The net of the 2008 CSUN Conference
for me was that all of our hard work on Web 2.0 and IAccessible2
has resulted in widespread and growing adoption across the board. WAI-ARIA
was being implemented everywhere but many of the implementations have yet to be fully fleshed out. Our next step will be to help ATs revamp their UIs to better help developers and end users. As a result, I believe a more accessible and usable web and desktop experience will be had by all.
Web 2.0 Accessibility
WAI-ARIA: WAI-ARIA presence grew dramatically at CSUN this week. Until the Microsoft announcement on IE 8 for WAI-ARIA a number of companies had been working on supporting WAI-ARIA but not releasing it. That changed. Google Web Toolkit 1.5 supports WAI-ARIA as does Google Reader. GWT 1.5 should come out in a formal download within the next 2 weeks. Adobe indicated that Adobe's Spry framework for AJAX was adding WAI-ARIA support which will give us tooling support in Dreamweaver. The Apollo SuperNova screen reader/screen magnifier is adding support for it with IAccessible2 support targeted for later this year. WebAIM is adding support for WAI-ARIA as well. Also, the University of Illinois Firefox accessibility plug-in is starting to mature and there are a number of nice features that will help us in WCAG 2.0 support. Google had 2 sessions on WAI-ARIA this week and I saw Microsoft engineers attend at least 2-3 sessions I sat in where they announced to the room that they had support for WAI-ARIA in the IE latest beta. WAI-ARIA is a home run!
On the negative side, aside from Dojo I did not see any demos of any Google or software. I suspect they are not fully debugged. Yahoo and the Paciello Group gave a presentation on their WAI-ARIA implementation in Yahoo Mail and highlighted some of the challenges retrofitting an existing rich internet application. Also, developers are having problems with Window-Eyes and JAWS as they don't automatically switch in and out of application mode. Also, if you turn off browse mode in Window-Eyes a minor refresh can cause it to fall back into browse mode. I discovered Microsoft has a minor problem with the IE 8 beta where you have to turn on WAI-ARIA support in the registry. This is a beta so I suspect this will be corrected in subsequent drops.
- Mashup Session: My mashup session was full with some people standing. Unfortunately, CSUN instituted something new this week which required you to sign up ahead of time and many people were turned away. Many attendees commented that the need for personalization will be very important going forward to address this problem. For most, the mashup problem is new. Here is the mashup presentation.
- Fluid Session: Again, this was a full session. People are very interested in Fluid in that it has created a social network for collaboration of UX designers, accessibility engineers, and application developers. Matt King and I will be discussing how we might use some of its principles into usable access. A number of attendees stated that they wanted to join and participate in Fluid.
- Dojo Session: Becky Gibson's session was very well attended, especially given session given the lateness in the day on Friday. A lot of questions were generated.
- Browsers: In the mind of end users, Firefox was "top dog" at this conference with respect to their accessibility efforts. That said, application developers are looking to IE fully supporting of WAI-ARIA. Microsoft received a lot of well deserved, positive press for their announcement to support WAI-ARIA in IE. There was no word on Safari from Apple on WAI-ARIA support at the conference.
The IAccessible2 panel was packed! All major screen readers were implementing IAccessible2 support: NVDA, JAWS, SuperNova, and Window-Eyes. Additionally AccProbe and Freedom Scientific's Magic support it as well. There were a lot of great comments from the panel. Adobe would like us to address extensibility and assistive technology vendors and developers on how to implement support for IAccessible2. Also, Adobe had asked that there be performance enhancements for AT handling of large documents.
There was a strong emphasis by ATVs, like Freedom Scientific, that the fact that they were involved with the development of IAccessible2 that is something that they know will work. Representatives from GW Micro and Freedom Scientific stated that IAccessible2 is only one tool in their arsenal to provide access. Probably, most
Virtual World Accessibility and a look at 3D Internet
IBM gave a wonderful presentation on their research efforts to make virtual worlds, like Second Life, accessible to blind. They are creating an accessible Web 2.0 navigation panel, using Dojo, to Second Life and they discussed a number of tools they are using to make the environment accessible: leveraging social collaboration to add semantic tagging, assistive avatars, and a "virtual" cane to reach out and find objects to move to. ... Another packed session.[Read More]