Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Department of Justice Settlement Increases Scope of Web Accessibility Compliance

A recent United States Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement with Ahold USA., Inc. and Peapod, LLC (Peapod) expands the scope of compliance with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which includes providing standards for accessible public accommodations.

Originally, public accommodations were defined as those the public could physically access, however, the DOJ has expanded the definition since 1990. Increasingly, the DOJ has concluded that this includes commercial facilities and websites.

However, this most recent settlement agreement with Peapod is opening the doors of accessibility compliance to include websites that don't have a physical, or "brick and mortar," location for the customer to visit as well as mobile applications that customers can download and/or purchase.

This means that if you build a cool game for a mobile device or even a better functioning email app than the one installed by the device's manufacturer, despite not having a physical location to serve the customers downloading/purchasing your app, you may be sued for discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

This comes on the heels of a Section 508 Refresh for the US which is expected to occur in 2015. Section 508, an amendment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, had its last standards written in 2000. These standards are based on a larger encompassing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, or WCAG 1.0, authored by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

It was a bold move to attempt to define standards that would give all individuals with disabilities access to electronic and information resources given the technology of that time. It has, in fact, been determined to include many holes to access, barely serving individuals with disabilities beyond visual and hearing impairments and missing other ability issues, including cognitive and motor function impairments.

As the standards were implemented, the W3C reconvened to resolve these disparities as they were discovered and technology improved. WCAG 2.0 was recommended in 2008, and numerous countries jumped on board to accept WCAG 2.0 as their standards for accessibility compliance. While the US books still claim we follow the WCAG 1.0, the DOJ has made many rulings in favor of WCAG 2.0 in order to provide access to the entire disabled community, including this most recent settlement agreement with Peapod.

As an institution of higher education that receives both federal and state funding for the programs we provide our community, we must acknowledge these changes to the standards and be ready to comply to the upcoming standards in a reasonable amount of time. That time is growing shorter as these legal proceedings show we've been receiving a fair warning of the future of accessibility compliance. I have and always will provide any accessibility solutions based on WCAG 2.0 recommendations in order for us to move forward as quickly as possible with the conversion of our electronic and information resources and ensure we are providing access to all individuals no matter their abilities.

-Karole

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy Holidays from Web Services!

We hope everyone has a joyful month, and let's hope for a little snow while we are on holiday break!

Happy Holidays from Web Services!

"Meet the Staff" Series - Morgan Hammond, Content Specialist

Name: Morgan Hammond
Morgan Hammond
Titles: Content Specialist
Length of time in Web Services at Tarleton: 3.5 years
Length of time in web occupations: 7 years
Top three areas of expertise: Content Strategy, User Engagement, and Copyright (particularly the TEACH Act)
Topic interests: Same as above with added interest in web usability, cultural diversity, photography, and animal production
Favorite thing about my job: Learning and the practical application of things you never thought you would use.  This field requires you to think on your toes. Just because something has worked in the past does not mean it still applies.  New and emerging technologies pose challenges to the way our students learn, engage, and transition into the real world and I am always intrigued by the way students relate to and use new technology.  My job never gets old!
Hobbies: Decorating! I love to redesign, reimagine, and repurpose everything from farm implements to things in our "junk drawer".  The launch and success of Pinterest only fuels this obsession with redoing!

A "Day in the Life":

  1. Email.  I wish I didn't feel the need to check it first thing because it sucks you in.  You know what I’m talking about.  If I'm not careful, I will "waste" away precious time analyzing new solutions to the world’s problems that arrive at my doorstep via email, even if the initial question is simple.  I strive to provide useful feedback concerning web content that may or may not have been the focus of the initial email.
  2. Check in with the web interns to see if there have been any new developments in project status, development requests, training needs and conversations within their colleges.  Sometimes I am able to help fill in a few details from ongoing projects or past work done with individuals to help in the completion of a project.
  3. Answer a few calls about Cascade questions or training.
  4. Lead an "official" Cascade training.  We typically provide a group training session once a week in which new maintainers learn the basics of Cascade.
  5. Review and/or comment on some of the interns’ work.  We can all use an extra set of eyes when publishing content to the web.  This way our interns learn as they go, can ask questions if they need to, and I learn more about their strengths and weaknesses.
  6. Make updates to a site upon request, while also looking for things like overall usability, accessibility and copyright compliance.
  7. Generate analytic reports upon request.
  8. Consult with a client or a teammate about my findings working on a new or existing site as it relates to a client’s expectations and audience or how it will affect my team from a programming or design standpoint. 
-Morgan

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Homepage 2.0 Goes Live Today

Web Services has been working on solving a number of bugs found on the homepage and making some improvements to the page interface for better functionality on all devices. After all the device testing, we are rolling out Homepage 2.0 today.

Homepage 2.0 Bug and Change List

  • Bug fixes for iPhones, Androids, and Windows Phones.
  • Fixed hanging on scrolling up and down the page on mobile versions.
  • Fixed expanding/contracting menus on mobile navigation.
  • Improved mobile navigation.
  • Fixed background page appearing underneath mobile menus and search fields.
  • New and smoother header reveal on scroll up and disappear on scroll down to provide more real estate for page content.
  • Mobile navigation appears and disappears smoother.
  • Improved tabbing through items and navigation on the page.
  • Improved form field validation checking.
  • Improved load time.
Should you discover any problems or have compliments on the changes (we love hearing when we've done something right), please Submit Feedback on the Changes for the Homepage.

Technical Bug and Change List

Mobile-Specific Bugs

  • iOS8
    • scroll unresponsive
    • mobile main Menu jitter
    • quick double tap closes menus
  • Windows Phone
    • search clicks register to other elements
    • scrolling in mobile windows phone during search scrolls down to main page

Sticky Header

  • added 3 states to the mobile and desktop header
  • transitions between hide, show, and -200px off-screen
  • major  CSS changes supporting elements to allow position relative as a default position when resting at the top

Lazy Load Bugs

  • $("[data-original]”) looped to itemize each element after the dynamic elements are loaded
  • fixed footer images not loading properly

Form Inputs and Validity in Webkit

  • HTML5 enforced validity for HTML5 compatible browsers
  • JS added code to enforce validation in Webkit.  
  • Webkit requires special CSS in iOS to display properly

Collapsify (for expanding/contracting menus, etc.)

  • modularized plugin for collapsing elements
  • optional and default closed and open elements
  • list item as a link not working

Sliderific (for sliding images, news, etc.)

  • now accepts position and button size

Top Nav Hide/Show Delay

  • same as banner code
  • code is in stacked template

Dynamic Menus

  • basic ul li elements
  • datetimestamp to pull fresh data every time minimize cached elements
  • Collapsify after instance load

Unified Mobile and Desktop Search

  • made search a separate div for flow and accessibility
  • moved search default position farther off-screen in CSS as default position in mobile
  • float width bug
  • float over login hides search
  • search font sizes
    • mobile
    • desktop

All Animations are 3D CSS

  • to top
  • audience and main mobile menus
  • search
  • sticky header

Search

  • strange block appearing after search results elements removed
  • appears modal with a grey background on desktop
  • improved More button and flow functionality

CSS

  • only hide tags 
  • indent all code appropriate to width
  • removed deprecated code

Changes in Cascade Server

  • moved around elements in template and created new instances
  • added document.ready to Tarleton F.O.C.U.S. block in all stacked template modules
-Karole and Ernesto

Monday, December 1, 2014

[Video] Lessons @ Lunch: Accessible Emails

Despite saying I wasn't going to post this online, I decided (with the nudging of Daphne) to go ahead and post my very first Lessons @ Lunch, sponsored by the wonderful and patient folk at the Dick Smith Library. I thank Kim Schow, Cathy Wilterding, and Yvonne Mulhern for putting up with all my fidgeting and Chris Grantham for helping resolve all the technical difficulties that made this presentation start a bit late.



If you are looking for something in particular from the presentation, we do have most of the course materials available for your review (excluding the questions at the end of the session) on the Accessibility Website:
The session included demonstrations of assistive technology, or AT, that assists users with disabilities view emails and utilize them as well as potential uses by sighted users:
If you would like to use the Tarleton email template, contact Web Services for a copy.

As always, please feel free to contact me about any questions or concerns you may have about accessibility compliance.

-Karole

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Meet the Staff" Series - Ernesto Martinez, Web Programmer

Full Name: Ernesto "Ernie" Alonzo Martinez
Title: Web Programmer
Length of time in Web Services at Tarleton: 5 Years
Length of time in programming occupation: 12 years
Top  three areas of expertise: Programming, Web Design, Database Development
Topic Interests: circuit design, painting/drawing, carpentry, video/audio/image editing
Favorite thing about my job: I have always enjoyed building things with my hands, and writing code is just like that, but virtually.

A "day in the life" for me:
  1. First part of the day I usually check my emails for any new items of interest that may need my attention. I check Asana for any projects that may be due soon and check off any that I may have forgotten to check off.
  2. Usually I work on internal script programming or any special projects as assigned.  Lately since we have moved to responsive design most of my time is spent on new device IOS changes. I'm really excited about potentially working with a shuttle tracking system project since that may allow for some good old fashioned programing with GPS while leveraging responsive design and HTML5.
  3. Some of the stuff I do is automation. Some projects I have worked on that make our lives easier and more automated: FTP account creator, front page feeds (news, calendar, focus, and menus), and the timeout re-director that makes sure we remain connected to important systems such as Banner and MyGateway to display a proper message when one goes down.
  4. Testing is also very important. Making sure everything works with every device and every browser on that device is very involved. Not everything displays the same, and that requires a lot of code massaging to get them to function in a similar way.
  5. Whenever we have a new project come up, I like to see what other universities have done and do some research on whats available.
  6. Research. Technology moves at the speed of light. If something doesn’t exist today, it will probably exist tomorrow. More often than not it is up to you to make that happen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Web Styling 101: Quick Tips

WantWeb Fashionista to become a web fashionista? Or, do you just want some styling tips to help engage your audience? Look no further, because I've got some tips for you!

Web Services intends to offer a "Styling for the Web" course soon, but in the meantime, please make use of the following tips that I extracted from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA:


  • Use short paragraphs. Large blocks of text can look like walls, and act as such to the user. Research has shown that short, concise paragraphs and bulleted lists work best for web use.
  • Your first paragraph is the most important one. As such, it should be brief, clear, and to the point in order to quickly engage the user. One sentence paragraphs are encouraged.
  • Write in an inverted pyramid style. Place the most important information at the top, extra info toward the bottom.
  • In most cases, it's best to use subheadings to clarify the subject of various sections on a page. Users want to skim and scan for information. Headings help this process exponentially.

  • Don't waste space "welcoming" people to the page. There is no need, and most users ignore any welcome text as filler. Get to the meat - that is what they came for.
    Cut, cut, cut!
  • Just when you think you are done, look again. Cut, cut, and cut your text until it is the most essential message.
  • Name your page clearly. The page title and the navigation title should match as closely as possible. They should also clearly articulate the subject of the page. Do not use "Welcome to Marketing & Communications!" Instead, say "Department of Marketing & Communications."
  • Do not tell users to "use the links on the left." Put the information or links you are referring to right there instead, or just let them find the navigation on their own - if it is clearly visible on the page they will find it.
THIS IS CONSIDERED YELLING ON THE WEB. DO NOT YELL AT YOUR USERS ON TH EWEB. UNLESS YOU CAN BUY THEM ALL CUPCAKES TO MAKE UP FOR IT.
  • Use bold and italics sparingly. Bold should be used for headings and then sparingly for any other emphasis. Too much bold makes text harder, not easier, to read and differentiate.
  • Italics should also be used sparingly. Italics on the web are also hard to read. Try to avoid making long paragraphs italic - you are making the text harder to read, not giving it emphasis. Exceptions are book titles and other grammar stylings.
  • Do not underline text. On the web underline = link. Giving a sentence an underline for emphasis is misleading. And again, you don't really need it.
  • Use all caps very sparingly. Research shows all caps are harder to read than mixed case.
  • Don't try to emphasize too much. If you use bolded headings, short paragraphs, and bulleted lists, you should not need to rely on italics, all caps, or underlining for emphasis. These styles can make the page look messy and compete for the user's attention.
  • Avoid exclamation points. We know Tarleton is awesome! We love it! But exclamation points on websites make can make it look unprofessional! Let the content speak for itself.
Headers and other images
  • Use a header image that is relevant to the subject matter.
  • Avoid pictures of buildings without people. You may know that a picture of the exterior of the Welcome Center fits well for a page, but to most people, and especially to those who are not familiar with our campus, it is meaningless. Remember your users do not have your insider knowledge. Give them pictures of people interacting instead of abstract building pics whenever possible.
  • Let the Web Services office help you put images neatly into your content area. Break up your text with relevant images.

  • Make sure you have accurate copyright permissions to use any picture. Just because it is on the internet does not mean it is free to use. When in doubt, please contact Daphne Hunt at djhunt@tarleton.edu.
Miscellaneous
  • Link, link, and link to relevant information. If you mention a program, link to it. If you include an email address, make it an email link. If you mention a faculty member, link to their bio page. Don't make people go and search for something that you mention if it already has a page somewhere.
  • Make your links contextual. Avoid "Click here." Use part of the actual referencing sentence as the link. Research shows that users like them to be 4-8 words in length.
Do not use:
For commencement information for graduating students click here.

Do use:
Commencement information for graduating students is now available.
  • Avoid jump (anchor) links except on long pages such as FAQs. Research shows that today's web users don't mind scrolling if the content is useful and easy to scan. Anchor points just make pages longer, and are used too often on pages that are already a reasonable length. If you are not sure, please contact Daphne Hunt at djhunt@tarleton.edu so we can discuss it. If you do want to use anchor links, then there are best practices that should be followed.
  • Keep your content up to date. Out-of-date content reflects poorly on the user's overall opinion of the website and the university. It also degrades the trust of the user to later find information on the website. If you put up info that needs to be updated later, mark it on your calendar so you don't forget.
 -Daphne

Tips were extracted from Hampshire College's website.