Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

Accessibility Webcast on Plone

By Holly Marie Koltz | September 2nd, 2006 | Filed in Accessibility, CMS, Education, Education TF, General

Many developers in the education field are moving to open source content management software solutions for a variety of reasons, including: better standards/accessibility support, and a growing community and network of resources and help. The National Center on Disability & Access to Education recently hosted a webcast case study of one such solution, Plone.

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Is your web development department or IT staff looking at or working with content management systems(CMS)? Are you evaluating open source content management systems? On August 30, 2006, The National Center on Access and Education (NCDAE) hosted the informative Webcast: NCDAE Webcast Accessibility and the Open Source Content Management Movement.

Education communities are giving open source content management systems, and course management systems, much attention. As the cost of proprietary systems soar, some eye open source solutions. However, the same requirements must be in place for accessibility in these systems, as with any other tool. Is it really possible to have hundreds of developers adding new functions into a system in a way that leads to accessibility?

Panelists for this webcast included: Cynthia Rowland and Jonathan Whiting of NCDAE speaking with Alexander Limi, a founder of the content management system Plone. The webcast consists of discussion and questions about content management, course management, and the open source movement with a focus on Plone as a case study of one open source system that is offering exciting changes with respect to accessibility. The conversation includes background information, challenges, and what more is needed for continued improvements and growth with the open source software. Questions asked were gathered before the webcast, and others were submitted through the website from the listening audience.

Plone is not the only software solution making improvements. Information about several other systems can be found at the center’s NCDAE fact sheet detailing accessibility in Content Management Systems.

The open source movement for content management software is gaining attention and growing. Course management software is a specialized sub area of content management and in Plone an area that is rapidly developing. Plone’s increased accessibility is directly related to its strong support for web standards. Volunteers and developers from the community are sharing and helping to improve software at faster rates than proprietary closed systems can make changes. More and more institutions are leaving proprietary solutions behind, some because of costs, and others because of the inflexibility of proprietary systems. Many developers who modify open source software are often contributing modifications, changes, and or improvements back to the open source community which in turn allows others to build, maintain, and or extend upon those contributed improvements.

At about 15 minutes, and 40 seconds into the webcast, Cynthia asks Alexander why accessibility was a goal for Plone. Alexander replies:

Essentially it started when we started the project itself, we had a very strict adherence to standards because we were tired of systems that were using invalid HTML and not using CSS for presentation … it started gradually as a byproduct of that … which for us it was not really that hard for us to comply with accessibility guidelines, because that’s the way we wrote it in the first place.

The webcast is available at the NCDAE Webcasts page, and offered in Windows Media and Quicktime formats. Transcripts will be available soon.

The NCDAE would like those interested in management systems to visit the developing fact sheet on the Content Management Systems & Accessibility page and invites visitors to ask questions or leave comments, links, workarounds, and or other resources that may be useful. The fact sheet page topics currently include:

  • Guidelines for Choosing a CMS
  • Open Source and Commercial Tools (strengths and weaknesses)
  • Techniques to Improve CMS Accessibility
  • Resources for Popular Content Management Systems
  • Increasing Accessibility through Procurement Policy

Additional Related Links:

We would like to hear how you are working with content management, accessibility, and standards compliance.

Your Replies

#1 On September 2nd, 2006 4:04 pm