9.733 adaptive technologies for the Web

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Tue, 16 Apr 1996 20:49:10 -0400 (EDT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 733.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: PROF NORM COOMBS <NRCGSH@ritvax.isc.rit.edu> (193)
Subject: Re: 9.729 reading from screen

Yes, a lot of blind people use lynx, but there is an increasing awareness that
something better is needed. Some windows screen readers have worked well with
netscape. Others are in the process of developing special browser that would
use the html code to help access the logic of the page and display information
based on that. For example, if the page is two columns, a browser using the
html logic could read them in sequence rather than reading one line at a time
across the two columns. There is one presently in development that seems
extremely exciting called webspeak.

The problem also includes being sure that the original content is readable.
Some publishers like using more of a bit map document so they can control the
feel of the page, but no screen reader could ever read that. Adobe is in the
process of developing a reader for acrobat for the blind which may become
useful and important.

Below is first 3 urls of places that are doing a lot re disabilities and the
web. The trace center at Wisconsin, the first url is extremely important in
this area and has a lot of universal access information at its site.

After the urls is an article on universal web access.

Norman Coombs nrcgsh@rit.edu Chair of EASI (Equal Access to Software and


Date: Wed, 13 Dec 1995 11:44:09 EST
From: Jamal Mazrui <74444.1076@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: Info access to the web

This is an overview of information access to the Internet web.



Paul Fontaine
Center for Information Technology Accommodation
General Services Administration


The 1934 Telecommunications Act defined the concept of "Universal
Service" for Telephones. The intent was to provide widespread
availability of basic communication services at affordable rates.
Telephone service would be available to everyone, even those in remote
areas. Sixty years later a new revolution is occurring in
telecommunications - The National Information Infrastructure.

The "National Information Infrastructure: Agenda for Action" is the
Federal government's blueprint for the development of the NII. The
"Agenda for Action" clearly defines the principals by which the NII
will be designed. It states:

A major objective in developing the NII will be to extend the
Universal Service concept to the information needs of the American
people in the 21st century. As a matter of fundamental fairness,
this nation cannot accept a division of our people among
telecommunications or information 'Haves' and 'have-nots'. The
administration is committed to developing a broad, modern concept of
Universal Service - one that would emphasize giving all Americans
who desire it easy, affordable access to advanced communications and
information services, regardless of income, disability or location.

This new, expanded "universal Service" I will call "Universal Access".
The Clinton administration is committed to redefining and expanding
the "Universal Service" concept to ensure "universal access" to a
world of information.

Unquestionably, the fastest growing aspect of the NII is the World
Wide Web otherwise known as WWW, W3 or just the Web. This
unprecedented growth of the WWW is due to many factors including its
power, flexibility, elegance, and simplicity. The good news is that
the WWW is very accessible for persons with disabilities. This paper
presents an overview, for information providers and users of the WWW,
of how it can be used to achieve "Universal Access" to the electronic
information of the 21st century.

What is the WWW?

To understand why the WWW is so accessible, it is important to
understand what the WWW is. The WWW is a network of information
servers throughout the world, all interconnected via the Internet

Information providers format the information in files according to a
specific format (HTML), and organize the information on a system
called a server. To access the information, one uses a program called
a browser or viewer. Examples of browsers are Lynx, Mosaic (which are
both free) and numerous commercial products.

The Internet connects the user to all WWW servers throughout the world
using a communications protocol called HTTP (HyperText Transfer

Server <---> Internet <---> Browser

HTML HTTP Mosaic/Lynx

Everything you ever wanted to know about the WWW is available from the
World Wide Web Consortium .

What is HTML?

Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML (2) is the formal language used for
formatting documents on the WWW. The term HyperText Markup Language
consists of two very important concepts: HyperText and Markup

HyperText is a method of expanding on the information in a document by
jumping (hyperlinking) to another place in the document or to another
document. For example, a document about the White House might be
hyperlinked to another document about the President. The document
about the President might in turn be hyperlinked to other documents,
potentially, anywhere on the Internet. The user selects the desired
links to traverse the Web.

A markup language is a system used for designating (tagging) the
structural elements of a document. For example, the Title in a
particular document would be marked with a <TITLE> tag. Other tags
include paragraph <P>, Heading <H1>, etc. HTML is a subset of Standard
Generalized Mark up language (SGML), which is an international (ISO)
standard for document description (ISO 8879). Because WWW documents
are stored in this standardized, structural format, they can be
translated to Braille using standard Braille translation tools.

The most important accessibility feature of the WWW is that HTML files
are stored in ASCII format. Almost every computer architecture,
Operating system and input/output device can work effectively with
ASCII documents.

Complete HTML information is available from the WWW Consortium.

Implementing accessibility on the WWW

Because of the structured nature of HTML, the WWW provides tremendous
power and flexibility in presenting information in multiple formats
(text, audio, video, graphic, etc.). However, the features that
provide power and elegance for some users present potential barriers
for users with sensory impairments. The indiscriminate use of graphic
images and video restrict access for users with visual impairments.
Use of audio and non-captioned video restrict access for users with
hearing impairments.

A secondary problem is alternate file formats. Some WWW providers are
beginning to store some documents in inaccessible file formats such as
PDF from Adobe Systems (3).

The level of accessibility of the information on the WWW is dependent
on the format of the information, the transmission media, and the
display system. Many of the issues related to the transmission media
and the display system cannot be affected by the general user and, as
such, are beyond the scope of this paper. However, anyone creating WWW
information for a Web server has complete control of the accessibility
of her/his information. Careful design and coding of information will
provide access to all users without compromising the power and
elegance of the WWW.

The primary way to assure the accessibility of a WWW document is to
provide all graphic and audio information in alternate formats.

Some general guidelines are as follows:

* In-line graphics or icons should have a short textual description
included in the "ALT=" attribute of the "IMG" element.

* ISMAPs which are essentially a graphic representation of a menu,
should have equivalent text menus. The White House Home Page is a
good example of an ISMAP.

* Audio files should have associated text transcriptions or text

* Include comments in JPEG files.

* Make link text descriptive but brief.

* All HTML documents should strictly follow published
specifications. Proprietary extensions should be avoided.

* Alternate file formats should be used only as alternatives to
rather than replacements for ASCII files.

* If on-line forms are used, there should be an alternate method for
accomplishing the same functions.

More detailed guidelines are available in a separate paper.

Tools and Resources

There are numerous tools and resources which impact accessibility of
the WWW. Some of which include:

* The Center for Information Technology Accommodation (formerly the
Clearinghouse on Computer Accommodation) at the General Services
Administration , works with Federal agencies to ensure the
accessibility of their WWW servers. COCA also is involved with the
development of and implementation of Federal Information
Processing Standards (FIPS) and Federal Information Resource
Management Regulations to ensure optimal accessibility of
information systems within the Federal government. Contact Paul
Fontaine Paul.Fontaine@GSA.GOV

* ICADD - The International Committee on Accessible Document Design
is chartered "to develop and encourage the document
transformations that print disabled persons are working toward.
Members of this committee are working to ensure that the emerging
HTML standards include enhanced accessibility for print disabled
users. Contact Tom Wesley, Department of Computing, University of
Bradford wesley@bradford.ac.uk

* Mosaic Access Project - The developers of Mosaic, at the
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, under funding from the
National Science Foundation, have formed a project team to promote
enhancements to Mosaic which enhance the accessibility of Mosaic
and the Web. Contact: Drew Browning, University of Illinois,

* Jeff Suttor at UCLA has developed and made available a free,
on-line, free, service for translation of on-line HTML documents
to ICADD format . This facilitates the translation of any
properly formatted document to Braille. To use the service,
connect to http://www.ucla.edu/ICADD/html2icadd-form.html Contact:
Jeff Suttor at JSuttor@Library.UCLA.Edu

* Lynx and DOS Lynx are character based viewers. The programs were
created by and are available free from the University of Kansas.
They allow a user to connect to the WWW using a dial-up
connection. Both Lynx (for UNIX) and DOS Lynx (for DOS) systems
work well with speech and Braille interfaces. Lynx is available
for FTP at ftp://ftp2.cc.ukans.edu/pub/www/

Examples of Accessible servers

* The WWW server at the White House in Washington, DC has
implemented many of the guidelines in this paper.
* The WWW server at the Center for IT Accommodation has good stuff
about the NII.

This paper is constantly being updated. The Latest version of the
guidelines can be accessed from our Web server at http://www.gsa.gov/coca

Accessibility on the WWW / June 2, 1995 / Paul.Fontaine@GSA.GOV