May 31, 2013

Mega menu accessibility on

Editor’s note: Recently, the site switched over to a using a mega menu for global navigation. Adobe accessibility engineer Michael Jordan worked closely with our web team to build a menu system that brings great accessibility to a very design-sensitive site. Here, Michael explains his approach.

While mega menus, in many flavors, are fairly ubiquitous these days, thanks in part to the thumbs up given to them by Jakob Nielsen in his 2009 article Mega Menus Work Well for Site Navigation, we had a hard time finding many good examples for accessibility.

We think our approach strikes a decent balance between user expectation for global navigation, keyboard navigability, and screen reader access, and we felt that others might find it useful if we shared some of the thinking that went into our choices.

The mega menu, with an item selected by keyboard

Our first major decision in implementing our mega menu was to respect user expectations for global navigation. As an accessibility engineer, it’s tempting to want always want to implement the appropriate WAI-ARIA design pattern for the widget I’m developing. In this case, working on a menu, I looked to the WAI-ARIA Menu or Menu bar (widget) design pattern which describes the keyboard interaction and WAI-ARIA roles, state and properties for a list of links presented “in a manner similar to a menu on a desktop application.” This would seem to fit the bill, but it’s somewhat problematic when implemented in its entirety for global navigation.

The design pattern specifies that the menu be treated as a single stop in the tab order, after which the arrow keys move between the menu and submenu items. This is the way application menus behave in desktop applications, and it improves accessibility for keyboard users because only one tab key press is required to move from the menu to the next focusable element in the application. However, for global navigation, we feel that most users still expect to be able to tab to at least the top level links in the navigation, and that the discovery of a jump in focus from the second link in the site to the search input, skipping all other top-level navigation items, could be confusing and would require unnecessary explanation.

Our implementation permits tab focus on each of the six top-level menu items. When one of the menu items has focus, pressing the Enter key, Spacebar or Down arrow will open the submenu panel, and pressing the Left or Right arrow key will shift focus to the adjacent menu item. Links within the submenu panels are included in the tab order when the panel is open. They can also be navigated with the arrow keys or by typing the first character in the link name, which speeds up keyboard navigation considerably. Pressing the Escape key closes the submenu and restores focus to the parent menu item.

The menu bar design pattern defines WAI-ARIA roles, state and properties. Some of these are also problematic when used in global navigation. If we use role=”menu” for the menu container and role=”menuitem” for each of the links therein, assistive technology will no longer interpret the links as links, but instead, as menu items. It is common for users of assistive technology to use a shortcut command to open a list of links in a web page. This allows them to quickly find a desired link without hunting through all the other content on the page. It’s a killer feature. If we use role=”menuitem” on links within our global navigation, they will no longer show up in the list of links identified by assistive technology. Cue the sad trombone.

We also want to maintain the semantic structure of the submenu panels in our mega menu, our links are organized into lists and separated by headings. Omitting role=”menu” and role=”menuitem” for the global navigation seems the safer way to go.

We still make use of the WAI-ARIA properties aria-haspopup, aria-owns, and aria-expanded to indicate which top-level links open submenus, the relationship between a link and its submenu, and the current state of the submenu.

We hope you find this useful, and we welcome any suggestions or comments you may have on the global navigation mega menu or other accessibility-related issues with

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March 21, 2013

Slides from CSUN 2013 presentations

Here are PDF versions of our presentation slides from the CSUN 2013 conference:

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March 7, 2013

Andrew Kirkpatrick to Co-Chair WCAG WG

It’s hard to measure the impact the W3C/WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (WCAG WG) has had on web accessibility. The WCAG 2.0 standard is the basis for a growing number of policies worldwide, providing a common reference for web content that adapts to users of all levels of ability.

Andrew Kirkpatrick, Group Product Manager for Accessibility, has been offered and accepted the role of co-chair of the WCAG WG, along with Joshue O’Connor of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland. Andrew and Joshue will take the place of Gregg Vanderheiden, who has chaired the WCAG WG since its inception, and Loretta Guarino-Reid, who played a pivotal role shepherding WCAG 2.0 to its final status as a W3C Recommendation in 2008. Both Loretta and Gregg will continue to participate in the WCAG WG, and we at Adobe Accessibility extend our gratitude to them for their years of effort moving the field of accessibility forward.

Andrew’s role will include the rechartering of the working group, to define goals for the working group and the WCAG standard in the coming years, as well as to reflect its continued development of accessibility techniques and other supporting materials. Andrew would like to hear from people from all different backgrounds on how the WCAG WG can help advance web accessibility overall. Apart from his Twitter account, @awkawk, leaving a comment here is one way to reach him, or you can submit a comment to the WCAG working group via the online form.

8:39 PM Permalink
February 20, 2013

Adobe & CSUN 2013

It’s that time again. The Adobe Accessibility team will be at the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, better known as CSUN 2013, all next week. Here’s where you can find us.

Andrew will also be a panelist on the Progress Toward an Accessibility Profession session, which will be on Thursday at noon in Mohsen AB, 3rd Floor, and should prove a robust exchange of ideas.

We don’t run a booth at CSUN, but we’ll be happy to meet with you all during and after our sessions if you have questions or comments about any of the products we make.

2:15 PM Permalink
February 1, 2013

Adobe & Greg Pisocky: 20 Years

Today we celebrate the 20 years of service at Adobe by accessibility team member Greg Pisocky. If you’ve ever worked on making a PDF document accessible chances are you’ve read or used resources Greg helped develop, and many of you are lucky enough to have worked have worked more closely with him. Greg has worked on accessibility at Adobe since the late 90’s, and through his work on Adobe’s government sales team was instrumental in the introduction of accessibility into Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. Accessibility was introduced as a feature in Adobe Acrobat 5.0 in May of 2001, and Greg’s work with our customers and the Acrobat engineering team helped make this work happen.

Since then, Greg has advocated internally for improvements and worked with external customers to promote the use of the accessibility features in Acrobat, helped countless end users with disabilities understand the accessibility support features available in Adobe Reader and other Adobe tools, and contributed substantially to efforts to help other tools such as Adobe InDesign and Adobe FrameMaker create accessible content. Greg has also worked for many years to make the PDF/UA accessibility standard for PDF documents a reality, contributed to the Authoring Tools Working Group at W3C-WAI, and engaged with the Section 508 refresh committee (TEITAC) on behalf of Adobe.

Comments from colleagues and customers speak volumes about Greg’s impact.

Victoria Richards, Government Customer
I met Greg Pisocky for the first time at an IDEAs Accessibility Forum in Washington DC. I immediately appreciated his extensive knowledge about the issues and his honesty about the ability and limitations to solve accessibility problems. Greg was instrumental in giving me a voice with the Adobe Acrobat team. He is an invaluable source of knowledge and ideas which have greatly improved the workflows to create accessible PDFs. Greg, thank you for helping me improve the products I create for people with visual impairments.

Noha Edell, Sr. Solutions Consultant, Adobe Systems Inc.
Greg Pisocky, a juggernaut of the movement of accessibility, a quintessential liaison between customers, product management, and engineering, and a relentless advocate who dedicates his life to improve the lives of the less fortunate. Greg understands the importance of accessibility and the needs of the customers working with it. His steady contributions to the products teams helped propel Adobe’s advancements in accessibility across products. Happy 20th Anniversary, Greg, it is an absolute honor to work with you.

Duff Johnson, Chair of the US Committee for PDF/UA
Greg led the charge on PDF/UA since the beginning, and showed me the ropes of tagged PDF. Greg combines a gentle demeanor with a fierce passion for accessibility and for his work. Every government agency in DC owes much of its successful use of Acrobat to Greg Pisocky.

Loretta Guarino Reid, Adobe Acrobat Engineer (emerita)
Greg Pisocky was one of the earliest champions of PDF accessibility at Adobe. He was a great partner to accessibility engineering, helping us to understand the needs and priorities of our government customers, and giving them information about new accessibility features in Acrobat. I loved working with Greg and I’m grateful for his part in the PDF accessibility story.

Those of us on the accessibility team appreciate Greg’s knowledge and valuable contributions – thanks Greg, and congratulations!

12:08 PM Permalink
January 29, 2013

Adobe Edge Inspect adds accessibility support

Accessibility takes many forms. While many if not most people have a fixed concept of accessibility that revolves around screen-reader compatibility with published content, the reality is that each product, be it an application, a document, a device or a protocol, has its own capabilities and limitations. And when we review our product teams’ work, sometimes we find unexpected ways to improve the user experience for people of all types.

A recent example is one of our newer products, Adobe Edge Inspect—one of a host of apps we’re working on to make HTML-based development easier for developers, designers and testers. Edge Inspect has three components: a desktop application that runs in the System Tray on Windows or the Menu Bar on OSX, which connects mobile apps running on iOS and Android to a Google Chrome extension, allowing testers to browse and debug the same mobile site across numerous devices simultaneously. It’s one of those apps that you don’t know you need until you know you could have it.

When I saw this demo last year, once I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I grabbed their demonstration iPad and turned on VoiceOver, the screen reader that’s built into iOS. This is usually how I shame mobile engineers. (Who says accessibility people can’t have hobbies?) But to my surprise, most of what was there already worked. Before they’d done any custom work, the Edge Inspect team had built a tool that would let me test mobile accessibility use cases alongside the visual layout.

Adobe Accessibility’s Michael Jordan worked with the Edge Inspect team to complete the job, both by tying up loose ends (like naming buttons and ordering controls), and by introducing accessibility features into the Chrome extension. That work is shipping in the latest version of Edge Inspect—which, by the way, you can get just by signing up for a free Adobe Creative Cloud account.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just the end user of a mobile site who may have a disability; your developers and testers may make use of that support as well. We talk a lot with our colleagues at all levels within Adobe about the role accessibility plays in what we create, and how people build upon our work. We can talk about how this or that is required by law, or by policy, but sometimes, as with Edge Inspect, we find a great opportunity to expand both the audience and the capabilities of a tool, with just a little polish. We have even more improvements coming soon, but more importantly, by working together, we have another product team that’s taking a broader view when it comes to designing for their users.

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January 14, 2013

Free Webinar: “Exploring Electronic Document Accessibility”

Adobe is offering a free webinar on document accessibility in conjunction with SSB BART Group and FedInsider News. The webinar will take place Wednesday January 23, from 1:30-2:30 (US eastern time zone).

Jon Avila from SSB BART Group will lead the session which will target managers and content authors in addressing the following topics:

  • Overview of accessibility requirements relevant to document creation.
  • Guidance on how to analyze known problems in existing documentation.
  • Proper use of native document creation software.
  • Techniques for finding and fixing accessibility violations.
  • Best practices to maintain and update document creation processes to ensure ongoing accessibility.

You can read a more information about the webinar and register at Please join us for this event!

Update: I neglected to mention it, but the webinar will have live captioning.

Update: The webinar recording is available.

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January 3, 2013

Acrobat XI Accessibility Documentation

On behalf of the Adobe Accessibility team, I’d like to welcome you all to 2013. We’ve got a big year ahead of us, and we’re starting with some new documentation for Acrobat XI.

We’ve updated our Acrobat accessibility training resources page with four new PDFs:

PDF Accessibility Overview
Covers the accessibility features of PDF as a document format, as well as Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader.
Using the Acrobat XI Pro Accessibility Checker
A complete walkthrough of Acrobat XI’s Accessibility Checker, as well as the Make Accessible action wizard.
Acrobat XI Pro PDF Accessibility Repair Workflow
Walk step-by-step through the PDF accessibility process in Acrobat XI.
Acrobat XI Pro Accessible Forms and Interactive Documents
Create interactive forms that can be used by anyone, ensuring privacy and independence for all.

We’ve also created a Acrobat XI accessibility best practices document which contains all four of the above guides in a single file. Documentation for Acrobat versions 8 and up can be found on the training resources page as well.

The new features of Acrobat XI are intended to make creating PDF documents both easier and more automatic. The Make Accessible action wizard walks users through a number of steps, like running optical character recognition and prompting for alternate text on images, and then tests the final product. This makes the process for editing and testing for PDF accessibility a fast, uniform process for authors of all skill levels. The built-in accessibility checker has also been improved, including testing support for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. We think this is the most substantial improvement in Acrobat accessibility since we added support for assistive technology back in 2002.

The team is looking forward to giving a detailed Adobe Acrobat XI walkthrough at the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference on February 28th, and at other conferences throughout the year. We hope you’ll find these tutorials useful.

5:31 AM Permalink
December 3, 2012

Proposal for a new directive on EU web accessibility

Today the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (more commonly known as ‘DG Connect’) released a new proposal for a directive on “Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ Websites”. The proposed directive will require twelve categories of EU public sector websites which provide essential public services to EU citizens to comply with W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 at the AA level. The proposal also makes clear that this level of accessibility support is desirable for all public sector websites.

Adobe supports efforts to provide clear and globally-harmonized standards for accessibility, and applauds DG Connect for referencing the WCAG 2.0 standard which not only represents a high bar for accessibility standards, but that is being incorporated into policy in many countries around the world including Australia, Canada, India, Japan, and the USA. This helps ensure that vendors like Adobe and web developers around the world don’t need to learn different accessibility standards in order to ensure that their tools and content promote and meet accessibility requirements.

The goal of ensuring that these services are accessible by 2015 is also manifestly the right thing to do as all people need access to government information and services. It will take time to approve this proposal and for individual EU member countries to incorporate the new law into national policy, but this is an important proposal that will help clarify what needs to be done to provide access to all users. Adobe supports this proposal in principle and in practice with our product offerings such as Dreamweaver and CQ which help web authors address accessibility, as well as our tools for creating accessible PDF documents and providing access to video content delivered on the web. More information about these products is available at the Adobe Accessibility Resource Center.

We commend the DG Connect for helping move accessibility forward in Europe. We encourage those interested to read the proposal, now available on DG Connect’s Digital Agenda web site.

4:03 AM Permalink
October 1, 2012

Acrobat XI Accessibility Changes

Acrobat XI (pronounced “Acrobat Eleven”) is coming soon, and with it a host of new accessibility features that will help authors produce more accessible PDF documents, with less effort.

Key improvements in Acrobat include the addition of the Make Accessible Action, enhancements to the Touch Up Read Order Tool, and improvements to the accessibility checking tool to guide authors testing against WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA.

The Acrobat team has more information about accessibility in Acrobat XI posted, and more information is coming soon.

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