Transcription: Web Axe Episode 96 (WordPress, Events)


Hi. This is Pratik Patel, and you're listening to the Web Axe podcast.

Dennis: Hello, and welcome to Web Axe podcast 96: WordPress and Events. Ross is on the line.

Ross: Hello everybody.

Dennis: Hello, Ross. Welcome back. It's been awhile.

Ross: Yeah, I was thinking that recently.

Dennis: I've been pretty busy myself.

Ross: Yeah. Life has a way of keeping busy, I suppose.

Dennis: We have a lot to talk about, though. There's a lot of great things happening as far as accessibility goes in WordPress lately, and a lot of events and things going on that we'll talk about, and some news bits and links.

Ross: Yup, so it should be a good episode.

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: I guess as far as things are new, one notable thing is the new Web Axe website.

Dennis: Yeah. So that's huge news. So I guess just 2 or 3 weeks ago – a few weeks ago maybe now, the whole website, the URL and everything has changed. So it's now

Ross: Yup.

Dennis: And done with Blogger. Yay!

Ross: What finally made you decided now is the time to transition?

Dennis: Well I've been wanting to do it you know, for 1 or 2 years.

Ross:  Sure.

Dennis: Like we'll talk about, there has been some good accessibility things happening in the WordPress world, so I took advantage of those and made a nice new clean Web Axe website.

Ross: Awesome. Do you have to like move all the podcast archives over and all that?

Dennis: Well, it's a long story. The podcasts were actually hosted separately from my WebOverhauls website.

Ross: Ah, okay.

Dennis: So all those links pretty much stayed good. The RSS feed link changed, and there's been a lot of big changes. So in a way, it's almost like starting over. So please, if you're a subscriber, make sure you update your RSS subscription. So it's now just, I believe.

Ross: Yup, nice and easy. You should be able to remember that.

Dennis: Yeah. So obviously, it's running on WordPress. We'll talk about it more in a few minutes. But that was a huge move.

Ross: Definitely, yeah. And make sure you check it out. It looks great.

Dennis: Thanks.

Ross: It's a very nice-looking site.

Dennis: I like it.

Ross: Are you being biased or anything?

Dennis: Yup. So you have an update on your book?

Ross: Yeah. I think it's 2 years in the making, but I have actually held it in my hand which is a very weird feeling. So I actually received the prototype where I can kind of go through any last-minute layout tweaks and stuff like that. And I have to build the table of contents still, and a few last-minute things, but it's like practically done. So it only took me 2 years. Not bad.

Dennis: I guess that's not bad. I know it takes awhile to write a book.

Ross: Yeah. I think it was only supposed to take a year, but you know how that stuff goes.

Dennis: Yeah, exactly. Well congrats.

Ross: Thank you.

Dennis: We'll be looking forward to the release and more information on that.

Ross: Yeah. Stay tuned for more. I'll see if I can have you post an update here, and you know, check out my blog, too.

Dennis: And if our listeners didn't catch it in an earlier show, do you want just a brief description of the book?

Ross: Sure. It's called "The 6 Layers of Design" and basically, it goes over the 6 kind of key aspects that the most effective designs have to address. And by design, it's not necessarily just like how does it look, but it's also looking at how reliable is it across different platforms and browsers and devices especially these days. Although it's you who desecrate like an emotional impact and that sort of thing.

Dennis: Excellent.

Ross: It's kind of like design as a whole.

Dennis: Very good.

Ross: Yes. And you've been busy yourself. Looks like you've been presenting all over the place.

Dennis: Yeah, about a 4 or 5 weeks span, and I presented 3 times.

Ross: Wow. Busy.

Dennis: It went really well. I drove down to LA, from Cupertino to San Jose area and attended the Accessibility Camp LA – the very first one, and I was asked to present an introduction to web accessibility. And it went really well. That was a pretty good turnout. And I saw the CSUN campus, so that was neat.

Ross: Oh, cool.

Dennis: Yeah, it was nice. And there were – some different folks flew in from around the country to attend and present, so that was really cool.

Ross: Accessibility celebrities?

Dennis: Yeah. We all came in and chipped in to share the knowledge. It went really well.

And then, there was an HTML5 developer conference in San Francisco. I think that was like the week before or something. And I presented on just the basics of accessibility and ARIA in a dropdown widget. I just explained ARIA a lot, and then gave an example of this like dropdown button, menu, widget thing.

Ross: Ah, cool.

Dennis: Yeah. In both of those events, I actually represented PayPal, my day job.

Ross: Okay. Did they pay you for that?

Dennis: They paid most of my way.

Ross: Oh, okay. Well that's good.

Dennis: And PayPal sponsored lunch at the Accessibility Camp LA.

Ross: Oh, great.

Dennis: Yeah. I helped with that.

Ross: That's good to be able to contribute that way.

Dennis: Yeah. But when I went to the HTML5 developer conference in San Francisco, two other guys from PayPal that I work with wanted to go, so I picked them up. Early in the morning, we drove from San Jose all the way up to San Francisco, and then drove home – you know, about like 8 o'clock or something, and did that the next day again. But it worked out pretty well. I found a nice, affordable parking garage just like a block from the hotel in downtown San Francisco, so it worked out.

Ross: Yeah. That's always exhausting I find conferences, especially when you're speaking. It takes all of my energy to be there all day.

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: So kudos for doing it.

Dennis: Yeah, it went really well. And if you go to the website, you could view my presentation. The HTML5 developer conference website – they're posting a bunch of the slide decks from the talks and some videos too, so check it out.

And one more. Yeah, I think the first one was the access camp in Boston. I gave a presentation virtually. I think it was over Skype. Oh yeah, I gave the "How to Create an Accessible Web Application" or something like that. And it was an enhancement of a presentation I did like a year or so ago. And this one – it went fairly well. I put it up on SlideShare, and oh my God! I got like thousands and thousands of views on SlideShare. It was awesome.

Ross: Oh, cool.

Dennis: I think it might be up to like 40,000 views.

Ross: Wow. So what was – people just come across it, or somebody well-known favorite it?

Dennis: It was probably – because it was from that event, it might have gotten more exposure, you know, and then on Twitter and stuff. But then you know, when things catch fire, they spread fast.

Ross: Right, right. Have you read "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell?

Dennis: No.

Ross: Oh, okay. Well, I guess it breaks down that whole concept and it's kind of more of a science.

Dennis: Oh yeah?

Ross: Yeah. It kind of – I think there's like 4 different groups of people that kind of caused these things to catch on and become popular. Somebody from one of those groups did that.

Dennis: Interesting. A little more recently on Web Axe, I wrote an open letter to SlideShare (speaking of SlideShare) because I'm getting pretty tired of the lack of accessibility for the slide decks, especially the text transcripts (the one that translates the PowerPoint or your presentation file). It doesn't really do a great job.

But they responded on Twitter and said that they would you know, have their developers check it out, or work at it or something. So hopefully that will happen. So we'll see.

Ross: Ah, that's cool. Yeah. I mean at least, they're paying attention, or they'd do anything, I expect.

Dennis: Exactly.

Ross: We'll stay tuned and maybe update in a future show.

Dennis: And another pretty long and I think a good blog post that was done since our last podcast I just wanted to point out was the Pro-HTML5 accessibility book review by Joshue O'Connor. So if you haven't read it yet, check it out. It's a book review, but I also discussed – like bring up a few points. There was actually maybe a couple of points in the book that it didn't disagree with. But all in all, it was an excellent excellent book so I highly recommend it. Have you read any of it?

Ross: I haven't read that. No, it's kind of been on my list, but I actually haven't read any dev-related books in awhile. Last year, I read so many that I'm kind of taking a break.

Dennis: Yeah. The book was sitting on my desk for like a few weeks. And then, where did I go? I went somewhere and I was able to actually read it. I think I went on the plane somewhere. Yeah. And then it gave me time to actually really read it you know, and make notes and stuff.

Ross: Yeah. I need the same thing. It's like I have to go on vacation to read for whatever reason. Not that I don't have time at home. I just don't.

Dennis: Yeah. Okay. So there has been a lot going on. Let's move on to some news items.

In the news, there's been a couple of things happening related to web development accessibility that I thought we could talk about for a few minutes.

Ross: Yup. I think the first one you have here is the one I'm most interested in.

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: Ongoing evolution of the HTML5 specs. Now they're talking about a main element.

Dennis: Yeah. So the HTML5 structural elements are new. Of course if you're not familiar, instead of using divs, there's actually now like header and footer and aside.

Ross: Article, section.

Dennis: Yeah. Section, article, elements that you can use.

Ross: Yeah.

Dennis: But like, there was never an element created for the actual main contents of a page. That was kind of forgotten. Well, not forgotten, but not done by the editor who we will not name.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: So now, there's been I guess another attempt – a more promising attempt, and it's looking pretty good I guess to bring in the main elements.

Ross: Yeah, and so the idea is kind of – within any page, you have different bits of content. So this would allow you to wrap kind of the primary – the main (for lack of a better word) content in its own element.

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: And I kind of think of it as like you know, if you have your skip links skip the content, it's like where the skip links would bring you.

Dennis: Yeah. Where the skip to content would take you is the main content, right?

Ross: Yeah.

Dennis: That's a good way to look at it.

Ross: Definitely.

Dennis: And with the mapping of the ARIA landmark roles, to the general mapping, to the HTML5 structural elements.  You know, I made an illustration I should link to then that's on Flickr.

But anyway, so like your header – the main header on your page would have an ARIA role of banner, and like a side with maybe a role of complementary. And then, your main page, flitter, would have a landmark role of content info, and there's an ARIA role called main content that you would put on the main content. But until now at least, there is no HTML5 element that maps the main content. So now, we have that relationship.

Ross: Yeah, which is really cool. So do you do much writing in HTML5 these days, or you're still doing HTML4 or XHTML?

Dennis: Well, any new sites that I write is HTML5. At my day job, it's mostly HTML5. A couple of my older sites, I need to update to HTML5, but mostly HTML5.

Ross: Very good.

Dennis: Yup.

Ross: Yeah, mostly HTML5. I'm just mostly maintaining older sites in HTML4 or XHTML. Although the school that I teach at were still teaching XHTML because the browser supports it there, so since we're teaching entry-level classes, it makes sense.

Dennis: Oh, okay. Well that makes sense. So you're still doing it? I didn't realize you're still teaching over there.

Ross: You know, I haven't for a couple of semesters. I'm actually now teaching more at Michigan State, mostly online class. But I'm sure at some point I'll start teaching there again.

Dennis: Oh really?

Ross: Yeah.

Dennis: That's cool. Did not know that.

Ross: Yup. One of the other reasons I don't read.

Dennis: A busy man.

Ross: Yeah.

Dennis: And in the show notes, I'll also put – oh well, it's definitely worth a mention a shout out to Steve Faulkner, one of the unsung heroes out there of the Paciello group. He's done most of the work – the heavy-lifting on this main element.

So the other item is Longdesc. My friend John Foliot is – 3 years now has been pushing and one of the main helpers of this. There's a new HTML5 draft extension for Longdesc done by Charles McCathie Nevile.

Ross: Yup. So this is good news for accessibility.

Dennis: Yeah. I've been long-time advocate myself. HTML5 and ARIA don't really have a replacement for Longdesc. So it's looking like it will be maintained.

Ross: Yeah, which is really good. I feel relieved that RichMedia is being used more and more, and I find more text in images and stuff like that – you know, info graphics.

Dennis: Yeah – charts, and comics, and definitely info graphics are getting much more popular.

Ross: Right. Alt attribute doesn't do the job there.

Dennis: Yeah. So let's hope the browser vendors and folks will support Longdesc more. NVDA apparently now supports Longdesc. I haven't tested it myself, but the brand new build from what I hear has support. There's a link in the show notes.

Okay. WordPress. Let's move on to our main topic of today.

Ross: Yup. So WordPress certainly doesn't seem to be losing any popularity these days. I feel like every day, I hear some crazy statistic about how WordPress powers 10% of the internet.

Dennis: Really?

Ross: Yeah. How accurate that is or not, I don't know.

Dennis: I wouldn't doubt it.

Ross: Yeah. It's definitely the most popular content management system out there which is potentially really good and potentially, it would be some interest to improve, particularly accessibility.

Dennis: I wrote a blog several years ago about WordPress themes and lack of accessibility, and there really hasn't been a whole lot of movement. The WordPress basic theme are slowly getting better. WordPress has always been pretty good with web standards so that's a good start. But there's of course a lot more that need to be done.

A few months ago,, I came across this theme – Blaskan. It's a cool WordPress theme that uses media queries and it's pretty accessible and stuff. So I thought that might be good for WebAxe that I just ran with it. I had to do some modifications.

I actually emailed with the author of the Blaskan theme and sent him some suggestions to increase accessibility and make it even better, so he's working on that. So in future updates of that theme, it will be even more accessible.

Ross: Very cool. And this is the theme that powers the new WebAxe, right?

Dennis: Right.

Ross: Yeah. It's a really cool theme. I can't believe it's free. It looks like one of the premium themes you'd buy.

Dennis: Yeah, and it has responsive design that's real nice.

Ross: Yup.

Dennis: So that's that. But then when I decided to go with it, I contacted our friend Joe Dolson, and I said "Joe, with the new WordPress, I can't find the plug-in to remove all these crazy redundant title attributes everywhere.".

Ross: Yeah.

Dennis: Because he's a wiz at this stuff, right?

Ross: Right.

Dennis: So I said "Can you build one, man, because this is killing me.". I can't release the new WebAxe website in WordPress and have all these redundant attributes everywhere. There's no way that's going to happen.

Ross: Right. And he did it?

Dennis: And he did it. He not only did that but he couldn't stop and started adding on all these things to this plug-in that he's making. And then it's like a week or two later, he released it.

WP Accessibility is the name of the WordPress plug-in, and he's added a bunch of other features including skip to links and some other fixes.

So in the long run, we want obviously WordPress to fix a lot of these issues. But for the short term, this is a great plug-in that I think every WordPress site should have.

Ross: Yeah, definitely. I'm going to start using it on the sites that I build. And hopefully someday, it gets integrated into the core.

Dennis: About the same time, I came across another plug-in – this WP accessible Twitter feed, that's the name of the plug-in which just gives you a nice simple output of your Twitter feed onto your page. It's accessible because it's just clean markup from server side.
Ross: Ah, very cool. Actually, I wasn't familiar with this one. So that's another one I'm going to start using.

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: It seems like there's no great way to integrate Twitter into your site because you know, they want you to use kind of the inline JavaScript and stuff.

Dennis: Yeah, all those widgets and stuff, and those are never built with accessibility in mind, unfortunately.

Ross: Right, and they're really slow.

Dennis: Yeah. Be careful where you add your external JavaScripts on your page because you could block your site.

Ross: Yeah, exactly.

Dennis: There was a whole talk about this – whole meet up about it the other night.

Ross: Oh, really?

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: Results of the tricks to asynchronously load them and all that stuff, and it's much better just to "Hey. Why don't we do it server side?".

Dennis: Yeah. That's the best. But yeah, you could dynamically create that external JavaScript link instead of just hard-coding it. Then that's supposed to make it go asynchronously.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: Anyway, so back to WordPress. There's even more stuff going on.

Ross: Yeah. This project – this is interesting because it's almost like kind of a call for more accessible things.

Dennis: Yeah. Joseph O'Connor who retired and he's no longer CSUN web master (but you can reach him on Twitter @AccessibleJoe) – he presented this Cities project or concept at the inaugural Accessibility Camp LA. And he's basically calling for more accessibility in WordPress and asking different cities to come up with an accessible theme. I think that's what it's all about.

Ross: Yeah, that's what it sounded like to me. So each city that wants to participate would have – he gave an example, like Accessible Los Angeles. And then if I get one started, it would be Accessible Detroit or Ann Arbor, I suppose, but wherever.
Dennis: In addition to that, on and, there's this movement happening. Basically, there is a theme accessibility audit, and it's a draft proposal, and there's a lot of comments there including from Joe Dolson and Joseph O'Connor. I made one little comment on there, sort of suggestion. But basically, it's a proposal for when a theme on WordPress is made that the theme be checked for this criteria. And if it passes, then it gets like an accessibility tag.

Ross: Oh, that would be cool.

Dennis: Yeah. So that's a whole another thing going on. So it's coming together. So WordPress, you go on from good to better.

Ross: Right. And being that it's so widely used, you can make it really accessible out of the box and then push for more accessible themes. I mean you could really have a huge impact on the web.

Dennis: Yeah. And the admin interface itself obviously has accessibility challenges. It's pretty modernized and Ajaxified. You know about that, right? You've done a couple of plug-ins for the admin interface, didn't you?

Ross: Yeah, I've done a few. I haven't done much for them lately.

Dennis: Yeah. So that's a whole another side of WordPress to think about is the admin area – inaccessibility of that.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: But things are looking good. Please, if you have any more input or tidbits about that, please leave a comment on the show notes.

Links. A few notable articles and links that have come out recently.

Ross: The first one is about our good friend ARIA. I guess not really a friend.

Dennis: It's become my friend.

Ross: Do you have long discussions with ARIA about the best way to build web applications?

Dennis: There have been a few, yeah.

Ross: Good.

Dennis: I have learned – in the last year or so, since I've been working with PayPal, I've been doing a lot more work with ARIA and been learning a lot more so it's been really good.

Let's see. There has been – recently, at AHG (Accessing Higher Grounds) in Colorado – that was like a week or so ago, and WebAIM presented there as they usually do. There's a great online webpage/slideshow from Jared Smith that I highly recommend. It's called "Using ARIA to Enhance Web Application Accessibility". Not a lot of ground-breaking stuff, but definitely a lot of awesome solid knowledge that you should definitely take a look at.

Ross: Yeah. I kind of have it bookmarked. You know I don't do a lot of work on web applications, but I do on occasion. I suppose I'll have to refer back to this in those cases.

Dennis: Yeah. And WebAIM is cool. Once in awhile, they'll sneak in one or two real neat tricky different techniques for ARIA.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: For things like forms in a table, or I don't know. Just once in awhile they have some really cool techniques that catch my eyes. But definitely solid awesome stuff as usual.

Ross: Yup. Everything they publish I feel like is great.

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: And then we had a pretty cool link or article "Web Accessibility Law on Higher Education". I do work with some higher education stuff so this is really cool. I really like reading through this. And even the material I knew, it's kind of nice to get a refresher and stuff.

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: They really talked about the Section 504 and 508 and ADA when they apply and that sort of thing, so definitely worth reading through.

Dennis: Yes. And oh, speaking of WebAIM, I have another link here from them. It's something quick from their forum – "Browser Text Sizing Options Mapped to Percentage Increases". So basically, it's just a sub data on a few different browsers, and when you hit control plus, it'll increase the size of the page – so it tells you what percentage and what increment. So on Firefox, if you hit control plus twice, it increases a hundred and twenty percent. But on Safari, if you do it twice, it's a hundred and forty four percent. And IE and Chrome are listed in there too, but you get the idea.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: So it's a neat little statistics if you're doing some deep diving into that.

Ross: All right. – it seems like they have an accessibility assistive technology survey going.

Dennis: If you have any input on accessibility with SalesForce especially if you use assistive technology, then please take this survey.

Ross: Yeah. So they're kind of trying to – I guess it sounds like they're trying to make their technology more accessible, or they just kind of want to know where they should be focusing. That's the impression I got.

Dennis: Right, and that's a great idea.

Ross: Yeah, definitely. I mean it's getting to be more and more popular platform and with the SalesForce apps, there's a lot more uses for it outside of the normal So those should all be accessible, too.

Dennis: And recently, I came across another article from Chris Coyier, a CSS expert. It's called "Why Ems", and he's talking about how he's recently switched back to using Em-based sizing or measurements into CSS.

Ross: Yup.

Dennis: So I thought that was very interesting and it's good read. I mean I've always kind of been an advocate of Ems or relation-based sizing rather than fixed pixels or points. But for awhile there, I was starting to think. Well you know, pixels isn't bad bad. We have some arguments at my day job about this and stuff and IE is the only browser still that won't resize the text if it's in pixels.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: So besides accessibility, there's this whole new thing about responsive design in smaller mobile interfaces and stuff, and I think Ems is good for that – you know, for scaling your layout. You probably know way more about this than I do, so what do you think?

Ross: Yeah. I thought it was a good read and I was kind of on the same boat where I was like "Well, maybe pixels are okay." And then I started moving back to Ems. But you know, I think one of the interesting things I got out of this article is Chris Coyier the author was saying that people, they have this tendency to use pixels because it's like this very easy measurement – almost, and they don't like Ems because it seems relative. But he's saying that even pixels aren't exactly like – you know, if you pick 14 pixels, it doesn't necessarily go this way or that way. It's like an approximation, so it's really no difference. I thought that was cool.

Dennis: Yeah, that's interesting.

Ross: So yeah, it's a good read.

And there are some good accessibility events coming up.

Dennis: Yeah. The accessibility camp season is just about over. I don't know if this podcast – I doubt this podcast is going to be out in time but on November 23, there's Accessibility Camp Montreal this Friday. And I think they are doing it virtually, too. You could register to attend virtually. So that's cool.

Ross: Yup. So by the time you're hearing this, if you did see it, I hope you enjoyed it.

Dennis: Yeah. Let us know how it went.

Ross: Right.

Dennis: And then on December 5th in Australia, there's a Web Accessibility Techniques and Testing course. I think there's a fee for that one – like an all day workshop. All the camps are free of course, but this one looks like a pretty good extensive course. So if you're near Canberra, … Is that how you say that city?

Ross: I have no idea.

Dennis: I don't know, either.

Ross: Apologies for everybody in Australia.

Dennis: Yeah, we're silly Americans.

Ross: And then, "Making Measurable Difference with Accessible Instructional Materials" – a free webinar. That's pretty cool.

Dennis: Yeah. When is that? Oh, it's rescheduled for December 11th.

Ross: Looks like there's two on the 11th – also, "The Status of Accessibility in Mobile Devices". That one sounds really interesting to me. I'm going to try and make that one.

Dennis: Yeah, lots of good stuff going on. So two on December 11th.

Ross: Yup, both free webinars, hopefully not at the same time.

Dennis: So hopefully it's slow at the office and you can attend one of those.

Ross: Yeah, I'm certainly going to try.

Dennis: All right. Well, that's all we have today. Hope you enjoyed it, and please leave comments in the show notes, and we'll talk to you next time.

Ross: Yup, and check out the new website and update your RSS feeds if you haven't already.

Dennis: Definitely. And look out for Ross's book.

Ross: Yes. Hopefully, it won't take another year at this point.

Dennis: Yeah.

Ross: All right.

Dennis: All right. See you later.



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