A Quick Roundup

Screen Reader Demo
I’ve been very poor at keeping up with my blogging of late. I meant to post a few days ago after attending an excellent Screen Reader demo at Test Partners. Steve Green led the session, and John Welsman (Freelance Assistive Technology Consultant) amazed us all with his speed and dexterity at negotiating the web with JAWS. John also brought along his lovely dog, Dalton, who sat very quietly in the corner all afternoon.

It’s only when you witness a blind user having to negotiate the tag soup and badly muddled code that still makes up a huge proportion of the web, that you really appreciate why semantic markup is so important.

  • A website may look great, but take off those stylesheets, and if there are no headings in a document, the user has no way of knowing which sections are which, without wading through loads of text.
  • Jaws will announce how many items are in a list, so it can be very easy to get a mental picture of the navigation items, if they are marked up this way, rather than dumped in a table.
  • A visually impared user builds up a mental model of the page in a completely different way to a sighted user – they have no sense of left or right, everything is top-down – so source order of your code is vital in aiding their understanding.
  • Consistency is the byword – not just in the way things look, but in source order, for instance. Markup pages the same way, and you will give a blind user a head start in visualising the next page they visit on your site – because some of the mental model will still apply from previous pages they may have visited.

Frances also did a writeup of the event, and so I won’t repeat too much stuff here. Steve Green also makes some excellent comments on Frances’ post.

BBC Backstage Xmas Bash
The geek Christmas event of 2006 was great fun, at The Cuban bar in Citipoint. Ably organised by Ian Forrester, nearly 400 folks attended. It was really nice to catch up with The Usual Suspects, and I was also able to chat with a few people I hadn’t had the pleasure of talking to before, including Eric Meyer, who was in London running a 2-day Carson Workshop. I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t able to go along to share Eric’s knowledge, but work wouldn’t pay! Maybe next time?

Glutton For Punishment
Talking of parties, I’m just about to head off to the Pub Standards Christmas party this evening, so I better get my skates on…

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