Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for February 7

We present to you a menu of tidbits collected in recent days that are too short for blog posts and sometimes too long for a tweet (when we want to add clarifying comments). Headings provide a light grouping to help you skim the offerings. Bon appétit!

Where to Discuss Accessibility?

The Accessify Forum [No longer active as of 15May16] is an excellent place for accessibility discussions – for developers, technical communicators. All are welcome! A recent topic showing the versatility and importance of this forum discusses who is responsible or accountable for accessibility issues. Stop by soon.

Where to Learn About Accessibility?

It depends. Next question. No, seriously, this is a big topic because it depends on what you mean by accessibility. Do you write code? Do you write policies and procedures? Your accessibility focus will depend on your actual work. However, a good foundation is good for everyone, so stopping by the WaSP InterAct Curriculum at webstandards.org will always be a good choice. Get your bearings on the About page. (By the way, it’ll be time to say Happy Birthday soon. WaSP Interact was born at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in April 2009. (SXSW Interactive is focused on emerging technology. The festival includes a trade show, speakers, parties, and a startup accelerator.)

Also see an excellent resource from the OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition (onevoiceict.org 2012-2015). OneVoice aimed to "assist organisations in embedding accessible information and communication technologies (ICT) as a fundamental part of their diversity and inclusion values and culture". See their published report Accessible Information and Communication Technologies Benefits to Business and Society (accessible .pdf).

Text Alternatives

Alt and title attributes are parts of the web content that aren’t immediately visible, yet they are important to know and understand.

Get help from Ian Pouncey’s articles: Alt attributes and Title attributes. Steve Faulkner, The Paciello Group, has been diligently updating the draft for HTML5: techniques for the provision of text alternatives provided an interesting study of how different browsers handle the alt text at the time: alt and title content display in popular browsers, 5 January 2010 by Steve Faulkner – another resource to monitor. Finally, Vlad Alexander asked how web browsers should render alt text.

Definitely an area for technical communicators to monitor!

Short and Sweet – Abbreviations

Make a note of “a11y” and “tsaccess” for future reference.

“a11y” stands for “accessibility”. A is the first letter, y is the last letter, and 11 is the number of all the other letters in between the a and the y! Some might recognize this model from “l10n” (localization) and “i18n” (internationalization). In the world of Twitter, saving letters counts! Purists will cringe, and others will argue that these terms are not clear, but they are here to stay.

“tsaccess” is a new term that stands for “touch screen accessibility”. Touch screens are getting a lot of attention with iPhones, the iPad, and other devices with touch-sensitive screens. Where is the accessibility in that? Jennison Asuncion coined “tsaccess” as a hash tag that can be used to discuss this topic on Twitter, in conferences, or wherever hash tags are used.

Connect the Dots

Braille for Everyone is an interesting new initiative that could lead the way to less expensive braille devices, which could promote a wider use of Braille. Why Braille? You may recall a recent article in the New York Times about Braille and literacy that went around Twitter. Audio books and videos are convenient to use when we are on the go, and videos seem to be touted as the way for technical communicators to make documentation in the futures. The literacy issue that has been raised in connection with the decline in Braille sounds quite alarming. One blogger even asks "can Braille become obsolete? " Technical communicators preparing single-sourced material to be delivered in multiple ways should be very concerned about literacy issues for that material. It is a topic worth monitoring.

Modern technology, however, may have the potential to bring Braille back.


The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy has an article about when to consider revealing a disability to a prospective employer. Your mileage may vary depending on your local laws and situation, but the article has some useful insights.

Employers should read People with Disabilities: The Talent You're Missing (.pdf) by Barbara Frankel, DiversityInc.com, January 21, 2010. No explanation is necessary with that title.

Doing it My Way

The beta version of the accessibility pages for the BBC website is quite impressive. It’s called My web my way and definitely worth a visit, especially for some good old inspiration. The page has links to other great accessibility offerings from the BBC, so grab a cuppa and poke around the site for a while.

An Awesome Newsletter

The University of Minnesota at Duluth has been sending out the Web Design Update newsletter since 2002. Any time news or information is posted to the Web Design Reference site, a newsletter is sent out to subscribers. Get your copy of the newsletter today by following the WDU newsletter subscription information. You can also read past issues on that site. I remember hearing about that site on the STC Lone Writer SIG discussion list years ago. Awesome is the general term used to describe the resources at the Web Design Reference site.

SharePoint and the Technical Communicator

SharePoint is rather notorious among technical communicators – some love to hate it. Offices toss it out on the web because they have it in some package deal. Most could use better training and education, but that requires knowledge about its accessibility. Bruce Lawson wrote about SharePoint accessibility in 2008 and Alastair Campbell wrote about SharePoint 2010 late last year. These two posts should get you talking about accessibility and SharePoint in your workplace.

The Last Word

@gezlemon posted a tweet that was too good to pass up. He writes that it is a true story from Radio 4 (in the UK).

“Right-click on your desktop.”
“What do you see?”
“What did you do?”
“Wrote click on my desktop.”

Link Contributors

This post was glued together with links or inspiration from many people. They are listed with their Twitter names.


Toward Web Development Education

Whatever your speciality in technical communication, Web development education can affect you in some way. The authoring tools you use will change. New areas like mobile technology will provide new career opportunities as services and products move from your desktop to your browser to your mobile phone to … who knows where?

There is a corner of W3C that is dedicated to maintaining some method to this madness. It's the Open Web Education Alliance Incubator Group (OWEA XG) wiki. The OWEA has a charter, which states (in part)

The mission of the Open Web Education Alliance Incubator Group, part of the Incubator Activity, is to help enhance and standardize the architecture of the World Wide Web by facilitating the highest quality standards and best practice based education for future generations of Web professionals through such activities as fostering open communication channels for knowledge transfer and curriculum sharing between corporate entities, educational institutions, Web professionals, and students.

Doesn't "open communication channels for knowledge transfer" just melt your technical communicator heart?

Whatever your interest in this endeavor, the list of current curricula for open Web education is a great place for you to start. Send your peers and especially your developer colleagues to that list of curricula.

By the way, those curricula also provide great opportunities for involvement, if you feel so inclined. WaSP Interact Curriculum  Updated, born at SXSW Interactive in April 2009, is one very exciting place to consider joining. This "living, open curriculum based upon web standards and best practices, designed to teach students the skills of the web professional" is a good place to start sharing your own knowledge – or building your skills.

You can bookmark these links for future reference, but you can also follow WaSP Interact on Twitter for the latest news on this topic.

Hot off the press (or Twitter, to be precise): Read Sitepoint's recent interview with Chris David Mills on the topic of Web education and curricula. It's also a nice introduction to Web development education.