CSUN 2014 Web Track Mega Post

As usual, I like to make a post that sums up my entire conference experience…I call this the “Mega Post.”  As you may have guessed from the titles of the sessions I attended, I’m interested in the web track.  If the web is your bag, you just might find all this helpful.



Friday, March 21


Thursday, March 20


Wednesday, March 19


Tuesday, March 18


Monday, March 17

How to Win the Accessibility 3-Legged Race

This is my second session from the third day at the CSUN conference.  This description of this session from the event guide says that “We need accessible web products from our design agencies.  How do we make sure they deliver on that?  We provide practical advice drawn from experience.”  These guys definitely have the best session titles, and all their sessions I’ve attended were entertaining and had great usable content.  The very first slide has My Little Pony, so we’re definitely off to a strong start.  This might be my last post of the conference, since I have a train to catch.  Onward!






George and Billy talked a bit about themselves and what they do.  They then said they’d help us with the often awkward “agency-client handshake.”  #awkwardhug



  1. Set yourself up for success
  2. Create strategy and stick to it
  3. Be realistic about your team’s a11y knowledge
  4. Use testing tools AND test with users
  5. ABC always be closing

Round-the-room discussion


If you ask a simple question as a client like “is the product keyboard accessible” and they come back with Ctrl-Shift-Alt-F2-w-t-f”  That will tell you a lot about the company.  Common excuses and comments:

  • An excuse is “on our web site we sell ___ so blind people will not visit our web site.
  • Accessible web sites are ugly


Set yourself up for success

  • Ask lots of questions.  Early on.
  • If you see a lot of checklists early on, that is often something to be concerned about.
  • If you’re in an AGENCY:  “we need an accessible web site” is not a good requirement.  Read between the lines…is it a legal requirement, or do they have corporate buy-in?  What if you’re the only agency who is successful in delivering accessible web products?  Make it something that you can sell, list it on your web site!
  • If you’re a CLIENT, talk to your peers.


Create a Strategy and Stick to It

  • AGENCY:  work the client to develop milestones and figure out how to get there.  Make it an integral part of your workflow, it’s becoming a competitive advantage.  Bake it in at every stage.  Your account/project manager needs to clearly articulate how accessibility is done.
  • CLIENT:  ask one question:  what’s your accessibility strategy?  Pro tip:  if you have style guides / development guidelines that include accessibility, share those with the agency.  Compromise is OK as long as it’s realistic.


Be realistic about your team’s accessibility knowledge

  • AGENCY:  use your strongest web guy for the job; your SharePoint guy ain’t gonna cut it!
  • You need your whole team to know accessibility.  Teamwork, not “the one guy who knows VoiceOver”
  • Start small, ask your team to take the short online AODA / Customer Service course (a google search will turn this up).  Pro tip:  put a requirement in your RFP that the agency must take  this course.  It won’t make them experts, but it will give them a baseline knowledge.
  • CLIENT:  testing only with screen readers is not going to cut it.
  • Make sure you’re comfortable with the agency’s accessibility knowledge.  Don’t get into meetings / calls with the sales team, ask for the PM, BAs, designers, etc.  Ask for examples of their work with other accessible projects.  If the agency has no proven knowledge of accessibility, hire a third party.


Use testing tools AND test with users

  • Find the testing tools that work for you and use them.  It needs to be a part of your workflow.
  • AGENCY:  Test with users with disabilities.  You don’t need to invest in expensive testing tools. Just turn on VoiceOver on your Mac or High Contrast Mode in Windows.  Other tools we recommend are WebAIM WAVE toolbar, aViewer, Web Accessibility Toolbar, Color Contrast Analyzer, etc.
  • CLIENT:  Test with users with disabilities or at least simulate with assistive technologies.  Use automated testing tools, especially for regularly-posted content.  Be smart about prioritizing:  1 big issue on 1 page versus 1 small issue on 80 pages.


Always be Closing

  • “We’ll just do it in phase 2″ never happens
  • Use MVP (minimum viable product) for accessibility
  • Write a report that clearly depicts the accessibility results.
  • Do good work and don’t be afraid to show the client you can do it again, this is your chance to articulate that in the report.
  • CLIENT:  spot-check, then sign-off on it.  It’s better to launch with some accessibility issues than not launch at all. Planning for some remediation is OK.  Ask the agency to report on the results of their accessibility strategy/work completed.  HINT:  you don’t actually care how they report.  Major benefit?  You flip the accessibility process upside down!  You’re basically asking for two things:  do the accessibility work and tell me about what you did.

Making Accessibility Compliance Claims – VPATs and GPATs

This is my first session from the third day at the CSUN conference.  This description of this session from the event guide says that “methods and techniques for developer valid, defensible claims of accessibility compliance in public sector procurements including VPATs and GPATs.”  In my experience working with vendors of IT products and services, one thing I’ve learned is that while they may say they have a VPAT,  we often provide the vendor with tips and guidance that they then sell right back to us!  This is the first time I’ve been in a session put on SSB BART Group, I’m curious to see what they’re all about.  The Arizona Wildcats pep team was outside making some noise, which was kinda fun.


  • Tim Springer, SSB BART Group
  • Matt Arana, SSB BART Group




SSB has been around for about 20 years, we’re a completely accessibility-focused group.  They cover pretty much the gamut of technology platforms and have done a huge number of audits and reviews.


A compliance claim is “An official statement of compliance of [something] with a [standard/guideline]”

  • Section 508 does not currently define a conformance claim process
  • WCAG has a conformance claim process

Compliance claims are often used in procurement, regulatory, and litigation situations.  Some causes for concern include claims without substance, claims against nebulous requirements and claims that are false.


Laws, Standards and Guidelines

  • WCAG is published by W3C; there are two versions, 1.0 and 2.0.
  • From the basis of most web accessibility standards, including 508

WCAG is strongly aligned with EU and 508 laws.  508 is purely a federal law.

CVAA (US) requires communication and video that go over the Internet to be accessible.  Primarily targeted at communications software and equipment manufacturers, video service providers and producers of video content.

ADA is a US civil rights law, and application to IT is tricky.  There are no technical standards for compliance.


Scope of Coverage:  If it has to do with 1s and 0s, it may be impacted

  • 508:  all EIT
  • ADA: public and employee facing EIT
  • CVAA:  Communications and video EIT
  • May also see information and communication technology (ICT) used

Where are you selling, who’s buying, and what are the risks?  These should be considered as part of your “go to market strategy.”



  • VPAT is a registered trademark of the ITIC:  Information Technology Industry Counsel
  • Current version 1.3, ITIC accessibility policy page has this
  • VPATs have been largely superseded by WCAG compliance claims, especially in the private sector.
  • WCAG is likely to be globally harmonized on



  • A GPAT is Government Product (or Service) Accessibility Template
  • Takes general procurement language and puts it into a document that can be used.  GSA quick links provides GPAT formats for procurement types; BuyAccessible Wizard can generate them de novo.
  • Government may accept a VPAT in lieu of a GPAT
  • While formatted differently, they contain materially the same information.

GPAT and VPATs look essentially the same, but GPAT includes more formalized details about total supported provisions (full, partial, not).  This allows for easier scoring of products.  However, the GPAT may not supersede the VPAT due to lack of awareness, and is more likely to be superseded globally by WCAG compliance claims.  A healthy discussion followed about the trickier aspects of VPAT/GPAT statements of full | partial | not supported.


Statement Creation

What are actually trying to do?  Make it accurate, and it should be done by someone who understands both the system and accessibility.  Have some documentation behind the process…claims should be well justified based on the demonstrable accessibility of your system.  This is good from both a regulatory and sales perspective.  So…you really should do some internal testing for audit purposes.


Auditing Requirements and Constraints

Technical Reqs (1194.21-1194.26), Functional Reqs (1194.31), and Support Reqs (1194.41).  Automatic testing makes up about 25% of the actual testing you need to do on a product to ensure it’s accessible.  Manual testing makes up close to 50% of that effort.  Global testing makes up about 25% of total testing and represents systemic testing, i.e. error messaging, color palettes, etc.  Technical testing is not easy, you need a lot of domain expertise to do it properly.


Audit Approach

Technical testing is broken down each section into best practices.  508 testing is broken down into about 130 separate tests to make sure a tool’s sample pages are web-accessible.  Functional testing involves real-world use cases tested by people with disabilities; can they accomplish the task in the use case?

Lessons Learned: Accessibility Theory vs. Implementation Reality

This is my fifth session from the second day at the CSUN conference.  This description of this session from the event guide says that “standards-compliant accessibility does not always work as expected in real-life implementations…TPG/CGI will share techniques for dealing with inconsistent support by browser and AT products.”  If it’s anything like the other TPG presentations, there will be lots of content and resources…I will do my best to keep up :-)


  • Hans Hillen, The Paciello Group (@hanshillen)
  • Jennifer Gauvreau, CGI
  • Stephen Cutchins, CGI




It SHOULD work versus it DOES work

CGI and TPG have been working together for about two years and made a choice very early on that they would adopt WAI-ARIA and HTML5.  They’ll cover 3 use cases:  theory, use cases demonstrations and workarounds


Browsers and Screen Readers

  • Time + Budget = Targeted Testing Profiles.
  • Profile 1:  Win7, IE8 and IE9, JAWS (v12, v13, v14)
  • Profile 2:  Win7, FF, NVDA (latest stable build)


ARIA Landmarks

  • We weren’t using landmarks and wanted to use them.
  • Theory:  We had heard that it was easy to implement on existing and new pages, supported regardless of (X)HTML version, a real win-win
  • Reality:  initially worked as expected; as real content was added, strange things started happening.
  • Hans then showed what code looks like both with and without landmarks, and followed up by demonstrating with JAWS 12.  When a field is focused and does not have an aria-label on the region, JAWS (v12) reads the entire content of the main landmark.  IE used all the content of the region as fallback content.  Solution:  add an empty title=” ” tag in the body.


JAWS 13+ announces region before each form field

Solution:  wrap the fields in a <div> or <form> and define role=”form” on the form container.  JAWS stops announcing “region” before announcing the form element, but new issues sometimes appear.

Pair new HTML5 <main> element with ARIA role=”main”

  • Adding landmarks wasn’t necessarily guaranteeing a great and consistent user experience.


ARIA Landmarks: Lessons Learned

  • Need to test at a unit (landmark) and integration (page) level
  • Do no harm
  • You may not run into these issues if you have simple static content.  Most of this stuff crops up with forms and CMS-generated content


ARIA Dialogs: a common design pattern

  • Theory:  WAI-ARIA dialog requirements describe this in detail; it worked as expected with test content.
  • Reality:  when adding large sections of complex content to a dialog, things didn’t work as expected.  What would happen is that the dialog would display the contained content halfway down and focus would be on an element far down the page.

Question:  as a fix, could you make the close button the first focusable element?  Answer:  Yes, but there was a reason why we didn’t go that route (although I can’t remember what that reason was).  Instead, we made the heading of the dialog the first focusable element (tabindex=”-1″).  You can also force the dialog role so that it is read in “document mode.”

ARIA Dialogs: Lesson learned - adapt to design challenges

  • Create POC early on using “real world” content, not short strings of boilerplate text
  • Expand design patterns and authoring best practices to meet new design realities
  • Support the use of reusable frameworks like JQuery UI to design/build once and then reuse from a centralized solution for ease of maintenance


Use case 3:  Icons

Define alt text to make HTML images accessible is perhaps the first accessibility concept every developer learns.  However, as web designers and developers have embraced new methods for displaying icons, we were faced with a new set of accessibility challenges to consider

Requirements:  equivalent text content for  icons used to convey content, status or meaning; allow for user personalization; clients and developers need cost-effective scalable solutions.

Reviewed high contrast mode and user-defined style sheets

  •  HTML images should be used for icons conveying information.
  • CSS background images should not be used to convey content and only used for decorative images or as a redundant visual cue for adjacent text.

Designers prefer CSS image solutions (sprites) because they load faster.  Unfortunately, HTML images don’t inherit high contrast theme.  No fallback text for CSS background images.

Solution: build a High Contrast Mode detection script and use font-based icons.

Test your icon approach

Takeaways:always test your solution in high contrast mode, user defined stylesheet, images disable, css disabled


Key Themes

  • Do no harm
  • Adapt to design challenges
  • Be maintainable
  • Be vocal:  id bugs and tell vendors

Oh, Canada? An Overview of Accessibility in the Great White North

This is my fourth session from the second day at the CSUN conference.  This description of this session from the event guide says that “When you combine developer attitudes with government legislation and online media, the results are uniquely Canadian perspectives on the state of digital accessibility.”  I wonder if this means that all their perspectives are extremely polite and amiable?  We shall see…oh wait, I just spied a picture of Justin Bieber in the slide deck.



Two perspectives:

  1. What’s happening in industry and broadcasting/publishing in general
  2. Legislative perspective


Legislative perspective in 2007/2008

We didn’t really have much.  At federal level, we had committed to WCAG1.0 until WCAG2.0 was adopted later.   The private sector’s timeline was a bit different, which Billy will talk about later.  Ontario largely led the charge, followed by Quebec in 2011.  Until recently, there wasn’t much happening that you’d hear about in the international media.

Patrick talked about the results of his 5 year media review (2009 – 2014) of about 15 major sites in Canada (including CTV, CBC, The Weather Network, Canada.com, Toronto Star, etc.).  He reviewed top sites for accessibility on forms, multimedia, tables, structure, clear, focus.  2009 only 7.8% of all tests were satisfactory.


Billy talked about the development side of the equation.  In 2009, accessibility was mentioned, but rarely practiced.  WCAG2.0 was only recently published as a recommendation.  Developers were busy building carousels, modals, tabs, and other features that would grow to haunt them later.  The situation was bleak!


Denis then picked up and talked about his experience getting up-to-speed on legislation in 2009.  He contacted all of the provincial governments to find out what they were doing.  He asked the following 6 questions:

  1. Are there any specific web accessibility standards set for your country/province?  (Mostly no)
  2. Are these standards abased on existing W3C accessibility guidelines?  (Yes)
  3. What conformance level if any is expected for these standards?  (mostly level AA)
  4. Are there any implementation deadlines planned for compliance?  (Mostly no)
  5. Do these standards apply only to government web sites?  (Mostly government web sites)
  6. Are the standards enforced as mandatory policies or just as recommendations? (Mostly recommendations)

The responses allowed Denis to build a ranked grid of sites, with ratios of errors to pages.  This was interesting.  He also transcribed these ratios into a heat map of the actual map of Canada.  This was really interesting.


Patrick then took the mic to talk about the 2014 web sites assessment.  This time, 27% of all tests were satisfactory, based on the testing criteria.  The upshot is that ALL CRITERIA IMPROVED.  This is a big deal, but still a long way to go.  Patrick fielded a number of questions about the tests.  Denis answered a question regarding web accessibility for organizations that have a web presence in Ontario (those with a presence over 50 employees).


Billy then talked a little bit about today’s community.  Informal poll shows that accessibility is still overlooked by some agencies.  It’s not mentioned as a service, and is rarely mentioned in past work.  However, accessibility camp attendance is WAY up.  AODA is probably driving a lot of involvement.  Developer attitudes are very positive.  Meetup groups are gaining in popularity, and developers outside of the accessibility community are speaking about it.  Our camps and Meetups fill up immediately…and we have waiting lists!


Denis asked session attendees if they would share some ideas about what they think the future holds for web accessibility.  Elle Waters said that their company is seeing fewer requests from clients requesting assistance with compliance-related issues.   George talked about his concern that accessibility is still aimed at organizations and governments, not individuals.  A comment was made about the law in Canada not having too much wiggle room and “not enough teeth.”  Some municipalities are actually actively avoiding compliance with the law or putting it off.  In some cases, Canada is looking at litigation in the United States as actually being a good thing that can spur action.  Denis wrapped up by saying that our aging populations will likely be a driving force in adoption of and demand for accessibility.  By 2061, over 1/3 of the population will need accessibility.


Online Media Future

  • Room for improvement
  • Change is happening
  • awareness still needed
  • legislation is making an impact
  • improving development culture




Continuing Adventures in Higher Ed & Technology