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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 CMS Planet » Accessibility Webcast on Plone replied:

[...] Original post by The Web Standards Project. To read the full article visit: The Web Standards Project [...]

#2 On September 4th, 2006 9:36 am Richard Conyard replied:

Interesting article, also interesting by the lack of ATAG mention in the associated guide. Not being a great fan of ATAG I’m not suprised.

I’m glad that the issue of accessible content management is being raised; there is some good work being done in both the open and closed source communities. Should WASP look to set-up a task force in this area and requires any help please count me in :-)

#3 On September 5th, 2006 7:31 pm Jon Stahl’s Journal » Blog Archive » links for 2006-09-06 replied:

[...] Accessibility Webcast on Plone – The Web Standards Project nice demonstration of accessibility features in Plone (tags: plone accessibility nptech) [...]

#4 On September 6th, 2006 1:44 pm worklog » Accessibility and Plone replied:

[...] There is a summary at For the full webcast, checkout The National Center on Access and Education’s full webcast: Accessibility and the Open Source Content Management Movement. [...]

#5 On September 25th, 2006 12:41 pm Mark replied:

At the moment I am using MODx to run my site, good its small at the mo but it will grow in time. The issues with accessibility and open source software is a problem that has been there for some considerable time.

With the system that I use I can to a point create a site that is fully accessible. The problem with open source software is that they are not bespoke. Changes are made on a rapid scale and trying to keep up isnt easy.

A site built using w3c standards and CSS is always on the correct path to succeed with accessibility issues.

The one major problem is where do you start and where do you stop. There are lots of arguments saying that a site cannot be accessible if it uses an extensive amount of JavaScript or Flash. Creating a site that is fully accessible can be very expensive, using some form of content management system can help, but no system is perfect and someone who has no knowledge of HTML or programming will have problems.

#6 On September 26th, 2006 10:54 am Libby replied:

We’ve been using plone within our company to develop CMS for ourselves and clients for over a year now.

Of course we’ve had some teething problems and as its open source you’re continually waiting for updates and solutions from other users – but on the most part things move smoothly. As long as we develop the project properly I find the sites it produces very accessible compiling to w3c standards and it works very well with css which means we can always offer different and sometimes challenging designs without compromising on accessibility issues.

My clients are always happy with the end result and often surprised at how easy it is for them to use – especially when they have been used to using different types of CMS that are difficult to use for the masses.

Because its open source another big bonus (for us and the client) is the projects become much more cost effective with us only charging for the work we’ve done rather then for a licence fee.

#7 On January 9th, 2007 6:41 pm Jesús Quintana replied:

with you can create a site that is fully accessible, clean url’s, and much more

the code is clean and perfectly structured,


#8 On February 24th, 2007 7:51 am Roman Novak replied:

Hola a todos, we also use Drupal. Maybe we would try Plone too if I knew about it before (anyway, only if it is also in czech language…, I did not find it at Plone’s website, ok).
I think that open source CMS will be preferred because for users – clients there is no different between “open” and “close” CMS. If you need some application to make it at your open source CMS, you can make it by yourself if you know how.
Maybe if some company making own CMS for sale would do some marketing and many people would know about their CMS, people would buy it, I think. But Im not sure if the investing the money would be returnable.

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