Transcription: Web Axe Episode 84 (5-Year Anniversary)

[Introduction, woman's voice over music] Welcome to Web Axe, practical web accessibility tips. Web Axe dot blogspot dot com. Web Axe. Web site accessibility. Web standards. Web Axe dot blogspot dot com.

Dennis Lembree: Hello, and welcome to Web Axe, podcast number 84, our five year Web Axe anniversary. And Ross is on the line.

Ross Johnson: Hello everybody. Well you know it really doesn't feel like five years unless I think about it, but I guess that makes sense.

Dennis: I know, five years.

[taped applause in the background; a man yells "Hooray."]


Ross: But I guess I didn't come on board until after a year. So may be that was part of it. But still, four years is a long time, too.

Dennis: Yes, yes. It was just about one year. So I started the podcast in September of '05. And it actually all started because of my friend Mike Pfeiffer of Most People are DJs was getting into podcasting.

And of course I was living back there in the Detroit area at the time and I went with him and joined the Detroit podcasters' network. So we met up, I think it was once a month, and I believe they still meet up to talk about podcasting and music and computers and stuff. So good times.

That's how it started, and then a year later, I came across you somehow. And what was first? I think we started Refresh Detroit and then at the same time I kind of asked you to join me.

Ross: Right, right, yes. I think our first Refresh Detroit Meetup was just the two of us.

Dennis: at that Mexican restaurant?

Ross: Yes, Tio's, which is still there.

Dennis: Oh yes, Tio's in Ypsi?

Ross: Yes.

Dennis: [laughs]

Ross; Well sometime when you come back into Michigan we'll have to do a reunion there.

Dennis: Yes. Tio's is good. But the one in Ann Arbor is always the most special.

Ross: Yeah. Actually interestingly enough I got Tio's last night. Which I haven't had in like, probably four years. So anyways.

Dennis: So I'll put it in the show notes but I found the first podcast that you were in. On the blog it says "Guest Host." It's podcast #26, "Lists and Accessibility: How and Why." That sounds like a pretty good one.

Ross: Yes, actually I remember that. We went over all the different types of lists. And I think, it was funny at the time I remember talking about the speculative navigation list, which never actually ended up being used for HTML5.

Dennis: Oh, really.

Ross: Things change, I guess. Plans change. That's what I should say, plans change.

Dennis: Oh yeah. Especially in this industry. It moves so fast.

Ross: Yes.

Dennis: Which is what's exciting about it, keeps you on your toes.

Ross: Right, right, always something to learn. [laughter]

Dennis: And you know, I think it wasn't, it's only been the last couple of years that the podcast has really taken off and the blog. The first couple of years it was grinding it out. I remember getting a thousand subscribers and being all excited.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: Yes, so now we're over 5,400 RSS subscribers. So thank you everybody for listening and subscribing and following Web Axe. And that's pretty impressive numbers.

Ross: Yes. You know, because you're doing a lot more in the accessibility community in general nowadays, I wonder if that's a big help. You know, between Accessible Twitter and all of your speaking engagements.

Dennis: Yes, I think Web Axe helped Accessible Twitter and the other way around also. Yeah, and Twitter itself has helped my efforts and the web accessibility community in general, I think. So that's been a great tool.

And it's funny that I remember running these RSS stats a while back and everything looked fairly even, between like iTunes, like the readers that the users use.

Ross: Right, what people are tuning in with.

Dennis: Yeah, what they're reading the RSS with. NetVibes, which I use a lot. But now about 85 percent are using Google, Google Reader or iGoogle.

Ross: Huh.

Dennis: Which I thought was quite interesting.

Ross; Yeah, I think it's just Google is becoming the stop for everything. You know, like...

Dennis: Exactly.

Ross: Google Reader or iGoogle is like the best RSS out there but it's what I use because I'm always on Google anyway.

Dennis: Yes.

Ross: Like I tried Netvibes, I tried iTunes, I tried PostBox, which is the mail program I use, and they all kind of bugged me, so. [laughter]

Dennis: Let's see, oh yes, so what else? I guess Web Axe got on Twitter about a year and a half ago maybe, a year, something like that. And that account, I think, is a good one to follow, so if you're not following Web Axe, go and do that. Or get on Twitter. And we're just about to a 1, 000 followers.

Ross: Well, pretty quick then.

Dennis: Yeah, not bad, not bad.

Ross: Have you registered Web Axe on foursquare? Your office there?

Dennis: What's that?

Ross: Have you registered Web Axe on foursquare?

Dennis: No.

Ross: Do you check in before every show?

Dennis: [laughs] That's a pretty good idea. But no, I haven't done that. I'm just happy with being mayor of Starbucks. [laughter] The one by my work.

Ross: OK. Yes, I don't have much time to become mayor of the one by my office. It's a pretty popular one, right on Main Street. I also don't go there that often, so that would be the other problem.

Dennis: Oh, yes. I'm a Starbucks-aholic. [laughter] So over the last four and five years, yes, there's been a lot of good times. We've had some interesting topics, not just the usual web accessibility stuff. We discussed business reasons for accessibility and even how, I thought a good one was the bandwidth and load time and how to improve on that and how it affects web accessibility.

Ross: Yeah, that was an interesting one. And another one that sticks out in my mind, I know we had a pros and cons of designing over resolutions for 800 by 600 and above. You know that point where people are like, "Can we design for 1024 or not?" And now that's pretty much the standard and people are talking about well, "Can we design for higher."

Dennis: Yes, that was a good one. I didn't come across that one. I have to add that one to the show notes. Yeah. So recently Web Axe was nominated for the .NET Magazine Best of the Web Awards for best podcast.

Ross: Right, what's that, three years running now, is that?

Dennis: Yes.

Ross: For the nomination, of course. We haven't won three years unfortunately.

Dennis: No, three years running that we've been nominated. I don't think we've even made the final three cut.

Ross: Oh really?

Dennis: But maybe we will this year. We shall see.

Ross: Actually there's a lot more web podcasts out there this year than before. You know Zeldman now has his the Big Web Show and...

Dennis: Oh, yeah.

Ross: There's a couple other ones. But I think it's ... Yeah, Web Axe is definitely at least number two if not number one. Not that I'm biased.


Dennis: Yeah and there's more competition but also Boag World is not podcasting anymore either. So he won't win it as he did last year.

Ross: Right. Well, I think he's won like the last three years, or the last two years.

Dennis: Did he?

Ross: I think so. Yeah. He won it last year and he won it the year before.

Dennis: Yeah, that was a great podcast.

Ross: Yeah, I always liked it.

Dennis: And we shall hear from Paul Boag later in this episode.

Ross: So now that he's not doing the podcasts it's time to guest star everybody else's. Is that ...

Dennis: Yeah. [laughs] He's doing lots of other fun stuff.

Ross: Right. Right. I'm sure we'll see good things from that group.

Dennis: We did have him on the show a few years ago. I looked up some of the interviews we did. I have October '06 so it was soon after you joined. We interviewed him on the show. Here comes the garbage truck outside.


Dennis: Anyways, [laughs] our first interview was actually the same month that you joined with Jared Smith.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: That was Podcast 27. When we had Jared Smith of WebAIM. I believe that was the first interview that we had done and that was a great one to start with.

Ross: Definitely. That's back when we were doing it once a week.

Dennis: Yeah. [laughs] Yeah, well, was it once... I know I started once a week because I was all crazy and then it was like bimonthly. Now it's monthly.

Ross: Yeah. It seemed like at one point we were doing it like weekly. Maybe we only did that for September and gave up with.

Dennis: Yeah, maybe just for a little while.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: But we had some other good interviews. You interviewed Jeremy Keith.

Ross: Yeah, that was great. It was great. He is a good guy.

Dennis: And Andrew Kirkpatrick of Adobe.

Ross: We talked to Chris Heilmann.

Dennis: Yeah, and Gaz Lemon and a host of others and we will hear from a few other guests appearances from those folks later in the show. We have eight contributors, eight folks that have sent in audio recordings, special for this podcast coming up in a few minutes.

Ross: Very exciting.

Dennis: So what other memorable moments were there? Podcast number 74 we recorded that together face-to-face in Santa Cruz.

Ross: Right. Right. And this was just about a year ago because this was a four year anniversary, right?

Dennis: Oh, yeah.

Ross: [laughter]

Dennis: Yeah, that was a fun one.

Ross: Yeah, that was fun. So I was out in Santa Cruz which isn't too far from Dennis and made sense to record that in person.

Dennis: Was that when I got my new motorcycle I took it.

Ross: Yeah. [laughter]

Dennis: Yeah, I had just gotten that like, I think I got that on my birthday, like just over a year ago. So it must have been, I must have just got it, yeah.

Ross: Right. Take a nice trip through the mountains to record a podcast.

Dennis: Yeah, I think say over the hill.

Ross: Right. [laughs]

Dennis: From the Silicon Valley over the mountains, over the hill they say, to the coast. And another one we did, which I had forgotten, because I think we said that that was our first like face-to-face recording but with one exception. We long time back, Podcast 35 we took a road trip and recorded it when we went to Lansing.

Lansing, Michigan for the usability and accessibility conference at Michigan State. [laughter] That was a fun one.

Ross: That was more interview than it was that we were sitting down recording a podcast, what I remember.

Dennis: Yeah. We just grabbed a few people and spoke to them at the conference which was cool and then we did some commentary at the beginning and the end. [laughs] That was fun.

Ross: Yeah, it was a good day. Actually, haven't been back to that conference since, even though they have it every year.

Dennis: But that's World Usability Day, right?

Ross: Yeah. Yeah. It's just never quite pans out quite right for whatever reason.

Dennis: When is that? In October or something I think.

Ross: Yeah, so it's coming up. It's just like a busy month for me or something.

Dennis: Well, Halloween and everything.

Ross: Right. I got to prepare again [overlapping with laughter] .

Dennis: Oh, Halloween is huge in my house. Well, I love Halloween.

Ross: ...dressed as an old hag this year.

Dennis: My two boys love Halloween, obviously. Dress up as a big hag.

Ross: [laughs] You can just grab a photograph, document and then just paste it...


Dennis: What do you do? [indecipherable 14:26] guidelines.

Ross: [laughs] I'm sure it will be a hit.

Dennis: I'm hoping my kids are going to be Darth Vadar and Yoda this year.

Ross: Oh! But they'll then battle.

Dennis: [laughs] That's true. That wouldn't be good. They fight enough already.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: All right. Let's get back on topic. [laughs] a couple other memorable moments a little over a year ago I visited, a year and a half ago I visited the Yahoo! Accessibility Testing Lab in Sunnyvale, California. I wrote a blog about it. I'll print it in the show notes. That was pretty cool. And I think that was the first time I met Victor, Victor Sarin who works at Yahoo in the testing lab.

Ross: It's always cool to see how when companies have a significant to build an accessibility testing lab how do they set it up and how does it work?

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: In my experience usually when the accessibility testing done it's like we have got $5.00 what we can do.

Dennis: [laughs] I guess they opened one in India, too.

Ross: Oh, cool. Good.

Dennis: Yeah. It's not that big but they have several, at least a few computers, and all kinds of assistive technology and a sofa and books and everything in that room. It's pretty neat. And during our web access tenure we went all through the different stages of the NFB versus Target lawsuit.

Ross: Right. That was the big story for a long time.

Dennis: Yeah, definitely. So I thought we would mention that. I'll post in the show notes a link to the blog of when it was finally over. And it has some of the details of the lawsuit and so yeah, that was quite the big deal. Let's see what else. Oh, and we did a few critiques of websites that got a lot of notice. [laughs]

And we did a podcast reviewing the website. I think we did that pretty soon after it came out, right?

Ross: Yeah, because I know they made some improvements. Like there was the first version and it had issues and then they kind of fixed it a little bit. We reviewed it the first time around.

Dennis: Right. Yeah, if anyone can comment on any improvements in current status, then let us know.

Ross: Right. And I always thought it was great. You know a lot of the critics we did got responses from people who were associated with the website. You know, "I'm really glad you did this. And it kind of gives me ammunition to try and get it fixed" that sort of thing.

Dennis: Let's see. I guess that covers most of what we wanted to mention.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: If anyone out there can remember anything else or just want to comment, please feel free to do that.

Yes, I guess that's it for us. I think we're going to now move to you the contributors. So we're going to play some audio recordings from a variety of web accessibility folks out there that were kind enough to take some take time and send us a message.

So here are the guests in alphabetical order, thank you so much for contributing: Bruce Lawson, Denis Boudre, Jennison Asuncion, Karen Mardahl, Mike Gifford, Paul Boag, Steve Acquinas, Terrill Thompson, and Tom Babinszki. Enjoy.

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Bruce Lawson

Hi, it's Bruce Lawson here from Opera. I'm really, really honored to be here. Congratulations to Dennis for five years of Web Axes, an amazing achievement. Five years on the Internet is like 9, 462 years in real money.

I thought I'd speak very briefly about HTML5 accessibility today. Because it's one of those subjects that, for those of us in the accessibility community, it raises a lot of hackles and I think there's a lot of misinformation about it. In the wider community we all know, unfortunately, that accessibility doesn't get top billing. But in many ways, HTML5 helps that situation.

So let's look first at what's bad. There's a lot of worry at the moment about whether things like longdesc are going to be included in HTML5. Personally, and I know this is controversial, personally for me I think longdesc is much like the conflagration that we saw 12 months ago about whether the summary attribute or table was going to be included.

These things are important, yes, but there are more important battles out there. longdesc to me, I don't much care if it goes or stays. I suppose I vaguely waver towards keeping it on the grounds that some assistive technologies use it and it has a use case that can point to a URL which Aria described by or Aria labeled by can't. So it's unique in that sense. So I advise keeping it, but like I say, it doesn't keep me awake at night.

Things that do keep me awake are things like Canvas. For those who don't know, Canvas is effectively scriptable images. Canvas is a tag that just defines a blank space on a web page, a black canvas. And what goes in that canvas is controlled with JavaScript. You can put an image in the canvas, you can put text in the canvas, or you can script any kind of patterns. You can do some really beautiful eye candy that use to be the exclusive province of Flash.

If you put text in the canvas, it's exactly like text in an image. It ceases to be text and just becomes a bitmap of pixels, which of course is completely opaque to any kind of assistive technology. So what worries me here of course is loads and loads of games or like Mozilla's best in Code editor we're going to find lots of inaccessible applications with Canvas.

The good news is that the HTML5 working group has a subgroup that is looking into this kind of stuff. There are some proposals out there. One is that the browser keep a Shadow Dome for Canvas, which is more work for a developer. So I get worried that won't happen.

There's also a proposal for Canvas to use image maps, or the same kind of technology as image maps, which would work for some of the simpler uses of Canvas and wouldn't require that much development from the browser manufacturers. Time will tell how that shakes up.

Good things about HTML5 are, for example, native audio and video capabilities. So you can embed a video straight into a page using the video tag. The good thing with this is that it's not being sent off to a third party plug-in to render, the browser is actually doing the work itself.

And you'll find, certainly with Opera, for whom I work, as a disclosure, and Firefox, you'll find that the controls are immediately and out of the box accessible with the keyboard. That's a great start, because with some third party plug-ins, unless the browser is Internet Explorer, there can be some difficulties integrating there, so getting into the movies with the keyboard.

There's also a new, 29th new element in HTML5 that hasn't yet made it to the W3C spec and that's the track elements. And that allows you to associate timed text using a variant of the SRT format and [indecipherable 23:12] webSRT, or "websort, " I don't know.

That will allow you to synchronize text with the video. It's up to the browsers how that is manifested in the user interface and how you access the information, how that is discoverable to a user, because HTML5 doesn't actually make many requirements of the browsers from the UI perspective. And it shouldn't, because the browsers compete on features. But that's a great start. That's a way of synchronizing captions, subtitles, karaoke lyrics, et cetera with videos.

The best thing about HTML5, though, for me are the new semantic elements. So before, of course, if you wanted to mark up a navigation, you might have a dev of ID equals nav or navigation or menu or sidebar or main nav or something like that. And if you wanted to make a assistive technology that would jump straight to that nav for any reason, you would need heuristics. It would have to look for areas of the page that have lots of links all close together and assume that was nav. Or it would have a look for elements with nav menus, sidebar, et cetera and try and jump to those.

But now we have a new nav element which clearly and unambiguously marks up for computers and software like web browsers and search engines, et cetera, it can tell them what's what. This is great. This is extra semantics, means that we can unambiguously mark up stuff in a way that can't be confused and that means generally greater accessibility. We're going to see lots and lots of features in the screen readers, I think, in the next few years, particularly for the more nimble screen readers like NVIDIA, for example.

So generally, although there are some things in HTML5 that haven't been ironed out yet, I think generally the future is rosy for HTML 5. Particularly now that Aria is rolled into the spec. We have implicit Aria roles for many, many of the new elements in HTML5. And Aria will validate according to the HTML5 validator. So the future is bright.

Anyway, I've gone well over my five minutes, so thanks very much for listening. Congratulations again Dennis, and bye-bye.

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Denis Boudreau

Hi, my name is Denis Boudreau and I've been a faithful follower of Web Axe for about a year and a half. Well, actually I met Dennis back in March at CSUN this year, but I've been following what he does for about a year and a half.

And I was fortunate enough to be invited to this five year anniversary podcast to celebrate Web Axe and all the wonderful things Dennis is doing to promote the cause of accessibility. So, basically what I want to bring to this podcast today is an idea to unite different efforts that are being put out there for unconferences.

I know a few people, like for those of you who are following on Twitter, you probably know Jennison. You probably know John Foliot as well. A few other folks like that, that are actively involved in promoting, organizing, and sharing information about different conferences that are happening in North America.

And, seeing this a few months ago I decided that I'd do one in Montreal as well. I'm a French-speaking Canadian from Montreal. So we're a very little population of French-speaking people in a very large continent of English speaking people. So, we pretty much feel left out most of the time when it comes to the field of accessibility because everything is being done in English and not that many things are being done in French.

So, I wanted to try and break that barrier by doing something in Montreal that would be bilingual, where different folks that are active on the scene of accessibility, would come here, and share with our people here different things about accessibility, or HTML 5, or different things that are happening right now, that can be useful for our industry here. So, our websites in Quebec become more accessible, like they're becoming more accessible just about anywhere else in the world.

So there has been a few unconferences happening lately. There was one in Boston in March. There's one happening in London next month, I think. I've seen talks on Twitter about others happening in New York City, or maybe Seattle. Places like that.

So, I'm doing one in Montreal. Actually, I'm doing it today. It's 2:31 a.m., August 27th. I need to be at the conference venue at about three and a half hours because I'm hosting it today. I can't sleep. I'm pretty excited and I've decided to contribute to this podcast instead of getting a few hours of sleep because that's how I am.

Anyway, so I'm doing this a11ymtl thing. You can follow that at It's a unconference thing and we're having a few folks attending as speakers. We're happy to have Matt May, John Foliot, Chris Burkinshaw from HiSoftware. And we also have a guy from Quebec, called François Vachon, which is a Web Developer for a company called Nurun which are pretty involved in accessible web development here in Quebec. So we're doing this in the morning and in the afternoon we're having more loose conference happening with the eight small conferences.

Actually it's going to be like a webcamp, or accessibility camp. And we're covering different elements from the field of accessibility. So if you're interested in seeing this, this podcast will probably be posted after the 27th, so the event will be finished by then, but everything is being recorded on ustream, so if you're interested in watching that out, if you understand French because most of this is going to be in French, of course, you can check that out at

And this is where our stuff is happening. I would like to see different initiatives like mine here, or others like in Boston, or other places get together and be presented on maybe one global website where we could check out to see what conferences are happening, or what's the schedule on different accessibility conferences being done in the upcoming weeks or months, or whatever. So, I'm thinking out loud. Could be fun. We have different conferences happening all over the place, just about all-year round.

I'm thinking that maybe if we federated something around that we could become even more interesting and even bigger. And the bigger it gets, I guess the better it is for anything related to accessibility promotion, either in different organizations or among web developers.

So, that's it. That's pretty much what I needed to say. I do need to get some sleep now because I'll never be able to go through my day tomorrow. If you want to follow me on Twitter, my twitter account is @dboudreau. That's my name, D. Boudreau.

I'm doing anything related to accessibility and I'm doing a weekly watch, just like everybody else is doing. And I'm also babbling in French from time to time, so if you want to learn a few words along the way, that's the place to go.

So, take care everyone. Thanks, Dennis, for having me for this five year anniversary podcast. Hopefully I'll get to talk to all you people soon. Take Care, bye bye.

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Jennison Asuncion

Hey there. This is Jennison Asuncion from Toronto. By day I work in corporate accessibility and by night I do accessibility research, looking at accessibility and technology for cause and university students with disabilities.

Just want to take the opportunity to wish Web Axe a happy fifth anniversary, congratulations. And congratulations on the nomination from the .Net magazine. You do an amazing job.

What I appreciate most is the fact that you take a developer's prospective. So you're a developer speaking to other developers and I think that's one of the most effective things that Web Axe brings to the table.

In terms of issues to bring up, the one thing I wanted to draw listeners' attention to is accessibility can't be seen. This is an unconference that is focused exclusively on accessibility and its taking place at the Martin Luther King Library on Saturday, October 9th and website is It's completely free of charge and like all other unconferences, its participant driven.

And it's not for everyone. Some people aren't into unconferences. Other people would prefer to attend a more broad based conversation on the Web, and IT, and have some accessibility built into it. But this is a focused opportunity to just talk about accessibility whether you're a beginner, intermediate, advanced.

Come join us. We're having people come in from across the U.S. and including myself, from Canada. And maybe some others, so join us. Again, the URL is

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Karen Mardahl

Hello. I'm Karen Mardahl, a technical communicator passionate about accessibility. I dive into accessibility in my spare time because I have never had a job that directly involves accessibility - unfortunately. I have worked in different industries, but I always bring up accessibility whenever I can. I credit my late mom with my interest - she became a special education teacher when I was about 8 years old. She was known for her patience and care and involvement. I grew up assuming that everyone mattered. I cannot imagine a world where they don't.

I came across Web Axe in its early days, grateful for a source of insight into web accessibility in addition to reading books or online articles. I remember the ads for Refresh Detroit in the early days, but I have no recollection of how I discovered the podcast all the way over here in Denmark where I live. I've not been good at following any of my podcasts lately, but I've always known that I could rely on Web Axe for accessibility tips and tricks.

My passion has been to raise awareness about accessibility. There are plenty of experts in all areas of coding accessible websites. Their internal discussions can be off-putting to non-geeks - or non-believers in accessibility. I am concerned about those who don't care about accessibility. I want to help them become aware of the need for inclusion, preferably in a way so they can see the ethics of what they are doing when they exclude an otherwise potential, well, client base. And for those who say, oh, I don't have clients who are blind, deaf, etc., etc., I say - how do you know that? Do you do proper testing of your services at all? Do you truly know who your customers are? The executive of that company you want to snag as a client may be getting older and her eyes can't cope with that tiny font you use on your site. Or that other potential client who has never returned your calls about that video campaign - because he is Deaf and you forgot to caption your videos or provide a transcript. We technical communicators are supposed to have a mantra that is "know thy audience". Well, do we? If we don't, that means we are failing to do any kind of testing or user research and what will the consequences of that be? Lately, I've wondered whether the term accessibility has been a problem for some people. There are other terms - inclusion or universal design - which may be easier to relate to for some people. Maybe we have to change the language sometimes to reach out beyond those of us who are already interested in making the world more accessible. This is a job that needs lots of helping hands and if we need to re-phrase the concept to make it clearer, fine - as communicators, we ought to know the need for that very well!

I am going to go into more detail about this in the near future. I want to show people some practical tips they can implement right away to remove the barriers that are making web browsing an often painful and irritating experience for people with disabilities of vision, mobility, and hearing. I'll be doing this at two conferences in September. The first one is a11yldn, a sold-out unconference on September 21 in London organized by @maccymacx - see @a11yldn for more information. Next, I go to TCUK10, or Technical Communication UK, a conference for ISTC, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, based in the UK. That conference is Sept. 21-23 outside Oxford. Check @tcuk_conf for more information. I believe there are still a few spots available for that conference.

My personal twitter account is @kmdk, but I tweet about accessibility at @stcaccess. It is the twitter account for the AccessAbility SIG of the Society for Technical Communication. Note the spelling. Access and ability put together in one word. We take the "dis" out of "disability" because that's how we roll! Visit our blog at

Happy birthday, Web Axe!

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Mike Gifford

My name is Mike Gifford and I am the president of OpenConcept Consulting, an Ottawa-based Drupal shop working closely with both government and non-governmental organizations. Drupal is a content management system — a tool for building websites so you can manage them with not only great power but also great finesse. As an open source project, Drupal is built, maintained, and improved by the people who use it every day.

Over the last two years, I've been impressed by the increased interest the people behind Drupal have been giving to issues of accessibility. In that time, Drupal has improved quite a bit in terms of how accessible the website you produce with it can be. But the most impressive progress has been in making Drupal itself an accessible tool for building websites. As a result, the next release — Drupal 7 — should be usable for people with disabilities. Drupal 7 is far from perfect, but this process has been a great example of how a community can rally together to address the challenge of accessibility.

OpenConcept hasn't always been involved in accessibility issues, but we realized that there was an opportunity to make a difference by addressing things at the source. Most accessibility initiatives either address the symptoms of individual websites or work to educate developers of best practices. However, it was estimated earlier this year that 7 million websites are now built with Drupal. In one year, this software was downloaded over a million times. Yet, there were basic accessibility problems in Drupal that hadn't been addressed. To the extent that accessibility was being improved, that work being done on individual sites, and changes were not being contributed back to the core code base, where everyone could have benefited from them.

With Drupal 7 a lot of us wanted the default install to be as accessible as possible. After all, it should be easy for most people to produce a fairly accessible website. That is a lofty goal and we're still a ways from it, but we've made a great deal of progress.

Through this effort, we at OpenConcept came to realize how hard building accessible sites really is. It is especially difficult if you are trying to do so in a generalized way. Web development is proceeding much faster than the development of guidelines & best practices, so we're continually running into unknown territory. It doesn't help that screen-reader technology isn't rigorously based on these — or any — standards. Focusing just on screen-reader users, though, it's clear that people use this single technology in very different ways. So even if the technology adhered to a single set of standards, the different ways people use it will make it a challenge to to ensure that your site meets every user's expectations.

The improvements that we have made to Drupal will propagate into most new Drupal websites, but not all. Drupal's framework is so flexible that every area we've enhanced can be overruled by the contributed themes and modules used by webmeisters to round out their site. However, there's now enough documentation to tell folks what to address, and indeed a precedent in the core code base for others to follow. Drupal's developers and themers are much more aware of accessibility, and they will use that understanding as they update the thousands of available modules and themes to make them compatible with Drupal 7. And there is now an established accessibility group to help them review and improve the accessibility of all code contributed to the Drupal project, whether for a module, a theme, or a core component of Drupal itself. From now on, that accessibility review is and will be an accepted part of the Drupal development cycle.

Without this growing initiative around accessibility issues there would be no clear reason for users with disabilities to become involved in the Drupal community. However, as word spreads about Drupal's accessibility improvements we will find new challenges to tackle. With more users and greater experience with accessibility challenges we will be able to more effectively define best practices and produce models for implementing websites for different communities.

Some aspects of accessibility are really pretty straight forward. We know that every form field should be associated with a label or a title attribute. This is something that can be easily evaluated. However, some of the biggest struggles have been around alternatives to things like CSS's display:none; — it took us hundreds of posts to find an alternative that satisfied everyone's needs in Drupal 7. Then after we'd established our alternative, an Apple upgrade changed the behaviour so that invisible text was no longer being read out by VoiceOver. We've since resolved this issue, again.

Finding generalizable solutions that can be used in a number of different contexts can really take a great deal of effort. More time has gone into looking at the accessibility of Drupal than will likely go into most single sites. However, this knowledge is distilling into a best practice and the discussions are public for all to review and indeed to add to.

I expect that there will be many decisions that will need to be reconsidered in the lifespan of Drupal 7. We are already putting many issues off to Drupal 8. However, we have achieved a critical mass of accessibility improvements. There is an evolving ecosystem of committed users, designers & developers who will continue to strive for universal accessibility.

It does take a small core of dedicated individuals with a passion for accessibility, a supportive core team who are open to making the framework as good as it can be, as well as thousands of people to use, critique and push the software ahead. This can happen in any software community, but it is much more likely to take place with an open source framework where there is a tradition of contributing patches, bugs, and feature requests back to the developers. It can happen in any size of software as well; however, the larger the community, the more resources should be available to ensure that the best solutions are found.

We hope you have an opportunity to try Drupal 7 yourself when it is released. You can find out more by visiting HTTP://DRUPAL.ORG and HTTP://GROUPS.DRUPAL.ORG/accessibility

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Paul Boag

Hi guys, it's Paul Boag here. Wow, wow I cannot believe that you have made five years. Congratulations guys. You guys must be so proud and so excited. Actually listeners may know I run a podcast myself, over at, and I know just how hard it is to keep this up, week in and week out. We didn't manage to make five years, as we're currently on a break, and boy did we need that break.

Podcasting is hard work. I mean we're going to come back in the new year, but it's been a real struggle to keep going for five years. To see that you guys have done that is absolutely awesome, and I find inspiring for us, for when we kick off again in the new year. But ultimate respect for anyone, that can do what you guys can do. Also respect as well for flying the flag of accessibility.

I get this feeling at the moment, that accessibility is a little bit of the forgotten child. That people don't want you talking about accessibility, in a world of JavaScript driven web apps. More and more websites these days, are built on top of things like jQuery, and JavaScript, and Ajax, with little or no consideration for accessibility. They actually don't like it when you talk about it. When I talk about accessibility on the boagworld podcast, people are really quite offish with me, because they feel like it's a lot of work for what is a minority.

Why should we held back in the way we develop websites, because of a few minority people. But of course that minority isn't that small, and it's not that much work to build an accessible website, with a bit of planning upfront. It doesn't need to hold us back, we can do absolutely everything. All the latest cool technologies, all the latest cool functionality, all the latest cool techniques. It's just a matter of planning in advance. There is no reason to be held back.

By using things like progressive enhancement, any website can be made to work without JavaScript. It doesn't need to be expensive or time consuming, it just needs some good planning. I mean why, why would anybody turn away people from their website. You wouldn't get a shop that turned away one in every twenty people. If they've got money to spend, if they've got ears to listen to your message, why turn them away. It's absurd.

Also of course, it's not morally right. We have an obligation, I believe, to make the web as accessible as possible. Certainly that's what Tim Berners Lee had planned, when he very first created the web. I even wrote my dissertation in 1994, on the wonders of the Internet, as providing an accessible platform for people that were previously excluded from society for whatever reason. So I think we've got a moral obligation as well.

But also, it just doesn't make business sense to exclude people. So thank you guys for fighting the fight. Thank you for educating us. Thank you for infusing us, and thank you for entertaining us. You absolutely rock, and I really appreciate you taking the time to do this show. It's been great to be on the show a number of times, over the last five years, and here is to the next five years. I hope you all the best success, and we'll have to get you on before too long.

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Steve Grobschmidt

Hi, my name is Steve Grobschmidt. I'm a user experience lead in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While I'm pretty recent to a formal UX position, I've been focusing on approaching website and application creation, with the end user in mind, for a long time now. I've been in the web industry for over 12 years, but it's over the past roughly two and a half years, that I've particularly become interested in web accessibility.

Before my current role, I was both a web designer and a manager of a web design and production team. Built my user experience foundation from that web design and development background. I still do very limited web design on a freelance basis, as well as accessibility consultation. When I initially became interested in the subject of web accessibility, one of the first things I did was scour the web, including social media, for resources and personalities whom I could learn from.

One of the first blogs that I came across was Web Axe. I'm really glad that I did, because Dennis had such a readable, down to earth writing style, which I think is just really important, when you're approaching a subject like accessibility. An overly technical, development centric voice has its place and its audience certainly, but there's really something to be said for taking a tone and approach, that is no pun intended, accessible to a wide audience.

The Web Axe blog, podcast, and social media presence is just that. Like I've said, I've been at the web accessibility subject for just over two years now, and Web Axe genuinely remains at the top of my list of blogs, that I would recommend anyone interested in the subject, should follow at the onset. Not only that, but Dennis has always been so approachable and welcoming to other accessibility minded voices, such as my own. Including retweeting on Twitter information that people like me have shared, or blogged about.

Overall I've found the web accessibility community, to be very open that way. When you decide not only that you want to become an expert in accessibility, but also a blogging voice, it can be really daunting to dive into an established community, full of well respected and dynamic personalities. I'm really grateful for people like Dennis for being so welcoming. Five years is definitely an impressive run, so far for Web Axe, for any blog really. But it's not surprising to me, because like I said the quality, the approachable style, everything is just there.

It was in October of '08, that I decided to start my own blog, which I called the Art of Web Accessibility. It can be found at I've also tried to take that down to earth, plain spoken approach. Sort of sharing what I learn, as I learn it, be it news, quick tips on accessible design or coding, thoughts. One thing that I touched on a bit, but I'm really interested in diving into more, is video game accessibility.

At first glance it may seem like kind of a weird topic. Video games by their nature, they're so graphical, they have sound, animation, hand eye coordination. Things like that. The idea of making them accessible, might seem a stretch to some. But like I said before, and I've blogged about, I personally love playing video games, and computer games. If something happened to me, that resulted in me losing my sight, or my hearing, or motor skills, I still love to play games, and I want to experience them as much as possible.

So that's definitely an aspect of accessibility, that I think is a buzz worthy topic. Seems to be getting more and more play, and interest which is a good thing. I for one plan to spend more time on it, and hope that others weigh in as well, in the accessibility community. But anyway I just wanted to say again many congratulations to Web Axe, for five years of going strong. I know I owe a lot to what I've learned about accessibility to you guys, and I look forward to more years of that. Thank you.

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Terrill Thompson

Hey guys. This is Terrill Thompson, a technology accessibility specialist with DO-IT at the University of Washington. I just wanted to congratulate you on your five year anniversary, that's awesome that you've been doing this for so long. Certainly doesn't seem that long to me, and I'm sure you probably feel the same way.

I've been working in this field, the technology accessibility field since 1994, and it's getting closer to all the time to 20 years for me but it really feels like I'm just getting started. In a lot of ways I guess we are. Because there's certainly a lot of work still needs to be done before people with disabilities have full and equitable access to information.

I must say there seems to be a lot more participants in the technology accessibility field today than they were back in 1994. Or maybe it's just that we're working more cooperatively and collaboratively than ever before. Maybe all these people were out there back then.

I just didn't know about them. But I don't think that's the case. I think more and more what developers are acquiring and understanding of the importance of web standards, universal design and are talking about it and practicing it. I think it has to be that way for accessibility to really take hold.

So, I really appreciate what Web Axe has done. Because it provides and opportunity for people in this field to talk about what they're doing, share ideas and learn from one another. In fact, I think your podcast and your presence on Twitter have really become two of the best channels for staying aware of what's happening in the accessibility arena.

So, I really appreciate the work that you guys do. I've been aware of Web Axe for a long time. I first appeared on your podcast in January of this year. That, I think was podcast number 77.

I don't remember whether I mentioned this when we talked, but one sort of mantra in the work that I do was given to me by an under graduate student in computer science. I was talking to him one day about web accessibility, and the uphill battle that we seemed to be facing. Educating literally millions of people out there who are creating web content.

He said that, "In order for web accessibility to catch on, it needs to be cool." And compared it to Casting Style Sheets to CSS. Which in his opinion has almost reached that level where from his experience as a young web developer, it's cool for a web developer to create a stylish website using CSS for presentation.

And it's kind of this, "My CSS is better than your CSS" competitiveness going on. So you felt that the same idea could apply to accessibility. We're creating a more accessible website. We're giving the web developer bragging rights over their peers. What he said actually made some sense to me. As I talk about web accessibility and give presentations and workshops, which is a large part of what I do with DO-IT.

I try to present accessibility as some burdensome requirement, but as something cool, challenging and fun. You might not have been doing this consciously but I feel like you two are helping to make web accessibility cool. You're laid back interviewing style and your logo and your theme music, they're all cool.

So, thanks for that. And I think you and I are going to be talking again real soon in an upcoming podcast. Maybe as soon as October, if I have that right. So, I won't talk much now about some of the work I've been doing with HTML5 audio and video, but if somebody could check out that work, it's on my website at

One thing I did want to mention is the upcoming EDUCAUSE conference. EDUCAUSE is a non-profit membership organization for those of you that aren't familiar. Their focus is information technology and higher education and they have somewhere in the area of 16 thousand or more active members representing 2000 educational institutions.

So, it's a huge organization and their national conference each year is also huge. I've been participating in EDUCAUSE every year since 2002. The goal of convincing those 16 thousand members that accessible technology is cool.

A small group of likeminded individuals have also been trying to do the same thing. Because it's one thing to get together every year and see Sun and accessing higher ground, those are just great conferences. We're all there supporting and learning from each other and essentially preaching to the choir in one sense.

I mean, we're all learning and it's a great opportunity but everybody there is already a believer in accessibility at some level. But I think it's equally important and maybe even more important that we extend what we're doing and spread the word among people who aren't necessarily accessibility aware. So, with that in mind we've gradually been building the effort within EDUCAUSE and nudging the EDUCAUSE administration to take accessibility seriously.

To actively promote it at the national conference and it's publications and other communications with it's membership. And we made a lot of progress in that area. In 2007 we convinced EDUCAUSE to establish the IT accessibility constituent group, which provides an official voice to accessibility within EDUCAUSE organizational structure.

And that constituent group has met annually and had lots of online discussions and teleconferences and between meetings, finally that has all lead to the IT accessibility center. Which is going to be at this years national conference. EDUCAUSE has totally gotten behind this effort and they're providing 600 square feet of centrally located space and exhibit floor.

It helped us to recruit vendors to support the space. We're going to have presentations there throughout the conference on topics that probably would interests your listeners. Such as accessibility of HTML5 media elements, HTML5 canvas accessibility, Web 2.0 accessibility using Aria, capturing if you're inscribing media.

As well as a more basic how to session about accessibility that I'm going to be doing. Plus, we'll have a variety of topics to focus more on the administrative management side of accessibility. Simply just auditing web accessibility, free and open source tools for assessing IT accessibility.

How to talk to vendors about the accessibility of the products, what's the questions to ask, how to assess the accuracy of their plans and so forth. So it should be a great event. We have several CIO's and senior IT administrators who have offered to help at the center.

I think it's just a great opportunity to build accessibility awareness at an unprecedented level within higher education. Some place some of your listeners if you already haven't decided to do so, well, check that out. I'm not sure when your anniversary podcast is scheduled to air. But the EDUCAUSE conference is October 12th through 15th.

You can register anytime, but the early bird registration, hopefully it's not too late. Deadline for that to get the lower rates is September 13th. It's also in Annaheim which of course is a great place to have a conference and a great place to be.

So anyway, it's good talking with you as always despite how one sided this conversation has been. I look forward to talking with you live the next time we have a chance to get together, which I think is coming up real soon here. But once again, happy anniversary and stay cool.

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Tom Babinszki

Hi. My name is Tom Babinszki. I am the director of Even Grounds. My company provides accessibility consulting services, and we make sure that government agencies, educational institutions, and corporations can make their web sites and any other information technology accessible to people with disabilities. You can find us at

I started my company 3 years ago after I’ve been working in the accessibility industry for close to 10 years. I’ve been very interested in accessibility since I was a teenager. When I was going to high school, I was teaching blind people how to use the computer. We developed a Braille printer. And it just led into the legislation of accessibility later on, which is paired with the technology that I’m trying to help make accessible.

When I’m not leading Even Grounds, I’m the father of 2. I have 2 little girls. The older one is 2 years old and the younger one is just past 3 months. And we love traveling. We do a fair deal of travel around the world. Some of it is work-related and some of it is just pure fun and vacation. And I’m also very interested in languages. I myself speak 5 languages.

I met Dennis when I first heard about Accessible Twitter, which I started using and I use it up until now. I got very interested in this project, and first I posted about Accessible Twitter in my blog. And later on, I asked Dennis to do an interview on the web site, which you’ll be able to find on the blog.

What I would like to talk to you about today is definitely not technical. But I feel that it’s one of the most important things that you should do when you think about accessibility. And namely get to know people with disabilities. That should be your first step.

Basically what happens is when you hear that you need to make a web site accessible, you might be wondering, “Oh, what does it mean? What is accessibility?” or when you hear about legislation or guidelines, “What is this Section 508? What is this WCAG?” and then you’re presented with hundreds upon hundreds of pages of documentation and you get scared. But the point is really not all that. It’s not all about following all the rules and guidelines, and checking of all the boxes that you have made something accessible. The bottom line really is that you are working with people, for people, and you want to make sure that everything you do is accessible to all people who come in touch with your product, including people with disabilities.      

So when I teach Section 508 or WCAG courses, we always spend a good half hour before hand on discussing how people with disabilities use the computer or any kind of information technology. First, understand what it means to have a disability. What kind of disabilities are out there, what it means for people to live with a disability, how it changes their lives, how is their life different from others and how is it similar. Understand that if presented with the right technology and the right equipment and tools, people with disabilities can be just as productive as anybody else.

Once you learn this, you’ll find that this is going to be your best investment into your accessibility project. Try to put yourself into the shoes of people with disabilities. I’m not saying that if you close your eyes, you will understand what it means to be blind. Being blind means that you grew up blind, or you became blind later on and you have lived years after years without seeing anything and trying to solve problems. It’s not going to make a difference if you close your eyes for 5 minutes. But you’ll get a couple of concepts. Try to install a screen reader on your computer. Understand how different it is to browse a web page with a screen reader, as opposed to browsing at it with your eyes. Try to disconnect everything in your office that provides you with any sounds - your phone, your speaker. And go through a day without any sounds. See how different it is.

Once you understand this, and you get to your next project, and you start developing interfaces, you start developing solutions, you will have a very good idea of what it is that you’re looking for. What kind of senses you need to compensate for in a product in order to make it fully accessible.     

And at the end, I would like to call your attention to our newsletter. You can find it at it has 3 parts. First you will receive a biweekly newsletter with accessibility tips and tricks which will give you some good ideas on how to make information accessible even if you are not a technical person, what you can do on a daily basis to make it easier for people with disabilities to navigate technology. The second thing you will receive is a workbook. It will contain 10 easy steps to make your product accessible to people with disabilities. And the third thing you’ll receive is a monthly newsletter where I call your attention to recent updates, recent important posts on the blog. And I’ll keep you updated with any kind of legislation that you need to be aware of to not only make information accessible to people with disabilities, but also to ensure that you comply with your government’s legislation, let that be in the United States, Canada, or anywhere else.

Thank you very much, and I hope to see you on the Even Grounds web site.

Voiceover: Web Axe.

Dennis: So, thank you everyone again to contributing.

Ross: To get eight people willing to submit information, so that was great.

Dennis: From some very valuable contributors. So thank you again, I hope everyone enjoyed it. I know I did.

Ross: Me too.

Dennis: To Web Axe on its five year anniversary.


Ross: It's been a great five years and I look forward to talking about the sixth year, next year.

Dennis: Exciting to think about what's coming in the future. We shall see.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: All right Ross, I'll talk to you later.

Ross: See you Dennis, bye everyone.

Dennis: Bye everyone.

[music and commercial]