Freeform Solutions Visits a11yYOW, Ottawa's First Accessibility Unconference

I recently had the opportunity to meet with a varied group of web developers, policy directors, and Internet users from the private, public and government sectors at a11yYOW, Ottawa's First Accessibility Unconference, which took place at Ottawa City Hall on Friday, December 2nd. The Unconference was an opportunity for open discussion on topics relating to the accessibility of content on the web for people with disabilities (including those with blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these). 

There were many insteresting topics, including one on how to make PDF documents accessible for individuals who use screen readers, Media Accessibility in Canada, Aging and Accessibility, and Strategies for Desktop Accessibility, amongst others (view the complete session list). Highlighted below are 3 that I attended.

1. Accessibility and Social Media

Presenter: Tanya Snook, Privy Council of Canada

How accessible are the social media sites that you use regularly, such as Facebook or Twitter? Often these sites fail in the realm of accessibility, with issues such as non-descriptive links, images or videos, the use of abbreviations that screen readers can't understand, or the inability to navigate content using a keyboard - for mouse-users, and adverage-visioned persons, these are issues often overlooked when building, or adding content to a website. A key point to take from this presentation: don't rely on social media widgets on your website to be the main source of information for your visitors, rely on descriptive content instead.

2. D7 WET kit (Goc Web Experience Tool Kit) (WET DRUPAL DISTRO)

Presenter: William Hearn, Statistics Canada

This presentation included an excellent introduction to "WET", the Government of Canada's Web Experience Toolkit, and the new Drupal 7 distribution. Open-source and free to use, the WET offers a plathora of tools, resources, downloads and suggestions for increasing the accessibility of your site, and is a great resource for all GOC departments, and any non-government entity as well. The Drupal 7 distribution includes an array of great features, including a pre-installed accessible theme, advanced search capabilities, content moderation, and a workflow for ensuring content editors adhere to accessibility guidelines.

3. SEO, Mobile and Accessibility

Presenter: Denis Boudreau, AccessibilitéWeb

An excellent presentation about re-thinking the way we view what it means to make a site accessible, and how to encourage your executives to get on board. The task of making a site accessible shouldn't be seen as a large, overwhelming undertaking, instead it should be seen as an ongoing, multi-step process that also encompasses the guidelines for Search Engine Optimization, as well as Mobile device Optimization. Making a site accessible goes hand-in-hand with SEO and Mobile Optimization in that it makes your content accessible to a larger number of people, enables it to be found in popular search engines with ease, and keeps visitors coming back to your site, thus increasing sales and/or readership.

Useful Links and Resources Collected During the Unconference:

  • a11yYOW
    The official unconference website.
  • GOC Web Experience Toolkit (WET)
    "includes ready-made tools and solutions for building and maintaining innovative Web sites that are accessible, usable, and interoperable. These tools and solutions are open source software and free for use by departments and external Web communities."
  • Drupal7 Variant Distribution (WET)
    "This is s fully featured Drupal Distribution (WET) that allows for users to start using Drupal with a pre-configured and often best practice implementation for enterprise standards. This Distribution comes with a variety of features and is constantly being improved to meet both government requirements and other industries."
  • the a11yYOW twitter conversation
    Follow the conversation from participants during a11yYOW.
  • SEO, Mobile Web and Accessibility: The Trinity of Inclusive Web Development
    View the slideshow from W3C Expert Denis Boudreau of AccessibilitéWeb. An excellent presentation about re-thinking the way we view what it means to make a site accessible, and how to encourage your executives to get on board. 
  • Yahoo! Accessibility
    This site is rich with accessible content, tools and resources for making your site accessible, as well as news and entertainment.
  • DHTML Style Guide
    This style guide for developers is a collection of recommended keyboard shortcuts to be used in website widgets. 
  • W3C: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0
    "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your Web content more usable to users in general."
  • W3C: Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0
    "This specification provides an ontology of roles, states, and properties that define accessible user interface elements and can be used to improve the accessibility and interoperability of web content and applications."
  • W3C: Finding Your WAI ("way") to New Web Accessibility Resources
    "Presentations you can copy, business case resources, what to do when you come across an inaccessible website, and much much more are available on the WAI website for managers, policy makers, presenters, developers, designers, and people with disabilities."
  • Firefox Heading's Map extension
    This extension generates an a map of any web document structured with headings. It shows the level of the headings and the errors in the structure, which is useful not only to facilitate navigation for anyone, but also to help web developers, consultants and auditors.
  • Firefox Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar
    A useful tool for web developers to test their web resources for accessibility features.

To learn more or to sign-up to receive information about the next Accessibility Unconference, visit the official a11yYOW site.


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