- Using Lies in Research (by Nate Bolt) - learn from their mistakes to prevent your own 😉
- The Dangers of Design by User (by Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain) - this article shows that the phrase "some research is better than none" doesn't always apply.
- What’s New for Web Designers – Mar 2011 (by Cameron Chapman) - as always a great round-up of new apps for designers.
- User Interface Patterns for Dealing with Interactive Content (by Cameron Chapman) - Cameron is on a roll - another must-read.
- Using Regular Expression: Tools and Resources (by hongkiat) - one must love this little helpers... 😉
- 16 Essential WordPress Plugins Every Blog Must Have (by Karol K.) - more work ahead of me; thx for this compilation Karol.
- Using Power Structure and Gestalt for Visual Hierarchy (by Shawn Borsky) - ...success is more than just what you see: it’s in the planning, structure, approach, and execution.
- A Comprehensive Guide Inside Your (by Alexander Dawson) - talking about SEO... this is a fine summary useful for any website developer.
- 20+ New Apps and Websites for Designers Sep. 2010 (by Cameron Chapman) - is this really happening? Hard to keep up with all the good stuff...
- Picking the Right Tool for your Remote User Testing (by Matt Milosavljevic) - Matt mentions some really useful links in here.
- Helvetica Joins the Web Font Revolution (by Christina Warren) - get 2000 fonts and 25k page views for free - nice for most smaller projects.
- 10 Usability Tips Based on Research Studies (by Cameron Chapman) - essential read!! Go and check it out, will help you argue in your next design discussion!
Following I will identify areas that make web-based maps inaccessible as per WCAG 1.0 (please see section: 'Questions and Possible Research Areas').
Shout for Help
Question: How can Internet Mapping Applications be made accessible for users with disabilities?
If you are currently working on resolving any (or all) of these issues, know of somebody that is working on them or even know existing solutions, I would greatly appreciate if you pointed them out to me.
It is absolutely impossible to continue with our current approach to seek exceptions as a 'work-around'!
It is important to note that I'm not talking about simple Google maps like driving directions or locate services that could be described through alternative, textual output.
Many times a map is the means to select, query, mix and eventually analyze data across multiple layers from multiple services. The input requires good vision and motor skills (mouse) and same applies to the output that is highly visual as well.
A simple example that illustrates this fact pretty well is shown in Figure 1, Drive Times from a specific location based on traffic grid.
Section 508 as explained by Authority 29 U.S.C. 794d: “Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.”
This law is extended and applicable to companies that develop applications for the agency, i.e. ESRI has to adhere to the Section 508 Standards.
The Section 508 Checkpoints were translated into Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which cover most of Section 508 and describe its implementation in terms of HTML & CSS.
So far, exceptions to this law have been granted for the specific case of online maps. It is believed to impose an ‘undue burden’ to the agency/contractor to make maps accessible. In many cases a 1-800 number was provided that would help the user to get the same information.
Questions and Possible Research Areas
Currently the following WCAG checkpoints are Level 1 (A) show-stoppers and need to be solved/researched/implemented:
Checkpoint 1: Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content
How to read a map when blind? E.g. redundant text for active regions/content.
Checkpoint 2: Don’t rely on color alone
Map application could provide different color schemes/black&white/shades of gray?!
Checkpoint 6: Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully
How to provide a map (or alternative) that can be used when scripts are turned off?
Checkpoint 8: Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces
Do not write event-handlers that rely on mouse-coordinates (device-independence; see also Checkpoint 9)
Checkpoint 9: Design for device-independence
How to navigate a map without a mouse?
Checkpoint 12: Provide context and orientation information
How to describe the content of a map (especially after a change, e.g. query)?
You know of a solution?
Please get in touch with me if you know of solutions to these problems!
I hope that solutions for these problems can be found and maps become available to everyone. As always, not only users with disabilities will benefit from these efforts but also the applications themselves, e.g. better SEO (search engine optimization), alternative support for mobile user agents, assistance for elderly people, etc.