IDRC - Celebrating 25 Years

1993 - 2018

Continuing Our Work During COVID-19

Read the letter regarding COVID-19 by IDRC Director, Jutta Treviranus.

Supports for complying with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

How do I make my web site accessible? How do I make my office documents accessible? How do I make information available in alternative formats? Businesses and organizations read our AODA Help.

RT @CoLabCoOp: What better way to spend your Thursday than with @Benetech @idrc_ocadu and us? Exploring how to shift power in tech through…
FluidProject RT @colinbdclark: Join us at the PPIG 2020 workshop hosted by @idrc_ocadu in Toronto to explore the margins of programming. Who has agency…

CSUN Conference - March 21, 2000
Laurie Harrison, Jan Richards, Jutta Treviranus

Page Contents:

Part 1: Introduction


  • Easy to accommodate:
  • Varying learning styles
  • Rates
  • Communication formats
  • The Advantage of Structured E-text
  • Transformation into:
  • Redundant, reinforcing or alternative formats
  • Navigation
  • Access to the wealth of the Web
  • Current materials
  • Accessible Internet based communication tools
  • Overcoming time and distance


  • True distance education
  • Augmenting traditional teaching
  • In-class use of web tools


  • JK to Graduate School
  • Professional development
  • Corporate training
  • Continuing education
  • Life long learning

Ultimate Goals:

  • No compromises
  • No "special" accommodation
  • Transparent inclusion

Interim Solution:

  • Modal redundancy
  • Patches, extensions, plug-ins
  • Work-arounds

Near future considerations:

  • Convergence of Web, TV and Telephone
  • XML and its derivatives
  • True Read/Write Web


Part 2: Accessible Courseware

Web based learning on the rise...

  • dramatically increasing number of Web-based courses
  • spurred a growing industry of "courseware" tools to assist educators
  • courseware also used to complement traditional lecture-based programs


  • WebCT, TopClass, CourseInfo, Virtual-U, Lotus Learning Space, Web Course in a Box
  • framework for curriculum, utilities and class management tasks

How does courseware work?

  • assembles HTML pages created by instructor - into an organized framework

Problem #1:

  • instructor may post web pages authored outside of the courseware package, unaware of potential barriers to access


  • step-by-step guides create components - course home page, bulletin boards, quizzes

Problem #2:

  • automation of utilities is efficient for course designers, but reduces control of final formatting of the HTML pages generated by the courseware product itself


  • Automated server-based courseware tools and "wizards" appear to increase efficiency of creation of web-based learning materials
  • But... frequently create obstacles excluding those individuals who stand to benefit most from new technologies


  • courseware platforms could easily facilitate access to education for students with disabilities
  • ironically, very few have included basic accessibility considerations outlined in the WAI guidelines

Product Evaluation

  • in March of 1999, ATRC published an evaluation of six leading courseware products
  • reviewed student user interface
  • accessibility and functionality need to be considered

Strengths... some products

  • include text links
  • include ALT text
  • provide ability to turn frames off
  • have potential "work arounds" to improve accessibility


  • missing ALT text on icons
  • tables to format layout of text
  • frames especially
  • present complex drop-down menus
  • framed navigation system
  • complex bulletin board system
  • java-based tools


  • results indicated at that time that none of the products tested were satisfactory


  • Courseware developers are now scrambling to improve accessibility
  • Rehab Act compliance, ADA pressure
  • New versions released since review showing improvements:
  • Lotus Learning Space
  • WebCT
  • WCB

Inclusion in an Electronic Classroom

  • ATRC is now undertaking an expansion of courseware accessibility reviews
  • Most recent versions
  • Including user testing

Results expected to be available for fall of 2000.

Best Practice #1

  • use templates to encourage correct use of HTML structures
  • then validate HTML files and check for accessibility before adding to the course content
  • use W3C validator or Bobby

For the future

  • courseware developers need to provide accessibility checkers as integrated component of designer interface

Best Practice #2

  • buttons and image maps can be made accessible by adding text link equivalents
  • may be added as page footer
  • may be added by "workaround"

Best Practice #1

  • avoid reliance on frames
  • look for optional use of frames when choosing courseware package
  • or provide a fallback / alternative

Best Practice #4

  • provide a site map linked near top of home page
  • may be automatically generated, or constructed by author

Best Practice #5

  • build alternative communication tools:
  • if tools such as bulletin boards or chat utilities are not accessible construct tools external to the course software until such time as the courseware developer is able to provide them.

WebCT: A Case Study

  • A before and after look at a courseware interface, modified for accessibility enhancement

User ID: guest
Password: guest


Part 3: Automating Validation


  • We have seen that authoring (courseware) tools:
  • simplify the production and maintenance of large amounts of content
  • allow people without specialized programming skills to produce content
  • But...may present accessibility barriers due to the constraints of their design assumptions

How Automation Can Help

  • Server-side validation tools, such as CAST's Bobby, can highlight problems with completed pages.
  • However, the best way to remove barriers to Web content is to include accessibility in the design assumptions of authoring (courseware) tools
  • Reference:

W3C WAI Guidelines

  • The automation of accessibility validation is a concern of two of the W3C Web Access Initiative working gro ups:
  • the WAI Authoring Tool (AU) working group
  • and the Evaluation and Repair (ERT) working group
  • Reference:

A-Prompt Toolkit

  • The A-Prompt Toolkit is the first utility to combine detection of HTML accessibility problems with extensive repair facilities.
  • The toolkit will be produced as an integrated module that can be used by developers of conventional authoring (courseware) tools.
  • Reference:

Alternate Text

  • A-Prompt toolkit prompts for alternative text for images, areas, etc.
  • Bullets and horizontal dividers can be detected by their shape
  • A registry of past text descriptions is stored for later retrieval

A-Prompt: Alt Text (Image)

Screenshot of A-Prompt: Alt Text (Image) D

A-Prompt: Alt Text (Bullet)

Screenshot of A-Prompt: Alt Text (Bullet) D

A-Prompt: Alt Text (Area)

Screenshot of A-Prompt: Alt Text (Area) D

Descriptive Text

  • The A-Prompt toolkit prompts for A-Prompt: Alt Text (Area) descriptive text for images, sounds, scripts, frames, etc.
  • Viewers and players are provided so that the author can easily refer back to the object as they write the descriptive text

A-Prompt: Desc (ASCII Art)

Screenshot of A-Prompt: Desc (ASCII Art) D

A-Prompt: Transcript (Sound)

Screenshot of A-Prompt Transcript (Sound) D

Other Accessible Practices

  • A-Prompt also includes tools to fix a wide array of other HTML accessibility problems:
  • Blinking text
  • Improper header structures
  • Server-side image maps
  • A summary indicates the conformance level of the markup to the WAI Web Content Guidelines.

A-Prompt: Blinking Text

Screenshot of A-Prompt Blinking Text D

A-Prompt: Headers

Screenshot of A-Prompt Headers D

A-Prompt: S-S Image Map

Screenshot of the image map format conversion dialog D

A-Prompt: Summary

Screenshot of Screenshot of summaryD


Part 4: Accessible Formats


  • Challenging Curriculum and Tools:
  • Math
  • Music
  • Interactive courseware and educational simulation
  • Synchronous communication tools

Projects of Note

  • Oregon State University, Science Access Project
  • University of Delaware, Applied Science and Engineering Laboratory
  • AAHE/EASI, Equal Access to Software and Information
  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Accessible Math Notation

  • Problem:
  • Math is communicated through GIFs
  • Cannot be interpreted by screen readers or Braille displays
  • Cannot be edited
  • No two way communication of math

Accessible Math Notation

  • Interim Solution:
  • Text transcript in alt
  • Linked audio recording reading algorithm
  • Linked Nemeth file
  • Vision Lab, Purdue
  • Mavis and Scientific Notebook

Accessible Math Notation

Accessible Music Notation

  • Many proposed formats, no agreement on standard
  • Not on the web
  • Not converted to Braille or Speech
  • Interim solution:
  • Linked redundant formats

Accessible Music Notation

Interactive Exercises or Simulations


  • Equivalent information
  • Manually integrated redundant modality
  • Keyboard access
  • Haptics
  • Applets in accessible formats (SWING and the Audio Look and Feel)

Digital Field Trip

  • We are working with Digital Frog Int'l to make their "Digital Trip to the Rainforest" accessible

Screenshot of the digital field trip route screenD

Chemistry I: Periodic Table

  • This tool will allow students to "hear" and "feel" their way around the periodic table.
  • Rich navigation will allow the user to scan chemicals by their period, valence, electronegativity, etc.

Chemistry II: Simulation

  • We are working with Snowbird Software to make their "Electric Chemistry Building" accessible

Urban Geography Simulation

  • Students can cooperate over a network to plan and connect communities.
  • Accessible (keyboard, self-voicing, high contrast images)

Screenshot of the map screen of the city planner softwareD

Haptic Graphing Tool

  • This tool will allow geography, math and science students to "hear" and "feel" graphs that they create
  • Students will be able to compare the shape of several graphs simultaneously

Related Projects

Synchronous Communication

Media Convergence

  • Captioning as tool to bring hypertext to TV
  • Descriptive Video as annotation and additional commentary
  • Haptics for the masses

Tool Convergence

  • Read/Write, Put/Get Web
  • Requires editable formats
  • Requires open standards
  • Requires interoperability and device independence


  • Goal: No special accommodation needed
  • Access tools as the means for new learning paradigms

Resource Links


--------------65DA6CF979953F0B718702F8 Content-Type: text/html; charset=us-ascii; name="wellsizing.htm" Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit Content-Disposition: inline; filename="wellsizing.htm"

Web Accessibility: Access to Information Exchange in the Workplace

Jutta Treviranus

Adaptive Technology Resource Centre
University of Toronto

Information in the Workplace

  • Tool
  • Commodity
  • Essential to participation
  • "Life-blood"
  • Instrument of power

Communication medium and form of information changing:

  • E-mail
  • Intranet and Web-based information
  • Database
  • Remote access
  • Mobile access

Electronic Text and Computer Mediated Communication

  • Information in a computer
  • vs. printed or spoken information
  • Flexible input and output
  • Open to transformation and interpretation
  • Not tied to location or time

The Ideal Information System

  • Responsive
  • Flexible, Transformable
  • Expandable
  • Scalable
  • Understandable

The Curbcut Advantage

  • A successful, competitive information system equals an accessible information system

Screwdrivers and Business 101

  • Changing standards
  • Changing strategies

Ultimate Goal:

No compromises

  • No "special" accommodation
  • Transparent inclusion

Role of Technology

  • "For people without disabilities, technology makes things convenient, for people with disabilities, it makes things possible."


  • Content and structure independent of presentation
  • Where this is not possible provide alternative presentation
  • Function independent of control method
  • Where this is not possible provide alternative control method

Alternative Access:

  • Alternative display
    • Screen Magnification
    • Screen Reading
    • Refreshable Braille display
    • Tactile device
  • Alternative input
    • Alternative keyboard
    • Alternative mice
    • Indirect access
    • Voice Recognition


  • The information
  • The browser or software application
  • The authoring tool

The Information:

Viewing a Document

  • sizing up a document at first glance
  • the overall sense
  • inventory of content
  • what is emphasized
  • anything of personal interest
  • organization/structure
  • where are we
  • zero in on item of interest


  • obtaining an overview and determining the structure of the document,
  • orienting and moving to desired sections of the document or interface, and
  • obtaining translations of graphically presented information (i.e., animation, video, graphics).

Web Content Accessibility Standards


  • Images & animations. Use the alt attribute to describe the function of all visuals.
  • Image maps. Use client-side MAP and text for hotspots.
  • Multimedia. Provide captioning and transcripts of audio, descriptions of video, and accessible versions in case inaccessible formats are used.
  • Hypertext links. Use text that makes sense when read out of context. For instance, do not use "click here."
  • Page organization. Use headings, lists, and consistent structure. Use CSS for layout and style where possible.
  • Graphs & charts. Summarize or use the longdesc attribute.
  • Scripts, applets, & plug-ins. Provide alternative content in case active features are inaccessible or unsupported.
  • Frames. Label with the title or name attribute.
  • Tables. Make line by line reading sensible. Summarize. Avoid using tables for column layout.
  • Check your work. Validate the HTML. Use evaluation tools and text-only browsers to verify accessibility.

File Formats


The Browser

  • WAI User Agent Accessibility Guidelines
  • Internet Explorer and Netscape
  • Text Browsers
  • Audio Browsers

The Authoring Tool

  • Accessible user interface
  • Creates accessible content

Accessible Software

Keyboard Access

  • Keyboard equivalents for all mouse actions
  • Logical tab order between buttons and lists
  • Keyboard shortcuts for commonly used objects.
  • Document keyboard controls
  • Do not interfere with system based equal access features
  • Allow adjustable response time

Object Information

  • Provide visual focus indicator, exposed to assistive technologies
  • Provide information about user interface objects to assistive technologies (e.g., object is a text box with label "enter password," or a check box which is checked).


  • Text label for Icons (text next to icons, tool tips, bubble help)
  • Consistent use of icons


  • Provide a visual cue for all audio alerts.
  • Present audio information in text format (e.g. captioning)
  • Allow the user to disable sound and adjust the volume.


  • Provide text through an API (application programming interface) supporting interaction with assistive technology or use system text drawing tools.
  • Do not use color coding as the only means of conveying information or indicating an action.
  • Provide a wide variety of color and font settings. Inherit and respect system-wide color settings.
  • Allow users to turn off patterned backgrounds.


  • Bobby
  • A-Prompt
  • HTML verification

A-Prompt Toolkit

  • The A-Prompt Toolkit is the first utility to combine detection of HTML accessibility problems with extensive repair facilities.
  • The toolkit will be produced as an integrated module that can be used by developers of conventional authoring (courseware) tools.
  • Reference:

Corporate Training

Points of Influence

  • Web templates
  • Specifications
  • Audits
  • Documentation
  • Authoring tools
  • Policies
  • Education


  • No compromises
  • No "special" accommodation
  • Transparent inclusion