[Athen] Just spent three lonely days in the brown LA haze...

Sean Keegan skeegan at htctu.net
Wed Mar 19 13:21:03 PDT 2008

Well, okay, perhaps it was not exactly *lonely* at CSUN but I wasn't sure
how else to get a Jimmy Buffett line into this thread.

Yes, this past week was the CSU Northridge Conference and it was busy. This
year the conference was at the Marriott and Renaissance hotels and, to me,
it seemed a bit smaller than in the past. Presentations were good with a
few highlights. I made myself suffer through several that seemed more
intent on the marketing angle as opposed to demonstrating new or innovative
technologies for individuals with disabilities.

Note to presenters - you can only use phrases like "empower users" or
"paradigm change" so many times before we stop listening. Please - have
mercy on us listening.

A few presentations and technologies that were noteworthy:

Dojo - An accessible Javascript toolkit
This was a great presentation that focused on how to improve the
accessibility of new Web technologies relying on javascript (I am not going
to say "Web 2.0 technologies" no matter how much brainwashing is involved).
Dojo is an open-source toolkit written in Javascript that allows developers
to create rich Internet applications that emulate a desktop application, but
reside in a Web browser. One example would be something like the Yahoo!
Mail interface that is very similar to MS Outlook (i.e., tree menu systems,
different viewing panes, etc.) but would provide support for assistive
technologies. Dojo is supporting access by following many of the guidelines
developed by the Web Accessibility Initiatives - Accessible Rich Internet
Applications (WAI-ARIA) working group (http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/aria).
Right now, support is limited to Firefox and the recent version of
Window-Eyes, but more support will be coming in Firefox 3, Internet Explorer
8, Opera, and other screen-readers. More on Dojo and accessibility is
available at http://tinyurl.com/yvbcm4 .

Refreshing the Section 255 and 508 Accessibility Regulations
This session reviewed where the TEITAC group (Telecommunications, Electronic
and Information Technology Advisory Committee) was in the refresh of the
Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Regulations. The short version of the
session was the TEITAC group would be passing along their recommendations to
the Access Board on April 3. You can see the current working draft of the
recommendations at http://teitac.org/wiki/EWG:Draft_Jan_7 . Basically, the
TEITAC group has worked to "harmonize" the various accessibility criteria
with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 draft (WCAG 2.0).

Net-Centric's PDF Accessibility Wizard (PAW) and CommonLook Plug-in to Adobe
Net-Centric is a Canadian company that has two tools to address PDF
accessibility. The PAW tool (http://www.net-centric.com/products/paw.aspx)
integrates into MS Word and provides a wizard interface that checks the MS
Word document for accessibility issues. Some of the features were not quite
working yet, but for the most part it looks like a useful tool. One thing
that was very useful was that you could create tagged-PDF documents without
having to install Adobe Acrobat. Tagged PDF files are a necessary step to
ensuring accessible PDF versions. It was also easy to markup data tables
for accessibility in MS Word, which has limitations as to what header types
are supported. I will be taking a look at the beta in the next few weeks to
see what actually is being implemented in the application.

The other tool, the CommonLook Plug-In to Adobe Acrobat
(http://www.net-centric.com/products/cl_s508_adobe.aspx) does make it easier
to remediate PDF documents for accessibility in some circumstances. If you
are dealing with documents that have not had accessibility addressed during
the authoring stage (e.g., in MS Word) or are dealing with documents that
have a lot of complex data tables and a rich visual layout, then this tool
will make it easier to include accessibility into the PDF. The Net-Centric
representatives did mention that they have made some changes to the
application since I last used it, so I am going to take another look at the
application in the coming weeks. For simple PDF documents, based on what I
saw at CSUN, I think this tool is overkill and believe that improving PDF
accessibility can be met by altering the document creation workflow - in
other words, build accessibility into the authoring process. There is not
much one has to do and it is far easier to address accessibility issues
early in document creation than to try and fix a PDF later on in the
process. For complex PDF documents, PDF documents with a rich visual
layout, PDF documents that were created by tools that do not support
accessibility (e.g., Quark), I think this tool could be useful and provide a

Net-Centric has a number of Webinars that are conducted on a semi-regular
weekly basis. You can visit their Webinar site at
http://www.net-centric.com/customers/webinar_reg.aspx to see when the next
session is being conducted.

Math Accessibility at the Post-Secondary Level
This was a presentation by Steve Noble from Design Science and focused on
some of the progress that Design Science (http://www.dessci.com) has made
with respect to improving math accessibility. Most of the discussion was on
the support for MathML in a HTML/XHTML environment as well as some examples
of MathML "in the wild" (e.g., ATPC's activities with MathML production,
Rice University's Connexions - www.cnx.org - and others). A beta version of
the new MathPlayer plug-in was also demonstrated, showing how a user can
customize the speech for different math equations. Also in development is
the ability to use MathType and MS Word to create equations and then convert
to Nemeth through Duxbury - no intermediate steps necessary. More
information should be coming "soon".

Web 2.0 and Future Accessibility Development in the Opera Browser
I have always thought of Opera as this cool Web browser that always did more
than the others (e.g., first with tabbed browsing, voice control, aural CSS
support, etc). I even bought a Nintendo DS Lite with the Opera browser so I
could check e-mail when I was traveling in Europe (ahem,...and maybe to play
a few games). That being said, there have been serious accessibility issues
with respect to screen-reader support. The good news is that the new Opera
9.5 Beta has improved support for screen-reader support and has been working
with GW Micro (Window-Eyes) and Dolphin (Supernova) to improve access. If
you are feeling a bit gutsy and are willing to get your hands dirty with the
Beta version, visit http://www.opera.com/products/desktop/next/ .
Otherwise, stay tuned for more information about when the new version of
Opera is released as I think it will provide some useful features.

Those were some of the more memorable sessions at CSUN 2008. It will be
nice to see what actually materializes in the coming weeks and months
regarding all this new technology (e.g., where are all those flying cars?),
but I am optimistic that there will be some new tools that will provide

Take care,

Sean Keegan
Web Accessibility Instructor
High Tech Center Training Unit of the California Community Colleges

Sean Keegan
Web Accessibility Instructor
High Tech Center Training Unit of the California Community Colleges

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