[] [next] [contents]

Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0


Editor of this chapter:
Katie Haritos-Shea

Accessibility (Also: Accessible)
Within these guidelines, "accessible Web content" and "accessible authoring tool" mean that the content and tool can be used by people regardless of disability.
To understand the accessibility issues relevant to authoring tool design, consider that many authors may be creating content in contexts very different from your own:
Accessible design will benefit people in these different authoring scenarios and also many people who do not have a physical disability but who have similar needs. For example, someone may be working in a noisy environment and thus require an alternative representation of audio information. Similarly, someone may be working in an eyes-busy environment and thus require an audio equivalent to information they cannot view. Users of small mobile devices (with small screens, no keyboard, and no mouse) have similar functional needs as some users with disabilities.
Accessibility Awareness
An "accessibility-aware" application is one that has been designed to account for authors' differing needs, abilities, and technologies. In the case of authoring tools, this means that (1) care has been taken to ensure that the content produced by user-authors is accessible and (2) that the user interface has been designed to be usable with a variety of display and control technologies.
Accessibility Information
"Accessibility information" is content, including information and markup, that is used to improve the accessibility of a document. Accessibility information includes, but is not limited to, equivalent alternative information.
Accessibility Problem (Also: Inaccessible Markup)
Inaccessible Web content or authoring tools cannot be used by some people with disabilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10] describes how to create accessible Web content.
Accessible Authoring Practice
"Accessible authoring practices" improve the accessibility of Web content. Both authors and tools engage in accessible authoring practices. For example, authors write clearly, structure their content, and provide navigation aids. Tools automatically generate valid markup and assist authors in providing and managing appropriate equivalent alternatives.
An "alert" draws the author's attention to an event or situation. It may require a response from the author. An alert warns the author that there are problems that need to be addressed. Attracting the author's attention artfully can be challenging, since author perceptions of alerts, prompts, and warnings can influence opinions of the tool and even of accessible authoring.
An Unintrusive Alert is an alert such as an icon, underlining, or gentle sound that can be presented to the author without necessitating immediate action. For example, in some word processors misspelled text is highlighted without forcing the author to make immediate corrections. These alerts allow authors to continue editing with the knowledge that problems will be easy to identify at a later time. However, authors may become annoyed at the extra formatting or may choose to ignore the alerts altogether.
An Interruptive Alert is an informative message that interrupts the editing process for the author. For example, interruptive alerts are often presented when an author's action could cause a loss of data. Interruptive alerts allow problems to be brought to the author's attention immediately. However, authors may resent the constant delays and forced actions. Many people prefer to finish expressing an idea before returning to edit its format.
Alternative Information (Also: Equivalent Alternative)
Content is "equivalent" to other content when both fulfill essentially the same function or purpose upon presentation to the user. Equivalent alternatives play an important role in accessible authoring practices since certain types of content may not be accessible to all users (e.g., video, images, audio, etc.). Authors are encouraged to provide text equivalents for non-text content since text may be rendered as synthesized speech for individuals who have visual or learning disabilities, as Braille for individuals who are blind, or as graphical text for individuals who are deaf or do not have a disability. For more information about equivalent alternatives, please refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 1.0 [WCAG10].
Text equivalents for still images can be short ("Site Map Link") or long (e.g., "Figure 4 shows that the population of bacteria doubled approximately every twenty hours over the first one hundred hours, increasing from about 1000 per milliliter to about 32,000 per milliliter."). Text equivalents for audio clips are called "text transcripts". Captions are essential text equivalents for movie audio. Another essential text equivalent for a movie is a "collated text transcript." An essential non-text equivalent for movies is "auditory description" of the key graphical elements of a presentation.
This document uses the term "attribute" as used in SGML and XML ([XML]): Element types may be defined as having any number of attributes. Some attributes are integral to the accessibility of content (e.g., the "alt", "title", and "longdesc" attributes in HTML).
In the following example, the attributes of the beverage element type are "flavor", which has the value "lots", and "color", which has the value "red":
<beverage flavor="lots" color="red">my favorite</beverage>
Auditory Description
An "auditory description" provides information about actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes in a video. Auditory descriptions are commonly used by people who are blind or have low vision, although they may also be used as a low-bandwidth equivalent on the Web. An auditory description is either a prerecorded human voice or a synthesized voice (recorded or automatically generated in real time). The auditory description must be synchronized with the auditory track of a video presentation, usually during natural pauses in the auditory track.
Authoring Tool
An "authoring tool" is any software that is used to produce content for publishing on the Web. Authoring tools include:
Automated Markup Insertion Function
"Automated markup insertion functions" are the features of an authoring tool that allow the author to produce markup without directly typing it. This includes a wide range of tools from simple markup insertion aids (such as a bold button on a toolbar) to markup managers (such as table makers that include powerful tools such as "split cells" that can make multiple changes) to high level site building wizards that produce almost complete documents on the basis of a series of author preferences.
"Captions" are essential text equivalents for movie audio. Captions consist of a text transcript of the auditory track of the movie (or other video presentation) that is synchronized with the video and auditory tracks. Captions are generally rendered graphically and benefit people who can see but are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or cannot hear the audio.
Conversion Tool
A "conversion tool" is any application or application feature (e.g., "Save as HTML") that transforms convent in one format to another format (such as a markup language).
Check for
As used in checkpoint 4.1, "check for" can refer to three types of checking:
  1. In some instances, an authoring tool will be able to check for accessibility problems automatically. For example, checking for validity (checkpoint 2.2) or testing whether an image is the only content of a link.
  2. In some cases, the tool will be able to "suspect" or "guess" that there is a problem, but will need confirmation from the author. For example, in making sure that a sensible reading order is preserved a tool can present a linearized version of a page to the author.
  3. In some cases, a tool must rely mostly on the author, and can only ask the author to check. For example, the tool may prompt the author to verify that equivalent alternatives for multimedia are appropriate. This is the minimal standard to be satisfied. Subtle, rather than extensive, prompting is more likely to be effective in encouraging the author to verify accessibility where it cannot be done automatically.
Current User Selection
When several views coexist, each may have a selection, but only one is active, called the "current user selection." User selections may be rendered specially (e.g., graphically highlighted).
Description Link (D-link)
A "description link", or D-Link, is an author-supplied link to additional information about a piece of content that might otherwise be difficult to access (image, applet, video, etc.).
A "document" is a series of elements that are defined by a markup language (e.g., HTML 4 or an XML application).
Editing an element
"Editing an element" involves making changes to one or more of an element's attributes or properties. This applies to all editing, including, but not limited to, direct coding in a text editing mode, making changes to a property dialog or direct User Interface manipulation.
Editing View
An "editing view" is a view provided by the authoring tool that allows editing.
An "element" is any identifiable object within a document, for example, a character, word, image, paragraph or spreadsheet cell. In [HTML4] and [XML], an element refers to a pair of tags and their content, or an "empty" tag - one that requires no closing tag or content.
The "focus" designates the active element (e.g., link, form control, element with associated scripts, etc.) in a view that will react when the user next interacts with the document.
Generation Tool
A "generation tool" is a program or script that produces automatic markup "on the fly" by following a template or set of rules. The generation may be performed on either the server or client side.
Image Editor
An image editor is a graphics program that provides a variety of options for altering images of different formats.
To "inform" is to make the author aware of an event or situation through alert, prompt, sound, flash, or other means.
Inserting an element
"Inserting an element" involves placing that element's markup within the markup of the file. This applies to all insertions, including, but not limited to, direct coding in a text editing mode, choosing an automated insertion from a pull-down menu or tool bar button, "drag-and-drop" style insertions, or "paste" operations.
Markup Language
Authors encode information using a "markup language" such as HTML [HTML4], SVG [SVG], or MathML [MATHML].
Multimedia Authoring Tool
A "multimedia authoring tool" is software that facilitates integration of diverse media elements into an comprehensive presentation format. Multimedia includes video, audio, images, animation, simulations, and other interactive components.
Presentation Markup
"Presentation markup" is markup language that encodes information about the desired presentation or layout of the content. For example, Cascading Style Sheets ([CSS1], [CSS2]) can be used to control fonts, colors, aural rendering, and graphical positioning. Presentation markup should not be used in place of structural markup to convey structure. For example, authors should mark up lists in HTML with proper list markup and style them with CSS (e.g., to control spacing, bullets, numbering, etc.). Authors should not use other CSS or HTML incorrectly to lay out content graphically so that it resembles a list.
A "prompt" is a request for author input, either information or a decision. For example, a text equivalent entry field prominently displayed in an image insertion dialog would constitute a prompt. In this document prompt does not refer to the narrow software sense of a "prompt," rather it is used as a verb meaning to urge, suggest and encourage. The form and timing that this prompting takes can be user configurable. "Prompting" does not depend upon the author to seek out the support but is initiated by the tool. "Prompting" is more than checking, correcting, and providing help and documentation as encompassed in guidelines 4, 5, 6. The goal of prompting the author is to encourage, urge and support the author in creating meaningful equivalent text without causing frustration that may cause the author to turn off access options. Prompting should be implemented in such a way that it causes a positive disposition and awareness on the part of the author toward accessible authoring practices.
A "property" is a piece of information about an element, for example structural information (e.g., it is item number 7 in a list, or plain text) or presentation information (e.g., that it is marked as bold, its font size is 14). In XML and HTML, properties of an element include the type of the element (e.g., IMG or DL), the values of its attributes, and information associated by means of a style sheet. In a database, properties of a particular element may include values of the entry, and acceptable data types for that entry.
Publishing Tool
A "publishing tool" is software that allows content to be uploaded in an integrated fashion. Sometimes these tools makes changes such as local hyper-reference modifications. Although these tools sometimes stand alone, they may also be integrated into site management tools.
Rendered Content
The "rendered content" of an element is that which the element actually causes to be rendered by the user agent. This may differ from the element's structural content. For example, some elements cause external data to be rendered (e.g., the IMG element in [HTML4]), and in some cases, browsers may render the value of an attribute (e.g., "alt", "title") in place of the element's content.
Rendered View, Preview
A "rendered view" simulates for the author how a user will interact with the content being edited once published.
A "selection" is a set of elements identified for a particular operation. The user selection identifies a set of elements for certain types of user interaction (e.g., cut, copy, and paste operations). The user selection may be established by the user (e.g., by a pointing device or the keyboard) or via an accessibility Application Programmatic Interface (API). A view may have several selections, but only one user selection.
Site Management Tool
A "site management tool" provides an overview of an entire Web site indicating hierarchical structure. It will facilitate management through functions that may include automatic index creation, automatic link updating, and broken link checking.
Structural Markup
"Structural markup" is markup language that encodes information about the structural role of elements of the content. For example, headings, sections, members of a list, and components of a complex diagram can be identified using structural markup. Structural markup should not be used incorrectly to control presentation or layout. For example, authors should not use the BLOCKQUOTE element in HTML [HTML4] to achieve an indentation visual layout effect. Structural markup should be used correctly to communicate the roles of the elements of the content and presentation markup should be used separately to control the presentation and layout.
A "transcript" is a text representation of sounds in an audio clip or an auditory track of a multimedia presentation. A "collated text transcript" for a video combines (collates) caption text with text descriptions of video information (descriptions of the actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes of the visual track). Collated text transcripts are essential for individuals who are deaf-blind and rely on Braille for access to movies and other content.
A "transformation" is a process that changes a document or object into another, equivalent, object according to a discrete set of rules. This includes conversion tools, software that allows the author to change the DTD defined for the original document to another DTD, and the ability to change the markup of lists and convert them into tables.
User Agent
A "user agent" is software that retrieves and renders Web content. User agents include browsers, plug-ins for a particular media type, and some assistive technologies.
User-Configurable Schedule
A "user-configurable schedule" allows the user to determine the type of prompts and alerts that are used, including when they are presented. For example, a user may wish to include multiple images without being prompted for alternative information, and then provide the alternative information in a batch process, or may wish to be reminded each time they add an image. If the prompting is done on a user-configurable schedule they will be able to make that decision themselves. This technique allows a tool to suit the needs a wide range of authors.
Video Editor
A "video editor" is software for manipulating video images. Video editing includes cutting segments (trimming), re-sequencing clips, and adding transitions and other special effects.
Authoring tools may render the same content in a variety of ways; each rendering is called a "view." Some authoring tools will have several different types of view, and some allow views of several documents at once. For instance, one view may show raw markup, a second may show a structured tree, a third may show markup with rendered objects while a final view shows an example of how the document may appear if it were to be rendered by a particular browser. A typical way to distinguish views in a graphic environment is to place each in a separate window.

[previous] [top of this page] [contents] [next