Accessibility statement
Accessibility statement for rnspeak.org
wherein a few things are said and done

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This is the official accessibility statement for rnspeak.org. If you have any comments regarding the accessibility (or more importantly, the nonaccessibility) of this site, you can either email me, or, to make things very easy, drop in a comment.


Access keys

A few major browsers have a nifty feature that enable you to jump to specific links by using keyboard shortcut keys on the browser, as per the definitions on the web site. Most browsers do not support access keys (yet), but as the accessibility and web-standards wave starts hitting all those currently languishing web designers, browser developers are bound to sit up and take notice. So if you happen to be using a hapless browser that throws up its message boxes on seeing accesskeys, you're in bad luck.

Use access keys to jump
to specific links directly.

Anyway, for the browsers that do support access keys, this site has ten keys defined (this is harmless to the ignoramus varieties). On Mozilla Firefox, for example, ALT lets you use access keys defined on a site. You can press ALT with an access key to go to the link defined on the web site. So ALT+1 on this site using Mozilla will get you straight to the home page. Refer to your browser's help files to find out the specifics for your browser. ALT+2 is the shortcut to the Writings section, ALT+9 the comments and feedback page, and so on.

The access keys for the major subsections on this site are:

Access key 1
Home page: The central drawing-room kind of page. The starting point, the lodestar. In the unlikely case that you're lost, head here.

Access key 2
Writings: Musings. Self-syndicated screeds. A smorgasbord of essays and other random mumblings.
Access key 3
Software: A few hacks that you might be interested in. The a.out of the developer in me.
Access key 4
Links: External links that, over the years, I've come to like, admire and sometimes worship.
Access key 5
Site map: Links to every page on the site collected into a single page. Autogenerated.
Access key 6
Et Cetera: Everything that doesn't fit in anywhere else!

Access key 7
Web log: An erratically updated web log that I maintain. Served with RSS feed toppings.
Access key 8
Weblog archive: Online archive of the many utterances I've made on my weblog.

Access key 9
Feedback--your comments. Fast and easy way to get back to (or get even with) me.
Access key 0
Email me.

I don't have an access key for the accessibility statement page. But this page can be reached easily from the prominent link on the home page.


Standards compliance

In terms of published and accepted standards of the Web, all pages on this site are fully validated as HTML 4.01 Transitional and CSS, Level 2. Wherever possible, HTML/CSS tags/elements degrade gracefully on newer browsers, without breaking markup for older ones.

All pages use structured semantic markup, and are laid out using cascading style sheets.

I have tried to comply with the W3C Web Content Accessibility guidelines, except in cases where I believe the deviation is irrelevant to visitors of my site (for example, guidelines pertaining to active content). All web pages, although they use CSS for layout and design, are fully accessible without CSS. I'm a personal advocate of this type of clean and elegant design; in fact, I disable CSS (or use my own style sheet) even when browsing with my favourite visual browser--Opera. (Opera's text-browser emulation with White-on-Black is a continuing favourite of mine.)

Text-only accessibility,
on any browser!

This site is fully accessible using text-only browsers like Lynx. With negligible exceptions (in terms of usability), this site conforms to Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3 of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, i.e., AAA Conformance (similarly; Bobby AAA).

I have also tried to comply with the Anybrowser specifications--this site is fully viewable using any browser at all that can read HTML 3+. I've made this site not applicable to as much of the idiocy illustrated in HTML Hell as possible.


Navigational Aids

All pages use similar layout and navigational links. Two permanent navigation bars are available on every page that link to all the major subsections of this site. The home page can be accessed using Access key 1.

I use Google's services for searching (the free personal version). Caching and indexing is hence done by Google. I have not provided an access key for search. It can be easily located on every page (the only input field, except for the feedback page).

I have not put relative links on any of the pages. This is intentional since I believe it is not suited to the style of layout and flow of information on this site. All pages are categorised logically with structured semantic markup, though.


Links

Most links have descriptive titles to them, that elaborate what the link is. If the link text already describes the link in sufficient detail, I have not provided an attributive link text. This has been a judgement call, but I believe I've kept it straightforward and accessible.

Without exception, links have been written to make sense, with respect to the context in which they appear. No `click here' or `click there'. (Rule-of-thumb followed: Will the link text still make sense when printed onto paper or when viewed without hyperlinks active? Links that say `click here' do not, all links on this site will.)


Visual design

All content images have descriptive ALT attributes. Almost all images are purely decorative, with no information value to them at all. Browsing without images is perfectly sensible, accessible as well as fast!

This site uses Cascading Style Sheets for visual layout and design, uses only relative font-sizes, and is fully readable with CSS disabled.

If your browser supports custom page styles, I heartily encourage you to browse this site using a minimalist text-only style. If your browser makes it difficult for you to do that, or impossible, even, consider switching to a browser that can; like Opera. Opera is available for almost all major platforms, including Windows, Macintosh, Linux, BSD, Solaris, OS/2 and QNX. (If you are using Opera, try enabling `Emulate Text Browser' and `High Contrast (W/B)' together, while in `User mode'.)

(A little caveat: I have used external CSS for all pages. Bewarned, therefore, that if (and when) you save a file from this site using your web browser; depending on the degree of sophistication of your browser, the accompanying CSS file may not be copied, and hence, the web page layout will resemble a text-only version. If you want to preserve the layout and images, you will need to copy the stylesheet, and associated images along with the page, and put them in in the appropriate directories, so that the internal paths in the HTML are not broken. In other words, it is basically a pain in the insert-least-liked-body-part-here. You will try to do this only if you want to preserve layout.)


Scripts, cookies, and other unnecessary evils

This site is fully Javascript/JScript/VBScript/ANYScript free. No proprietary extensions or plugins are required to access this site. Just HTML and CSS, which practically every web browser on the planet can understand perfectly. Well, almost.

No cookies or other turd-like tracking elements will be used. I'm interested only in disseminating my thoughts, nothing else.

The back button
is never broken.
Never.

This site never breaks the back button, or changes the hyperlink colours. I know that if you want to open a page in a new window, you'd ask your browser to do it for you. I stay out of the way. The back button is never broken. Never.

No irritating MARQUEEs, blinking text, garish backgrounds, scrollbar/statusbar hijacks or frames. You won't see any of those abominations in here. Exorcised, all of 'em. Nope, nup, none at all.


RELATED RESOURCES

Accessibility software

  1. JAWS is a screen reader for Windows. A time-limited demo is available.
  2. Home Page Reader, a screen reader for Windows. A downloadable demo is available.
  3. Lynx, a free text-only web browser for blind users with refreshable Braille displays. Also used by visual users who use it for speed. Also used by usability/accessibility fanatics who use it to check if their web page is Lynx-accepted.
  4. Links, a free text-only web browser for visual users with low bandwidth.
  5. Opera.
    Opera has more
    features to its
    name than you
    can shake
    a stick at.
    Okay, this one's got more features that you can shake a stick at. Opera is an advanced visual browser with a whole array of accessibility-related features including page zooming, user stylesheets, image toggle; and an even better line-up of power-user features like multiple document interface, integrated Notes, integrated download manager, addressbook, IRC, FTP, newsgroups, RSS newsreader, inline find, mouse gestures, customized search, skins, form wizards, email client, higly fexible cookie management, pop-up blocking, linked browsing, standalone kiosk mode--oh dear god I can go on all day!; just about every feature that a power-speed-flexibility hungry maniac like me can ever dream of using. Highly, highly, highly recommended. The free version is ad-supported, the ads in which can be made to vanish if you register. (Get it, now!). Available for all major systems including Windows, Macintosh, Linux, OS/2, BSD, Solaris and QNX.
A little disclaimer: If you don't need such superliminal, stratospheric configurability; then think no more, just get Mozilla Firefox, the IE-immigrant-crowd friendly browser that's all the rage now, and for good reason.

Accessibility services

  1. Bobby, a free service to analyze web pages for compliance to accessibility guidelines. A full-featured commercial version is also available.
  2. HTML Validator, a free service for checking that web pages conform to published HTML standards.
  3. Web Page Backward Compatibility Viewer, a tool for viewing your web pages without a variety of modern browser features.
  4. Lynx Viewer, a free service for viewing what your web pages would look like in Lynx.

Accessibility and usability references

  1. W3 accessibility guidelines, which explains the reasons behind each guideline.
  2. W3 accessibility techniques, which explains how to implement each guideline.
  3. W3 accessibility checklist, a busy developer's guide to accessibility.
  4. U.S. Federal Government Section 508 accessibility guidelines.
  5. Dive into Accessibility: 30 days to a more accessible website: A freely available book written by Mark Pilgrim (Dive into Mark).
  6. Designing More Usable Web Sites, a large list of additional resources.
  7. Web Style Guide, An excellent overview into the process and principles of designing web pages by Lynch and Horton. A book for all those who wish to publish durable content on the Web. From the foreword: When things change this fast, humans have a hard time adapting, keeping up, and just plain understanding what's going on. But people's reactions to the Web changed so fast precisely because so few of us really understood what it is. In fact, most of us didn't have the time to think hard about how Web sites could truly be useful and good things and how important sound design principles are to making them so.
  8. The HTML Hell page: Eric S. Raymond's critique of bad web design; where he forcefully tears to bits all the pieces of idiocy that make up bad web design. A good read, but a few principles, are, shall we say, suspect and too specific in context to be applicable generally.

Further reading

You might also be interested in reading the site design notes; and the typographical perspective page, wherein I make and defend assumptions and design tradeoffs that I made in designing this site.