passage of the Act to investigate the technical challenges, benefits, and technical challenges around video description for online video. (Section 202)
- The FCC will define regulations within 18-36 months which require access to the controls that accompany video programming (e.g. play, pause, closed captioning, volume controls) to enable access for people who are blind or visually impaired. (section 204)
- The FCC will define regulations within 18-36 months which require on-screen menus and program guides to be accessible to people who are blind or low-vision. (Section 205)
Adobe supports the provisions of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act as great advances to ensure equal access for people with disabilities. The most immediate impact of this legislation on developers using Adobe tools will be the delivery of closed captions for video online, followed by the provision of accessible controls for video and video description to aid comprehension of content by users who are blind or visually-impaired. Adobe tools already provide direct support for some of these requirements:
- Adobe introduced support for closed captioning in Flash video and provided a closed captioning component in Flash CS3 in April 2007, and has continued to improve and provide this in Flash CS4 and CS5. This component greatly simplifies the process of adding captions to video in FLV or H.264 formats.
- Adobe provides video controls in the FLVPlayback component, initially delivered in October 2008, which are accessible by default for assistive technology users. Offering controls that keyboard or assistive technology users can use is easily accomplished with Flash CS4 and CS5.
- For the past few years, video providers including MTV, Hulu, CNET, YouTube, and others have used Flash to display video with closed captioning, taking advantage of features in the Flash Player to accomplish this.
Despite the support that exists currently, there is more to do to make supporting this Act easier. Possible areas of work for Adobe include simplifying the process for content providers to transcode Line 21 or 608/708 captions to TTML or another format for display online, expanding support in the Flash Player to support upcoming accessibility APIs for mobile devices, and providing additional templates for accessible video player control sets to offer authors a greater selection of ready-to-use and accessible interfaces.
Congratulations to all who pushed to make this Act a reality, we look forward to working together to define the next steps as defined in the bill and working to continue to improve Adobe solutions for authors and content providers who need to deliver high-quality access for end users.
I’m pleased to announce that Kiran Kaja is joining the accessibility team at Adobe, based out of Adobe’s office in London, England. Kiran will be working internally with product teams and sales engineers and as a key figure in Adobe’s efforts to support accessibility policy and standards in Europe.
Kiran has worked in the Accessibility field for more than 6 years. Among other roles, Kiran made major contributions to the development of the first screen reader for Windows Mobile based devices at Code Factory. At SAP Labs, Kiran worked in the Accessibility Test Lab ensuring that a number of SAP applications meet accessibility standards. More recently, in his role as a Digital Accessibility Development Officer at RNIB, he worked on the AEGIS open source project as well as contributing to RNIB’s initiatives in enhancing mobile device accessibility to blind and partially sighted people.
You will likely see Kiran at various accessibility events in Europe, or you can follow Kiran on twitter.
The Flash Platform tooling team is requesting feedback via a survey. If you are interested in Flash and/or Flex and accessibility, you’ll find questions in the survey that provide an opportunity to voice that interest. We know that accessibility is important to many of you, please take a few minutes to cast your vote!