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In a Digital Web Magazine article this past week, a W3C web accessibility specialist Matt May offers up a short primer for web designers. The article, Accessibility From The Ground Up, gives a quick overview and answers key questions regarding accessible web design.

Accessible design or authoring may seem like a challenge, though checking work can be easy for important items. Manual checking is often needed, and some items may not require complicated software or additional tools. For instance, my mouse is beginning to misbehave and I need to use the keyboard to navigate websites and search pages. Over the past few weeks, I am again discovering just how difficult it is to navigate online content using a keyboard. Toss your mouse in a drawer or out of use and visit your sites, perform web searches, or work online without your mouse for an hour, a few hours, or the day. Work with your software and no mouse. (I give this challenge to students during accessible design lectures.) You will see how difficult it can be and you may discover some ways your web content and tools can be delivered or improved for others using keyboards. Rearranging content, links, or search boxes may make the web content much more accessible. Many people may not use a mouse, including those using portable and handheld web devices, people with a broken mouse (like myself), and those who cannot use a mouse (motor of physical disabilities, blind users, etc). You may find some content or tasks cannot be accessed without a mouse.

Of additional interest is an excerpt from the last section of the article,

Getting help from your vendors

And speaking of tools, unless you’re doing all of your work in Notepad, you should be asking for more from your authoring tool.

Matt makes many quick, and excellent points in this article. We should remember to take the time to ask for improvements in our Browsers, Media Players, Application Software, and Authoring Tools. Unless we ask, the software or application developers may not realize just how important these items are for its users or consumers. Though improvements are happening, there is a need for better accessibility, standards, and CSS support. You might wonder how to ask for improvements… Comment at forums, supply feedback, utilize contact methods or mail, join the beta testing forums/teams where or when possible, or make a phone a call. Ask other people to do the same.

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