University of Michigan

Accessibility Testing Newsletter > 01.11.2013

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Happy new year!

The Accessibility Testing Newsletter is a twice-monthly publication (second and fourth Fridays) intended to supplement training provided through the Accessible Apps project. It will contain information of use to both programmers and non-programmers. The Newsletter is sent automatically to AIS staff, and to other U-M personnel by request. Please send comments or questions to Jane Vincent, Assistive Technology Lead,

Refresher: Using Speech Input with Interactive Items

You're probably used to seeing ads for speech input software, such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, that show it as an alternative to the keyboard. But did you know that most speech input software can also be used as a mouse alternative?

If web pages are coded correctly, using Dragon with interactive items is very easy. Just say the name of the item, and Dragon will automatically activate it. If there is more than one item with an identical or similar name, Dragon will put a number next to the item; when the user says 'Choose' and the number, the item will activate. In Internet Explorer, this can even be used to move to text fields or activate check boxes.

If a web page is not coded so that it works with Dragon commands, there are usually work-arounds that are effective but less efficient for activating items:

In relatively rare cases, even MouseGrid won't work. This is usually because an object does not persist when MouseGrid is invoked. For example, spoken commands may be effective in pulling down a menu but not in activating options within that menu, and when the user says 'MouseGrid' the menu pulls back up. In these cases, there is no option except using a mouse.

Coming up in our 1/25 issue: a Refresher on color contrast

Problem of the Week: Link Names

I know that on a single page, you're not supposed to use links that have the same name but different targets. But I'm putting together a purchasing website where every item will have a set of links to pricing information, vendor information, etc. Do I really need to give all those links distinct names?

Answer: The definitive answer to this question was provided in a 2007 article by accessibility guru Jim Thatcher. He cites what would become a key WCAG 2.0 concept of the meaning of links to be 'programmatically determined.' In other words, if the purpose of a link can be determined from the review of meaningful and nearby information such as a heading or other text within the same table cell, it can pass WCAG Level A without needing to be unique or meaningful when read out of context.

Consider the example below from a travel website, which shows part of a list of search results:

Screenshot of three flight search results, each of which has a set of identical links, e.g., for flight details, seat map, and fees.

Note that each result has multiple identical links, e.g., 'Show Flight Details' and 'Save.' Thatcher would likely argue that distinguishing information such as flight numbers and departure/arrival times would be sufficient to allow programmatic determination.

So, as long as information is grouped so that screen reader users-and sighted individuals, for that matter-can figure out what links go with what option, you don't need to provide unique link names.

Coming up in our 1/25 issue: Captioning

Answer to 12/14 Quiz Question:

Background: Creating appropriate text equivalents is tricky for most graphics. A balance needs to be struck between providing a screen reader user with enough information to understand the page but not so much extraneous information that it takes an inordinate amount of time to review the page.

For photos, creating a good text equivalent can be particularly complex. Many photos are used for decorative purposes; it's possible to understand the site without knowing the photo content. However, some screen reader users argue that they like hearing about a photo as a way of breaking up the text they are listening to, in the same way that sighted people like the visual diversion photos provide. There is no consensus among screen reader users as to whether decorative photos should be described or should take a null text alternative (ALT='').

If a text alternative is used, a good goal would be to provide a short, meaningful description that adds flavor but doesn't distract from the page's purpose. The graphic below might be described as 'Chris playing his guitar':

Screenshot of web page with picture of man playing guitar next to text.

Example: Take a close look at the photo from the Tech Transfer page below. The 'Celebrate Invention 2012' information is echoed in a caption below the page, so that doesn't need to be included in the text equivalent.

Screenshot of TechTransfer page with one <h2> heading modifying the graphic described in the question and one <h3> heading for News and Events.

Question: Which of the following would be the most appropriate text equivalent?

A. 'Attendees at the Celebrate Invention conference standing near the Arborlight, LLC booth. A man at this booth is speaking to two other men. The crowd includes several bald men, including one near the bottom right corner who has a beard and mustache and is smiling'

B. 'People visiting booths at the Celebrate Invention meeting'

C. 'Photo of people'

Answer: If the goal is to make the equivalent both short and meaningful, (A) fails the former criterion and (C) fails the latter. The most appropriate option, therefore, is (B).

1/11 Quiz Question: Audio Equivalents for Visual Information in Videos

Background: Any information presented in a solely visual format will be inaccessible to blind individuals. This includes information presented within a video; e.g., a demonstration of how to perform a procedure within a web page, or text that is not redundantly spoken. Success criterion 1.2.3. within the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) suggests two strategies for remediation:

As with text equivalents for graphics, it is seldom necessary to describe every visual detail of the video; however, details that are important for understanding or appreciating the video should be described. For instructive videos, make sure that all actions necessary to carry out procedures are described.

Example: A video has the following images and standard audio. Suggested descriptions are also listed.

Image with text: a vision was born with a sole focus to address these needs

Standard audio: Music track with no speech.
Suggested description: 'A vision was born with a sole focus to address these needs.'

Image with text: 4-HELP (734-763-4357)

Standard audio: 'You can call 4-Help and speak to a specially trained service agent.' (Note that a screen reader user may interpret this as 'You can call for help and speak')
Suggested description: 'The 4-Help phone number is 734-764-4357.'

Text box with text Search by name or location... and hover text Type your building

Standard audio: Music track with no speech
Suggested description: 'Type the name of your building into the Search field.'

Question: For each image below, what might be included in an audio description track or transcript to convey the full intent of the information?

Image with text: Minimize redundancy

1. (The phrase 'Minimize redundancy' is not included in the audio)

Image with text: Questions? Feedback? Suggestions? Contact

2. (The URL is not included in the audio)

Image with text: Are you loading an official transcript? An Official Transcript 1. is received in an envelope sealed by the issuing institution, 2. Bears the institutional seal (embossed or watermarked, 3. Bears the official signature of the Registrar (or Recorder)

3. (Audio says, 'An official transcript bears the institutional seal. Here are some examples.')

Evaluation Tool Tip: Performing Keyboard-Only Testing

There are a limited set of keyboard commands that users will expect to work in every application. It's worth memorizing these and noting in your report where they don't work:

Coming up in our 1/25 issue: Exposing hidden WAVE error icons

For the Accessible Apps team:
Pam Fons, Scott Williams, Jane Vincent