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Reply with quote I recently had an email conversation with a member of a British IT related charity which I would like to share with you. The person in question has requested that I make him completely anonymous.

anonymous wrote:
Hi!

Sadly, I shaln't be joining AccessifyForum...

Given the purpose and nature of the discussion, I was extremely
surprised, and not a little disappointed, that more care had not
been taken with the rendering on a text-only browser.

The rendering on the most recent issue of Lynx, for example, is
abysmal, unusably so. (Visually confusing and upleasant to use).

Whilst, for example, the discussion on the use of alternate image
specifications _eventually_ converged towards the principle of
appropriateness, sadly the same principle is absent from the web
board itself.

News is the established mechanism for hosting discussion groups
and benefits from task-specific user agents. Having reviewed
AccessifyForum, it would appear as though it will add to the
growing list of discussion groups that would more appropriately
have been implemented as a news group.

There is no requirement that a news group by publicly carried
on Usenet - it can be privately hosted (and passowrd protected).
Many successful examples exist, some implementing web front-ends
for those who - for whatever reason - cannot make an nntp
connection to the news group but can make an http connection.

Those having an interest in accessibility and standards-based
compliance should also support the use of the right tool for
the job. In addition to a disregard of accessibility issues,
there is a widespread trend to remove email and replace it with
web forms. Email and news have their place. To use web forms
in their stead, as in AccessifyForum, is to do so because it
can be done rather than because it is most appropriately done.

The result is poorer accessibility* than afforded by the relevant
alternative - the user's existing email or news client.


*Below, example comparing presentation of topics in web board with
that in an nntp client.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

# AccessifyForum.com: Beginners (p1 of 4)

Post new topic
Beginners
Topics Replies Author Views Last Post
No new posts Sticky: Welcome
0 Nigel Peck 19 Thu Jul 31, 2003 11:51 am
Nigel Peck View latest post
No new posts FAQ
10 Nigel Peck 87 Mon Aug 11, 2003 3:19 pm
Nigel Peck View latest post
No new posts Automated Checking Tools
3 Nathan 59 Mon Aug 11, 2003 2:39 pm
Robert Wellock View latest post
No new posts terminology - people first language
0 kalidust 15 Mon Aug 11, 2003 3:10 am
kalidust View latest post
No new posts Selling your boss on Accessibility
2 Nathan 41 Mon Aug 11, 2003 1:50 am
kalidust View latest post
Display topics from previous: [All Topics] Go
Post new topic

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


N 1 May 1 www.raph.nl (3683) Re: Accessibility: why bother?
N 2 May 1 Daniel R. Tobias (1614) Re: Avoiding email address harvesting
N 3 May 1 Dan Jacobson (1525) can users climb up directory trees on
N 4 Apr 30 Larry (2087) Re: can users climb up directory tree
N 5 May 1 Jukka K. Korpela (2207) Re: can users climb up directory tree
N 6 May 1 Cypherpunk@nyc.rr. (1818) Re: Avoiding email address harvesting
N 7 May 1 Andrew G (1513) Re: will obedient spiders not index i
N 8 May 1 David Dorward (1345) Re: can users climb up directory tree
N 9 May 1 Chris Morris (2053) Re: can users climb up directory tree
N 10 May 1 Matt (1122) Beginners Question
N 11 May 1 Ryuji (1233) HTTPS Crashes IE5.5
N 12 May 1 rf (1665) Re: HTTPS Crashes IE5.5
N 13 May 1 Henri Sivonen (1400) Re: Accessibility: why bother?
N 14 May 1 Henri Sivonen (1434) Re: Hiding "microsoft internet explor
N 15 May 1 Frangois de Dardel (1948) Re: one's favorite fonts
N 16 May 1 Guy Macon (1494) Re: Avoiding email address harvesting
N 17 May 1 jake (1962) Re: one's favorite fonts
N 18 May 1 Headless (1324) Validator error: text is not allowed
N 19 May 1 David Dorward (1507) Re: Validator error: text is not allo

[News group "comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html" opened with 4,220 messages]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


to which I replied

Nigel Peck wrote:
Firstly let me say thank you for taking the time to inform me of your opinions.

The points you raise are completely valid in regard to the Accessibility of the site. If you do have the time to have a look through the site you will notice that this is not something we try to hide. One of the first projects we intend to complete as a group (which is already underway) is to make the forum Accessible, obviously including text browsers such as Lynx. I will then be releasing all of the forum code under the same GNU license that phpBB is available under, so as to make it possible for others to provide accessible web based discussion forums. I feel that purely Web based discussion is a new medium for discussion over the Internet and that it is therefore a very valuable task we are undertaking in making this medium available to all of it's potential users, including those with special needs.

I agree news is an established mechanism for discussion over the Internet. However, one of the main reasons I set up the board in the first place was to make Web Designers aware of the issues raised by Accessibility. In a nutshell most Web Designers will not be using a news reader, it is simply not their cup of tea, and therefore not a suitable medium over which to provide this service and deliver this message. The same goes for an email based discussion list.

I am sorry to hear that you will not be joining us on the board as I am sure your input would have provided a valuable addition to the already considerable knowledge of the board's users.

If you would be kind enough to give me your permission I would like to post your email and this reply to the board so others who may be concerned by these same issues can benefit from reading our discussion.

Sincerely,

Nigel Peck

Administrator
AccessifyForum.com
http://www.accessifyforum.com/


And received this response:

anonymous wrote:
Nigel,

Thank you for your email (please do break your lines by
character 72 though) to which I have replied.

Thank you for asking my permision to quote. I am happy
for you to quote my original as well email as well as this
reply to you -- providing that it is _completely anonymised_.

I don't want to be discouragement to you. However, I remain to be
convinced that the world needs yet another web-based bulletin board!

Most that I have seen fall into the category of being written because
they can be, rather than their being a real need; or, as an exercise.

The objection is not against the new, or against the wish to acquire
and practice skills. The objection is as stated; accessibility and
usability. The UI is consistent for any and every news group when
using a news reader. News readers provide aids for quoting, self-
copy, combining with mail, faithfulness (quick ascii art line
diagrams render correctly, white spacing renders correctly), file
inclusion, archiving off-line copies that may subsequently be read
indexed using a mail user agent, etc.

Your objective of raising the awareness of web designers is a
laudable one. It does not justify, however, building a web
bulletin board. If your argument is that unless discussion
content is accessed via a web browser then this in some way
will put that information out of reach of web designers is
a damnimng indictment of the education of web designers.

To limit oneself to seeking information only via the web is to
practice information self-impoverishment. Content may be found
in many other places including books, in journals, on mailing
lists, and in news groups.

If web designers choose to use a web browser to read and
contribute to news groups in preference to using a dedicated
news reader, then there are at least two ways they can do that
already.

<URL:http://www.mailgate.org/comp/comp.lang.perl.modules>

<URL:news://nntp.perl.org/perl.modules>

I am sorry not to be joining you and others in the forum.

The oft used technical definition of quality is fitness for
purpose. News was purpose designed for discussion and is
eminently suited to it. It exists, and doesn't need to be
re-invented. If that's your particular preference, then you
can read and contribute to news using a web browser. Put your
content on a web board and its rather stuck there.

Let us agree to concentrate on the message; not the medium.
News isn't broken.

Best regards


I am currently considering my reply.......

Accessify Forum Administrator ~ Nigel Peck / Starstream
"Everything I say is not meant to be set in stone" - Van Morrison
Reply with quote Yet another example of short-sightedness IMO.

One of the aims of this board is to reach web designers- people who, these days, reside mostly on web forums.

I cut my teeth on BBS' and usenet- like most here I expect- but times have changed, we now have a generation of designers who are not familiar with usenet- we face a choice then- we can shake our heads in sombre disapproval from some remote bastion and refuse to get involved, or we can get stuck in, use a technology that is not familiar to us- just like we're asking web designers to. I know which approach will increase the yield of designers who know and care about accessibility.

What a shame Mr/Ms Anonymous chose to remain aloof- they could've added to the number of accessified designers.
Reply with quote I can't make my mind up on this one.

There are a lot of instances of phpBB2 on the internet, so if we can make this one more accessible and get our changes included in the code, we will be helping people with a lot of websites, who are able to set up boards on their server but wouldn't be able to or have a clue as to how to set up a news server.

On the other hand, I do appreciate that newsreaders are designed for such discussions, and as such would be perfect (I use mine all the time Smile ). One site I have noticed is http://news.lugnet.com/news/ which seems incredible - it's a full web and email interface to a news server (well, amongst a whole host of other things!), so if it were possible to run a news server, running something like this would enable it to also be on the web and visible to all.

Hmm...
Reply with quote There are many companies that do not allow any access to news groups whatsoever, but web access is allowed - this is precisely the case with my company.

So, in this case the reverse is true - by requiring the use of a news reader, we would be stopping people who might want to learn about accessibility while at work. I for one would like to think that more web designers and programmers working for corporates could have a resource where they could learn more about the issues -and oh, here is just one resource!

On a personal note, I have subscribed to numerous e-mail based discussions (e.g. WebAim, BCAB, Web Design L, CSS-discuss), but they tend to work against me, as the continual drip-feed of emails becomes annoying, and if I get the digest version there's too much to take in. I prefer the opt-in approach of this kind of forum.

Horses, courses.

My 5c

Build Your Own Web Site the Right Way!
A beginners' HTML/CSS book with web standards at its heart
The Ultimate HTML Reference
A complete reference, in glorious hardback
Reply with quote Interesting...

I detect a hint of bitterness in his prose, maybe (hopefully) with good reason.

I think the last thing this superb resource needs is to start generating the kind of remarks that the latest overhaul of the RNIB website attracted - Maybe a dual option of Newsreader and web-based access is the way to go.

OTOH, if this forum format can be dragged into an "accessible" state, that would be deservedly highly applauded and make a wonderful gift to the web community at large...Trouble is, I sometimes wonder if a truly accessible web-based UI is at all possible, but that's probably another thread.
Reply with quote By the way, the site of the organisation in question uses frames for the entire site, implemented in such a way that the url remains as just the www.domainname for the whole time using the site.

They also have a private web forum.

Accessify Forum Administrator ~ Nigel Peck / Starstream
"Everything I say is not meant to be set in stone" - Van Morrison
Reply with quote This is a conceptual problem...

I've run into the same thing.. the problem is that people look at the forums as they are popularly used, not for what they actually are.

News is great but typically it lumps a general topic into one grouping. Making new related groups is basically not possible unless you have the ability to create new newsgroups and subnewsgroups.

With a forum, you can have a general topic with more detailed topics and subdiscussions related to them. The ability to group into deeper levels is becoming availalbe in many forums as well. But it is the ability to start a new topic under a general grouping that makes it easier to find what you are looking for and stay focused on what you are interested in.

The key here is that the data is what contains the message and how it is formatted is how you make it accessible. The same data can be displayed many different ways... the problem is that people are not thinking that way . .. yet.

The same data that is contained in the forums could be displayed in a readable format like below...

Code:
# AccessifyForum.com: Beginners (p1 of 4)

-  1  Jul 31 Sticky Latest Accessiblity News @ Accessify.com  0 replys with 25 views by Nigel Peck
-  2  Jul 31 Sticky Welcome 0 replies with 11 views by Nigel Peck
N  3  Aug 12 Anonymous Comments with 3 replies with 28 views started by Nigel Peck
-  4  Aug 11 List of accessible links 0 replies with 9 views started by Kev
-  5  Aug 11 PRESS RELEASE - e-Business Club Event 5 replies with 42 views started by bamps
...

New Topics Only | Main Categories | Refresh


[Side issue... resizing doesn't effect the code segment... ]

The far column is the indicator of new messages in each topic. What it physically is can be figured out but I'm just representing that there is one topic with a new message etc... Short cuts that allow the user to read only topics with new content would make browsing the site easier as well.

As you can see if you back up and look at this category, it is the same information, just formatted differently in a more readable style that provides in reading what you see visually.

The same data with different methods of display can be used jointly if done right.

Kevin Reed
TNET Services, Inc.
http://www.tnet.com
http://www.tnetweather.com
Reply with quote Using newsreaders and accessing News Groups is prohibited on this network and I'ld rather not risk being in breach of the "Computer Misuse Act" by even attempting to access such materials.

I'd be very happy to download a version of phpBB that had been modified to make it more accessible and Syntactically robust.

};-) http://www.xhtmlcoder.com/

WVYFC chose the Yorkshire Air Ambulance as the main charity to fund raise for in 2006
Reply with quote Out of curiosity... why would you be prohibited from using newsgroups?

The last BBS interface that I developed which started long before the Internet was based upon Usenet newsgroups as a transport for the messages. The groups themselves were not distributed beyond the circle of systems that made up the whole system, but the news transport allowed an efficient method of getting articles from location to another via modems. We even had the concept of private newsgroups because they were not accessible via a typical newsreader, and you had to use the BBS interface to access them.

The entire package was very accessible...

In my profession, I use newsgroups daily to find information that I need on a daily basis. Many times via google but other times via a new reader.

As the anonymous poster mentioned, many news readers are much more accessible than most web forums.

Kevin Reed
TNET Services, Inc.
http://www.tnet.com
http://www.tnetweather.com
Reply with quote
Quote:
As the anonymous poster mentioned, many news readers are much more accessible than most web forums.


But the gist of this forum (as I understand it) is to bring accessibility into the mainstream and also to promote web accessibility isn't it?

If the forum wants to take accessibility to the masses then the best way to reach that audience is on http not nntp. Lots of the core people that need educating (like Print designers who do web stuff for example) have never even heard of nntp. How do we reach them?

And if one of teh aims of this forum is to evangelise web accessibility then surely giving up at the first hurdle and abandoning a truly great idea like having an accessible as possiible web forum is a bit of a contradiction. Its a bit like opening a pub for teetotalers isn't it?
Reply with quote
krelvinaz wrote:
Out of curiosity... why would you be prohibited from using newsgroups?


Can't say for sure, but certainly that's never going to change in my company - only dedicated machines on an Internet LAN can have this (few and far between); for any machine that is wired into corporate LAN there is no access at all.

Like Bruce Hornsby once sang "That's just the way it is"

Build Your Own Web Site the Right Way!
A beginners' HTML/CSS book with web standards at its heart
The Ultimate HTML Reference
A complete reference, in glorious hardback
Reply with quote On our network the Novell Administrators have it is against polices because people could start time wasting on various non-educational News Groups, plus there is a slight security risk.

};-) http://www.xhtmlcoder.com/

WVYFC chose the Yorkshire Air Ambulance as the main charity to fund raise for in 2006
Reply with quote
krelvinaz wrote:
News is great but typically it lumps a general topic into one grouping. Making new related groups is basically not possible unless you have the ability to create new newsgroups and subnewsgroups.


Well, obviously, if the site was running its own news server, it could have whatever arrangement of newsgroups and subnewsgroups it wished. http://news.lugnet.com/ was the example I gave earlier.
Reply with quote
Matthew wrote:
krelvinaz wrote:
News is great but typically it lumps a general topic into one grouping. Making new related groups is basically not possible unless you have the ability to create new newsgroups and subnewsgroups.


Well, obviously, if the site was running its own news server, it could have whatever arrangement of newsgroups and subnewsgroups it wished. http://news.lugnet.com/ was the example I gave earlier.


While that is true, you still don't have the flexibility as a forum to control content.. A perfect example is what Nigel did between 3am - 5pm today... He created a new category, and moved existing subtopics into it. All by clicking a couple buttons. If he knew what he wanted to do ahead of time, he could have done it in less than a couple minutes.

You can't do that with a newsgroup.

The articles didn't move, the pointers to them did.

Kevin Reed
TNET Services, Inc.
http://www.tnet.com
http://www.tnetweather.com
Reply with quote
Nigel Peck wrote:
By the way, the site of the organisation in question uses frames for the entire site, implemented in such a way that the url remains as just the www.domainname for the whole time using the site


i for one shall be interested to read your reply Nigel

cheers
Wicksie

IWDP | Independent Testers | IT Gazette
The future is bright - The future is #0099cc

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