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Web Developers Meet to Discuss Changes at UNT

By Kenn Moffitt, Director of University Online Communications

There was a meeting of UNT Web developers on Wednesday, November 7 to discuss UNT Web development issues. The attendees got the opportunity to meet departments that offer Web-related services to UNT; groups such as Academic Computing’s Web Support, the UNT Library’s Multimedia Development Lab, the Center for Multimedia Production, the Center for Distributed Learning, and the people involved with ACS' short courses and Benchmarks Online newsletter.

The reasons for scheduling a meeting are many. The nature of the Web at UNT is complex.We have many Web developers from different areas and departments all maintaining Websites that, together, comprise the whole of the UNT Website.These Web developers comprise all experience levels. As you can imagine, communication to all of those affected is difficult when informing all UNT developers about changes that affect all Websites at UNT.

The Web meeting was a good start to open dialogues for more Web development issues. A more regular meeting schedule may be warranted so that UNT Web developers can meet, communicate new information, share ideas and resources, and provide feedback to UNT Web policies and guidelines that already exist. There is a form available at http://www.unt.edu/Webinfo/Webmeet.htm that Web developers can fill out to recommend if we should schedule regular meetings and also to give input about what topics need to be addressed.

State and Federal Accessibility Guidelines

The longest part of the meeting informed Web developers of the UNT, state and federal accessibility guidelines that all Web developers need to be familiar with. Steve Picket from the Office of Disability Accomodation spoke briefly and stated that 1 out of every 16 Americans has a disability of some kind and these numbers are similar in the UNT specific Web population. The state and federal accessibility guidelines make sure that Web content is available to the widest possible audience. Although visual impairment is often the focus of Web accessibility strategies, hearing and mobility impairment also need to be addressed to create Web content that is accessible to all.

According to the federal government’s law, Section 508 requires that Federal agencies electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. The federal laws were implemented on June 1, 2001. The state guidelines have been in effect since Summer of 2000. A full list of the UNT, federal and state policies can be read from the UNT Web info site at http://www.unt.edu/Webinfo/policies.htm . These rules contain many of the recommendations of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) for all Websites. Following the rules, ensures that the broadest possible audience can have a positive experience with a Website’s content. Some of the main federal accessibility guidelines are summarized below:

  • All images must have ALT tags. Alt tags provide text content that describes images used on the site. The text equivalents used in the ALT tags are read to the sight impaired visitor. Images that are used for design only and do not have a text equivalent should contain ALT=””. These null ALT tags allow the text reader (such as JAWS) to skip over the images completely.
  • Frames can be accessible by including a TITLE attribute with the FRAME SRC attribute. The title should clearly identify the role of the different frames and aid the user in navigating between the different frames.
  • Any applets and plug-ins should have an alternative means of relaying the information. Users should be able to read the contents of the page even if they don’t have the plug-in installed or the ability to run scripts.
  • When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
  • Row and column headers should be identified in tables so that a text reader can associate the cells with their heading labels.
  • Multimedia presentations on the Web should have alternative material that allows a person with disabilities to experience the content. For example, if a sound file is used for content, a text equivalent should also be available.
  • Web pages should also be designed so that information provided using color is still readable without color. Make sure that the contrast between text and backgrounds are great enough so that the color blind can still read the content.

While the list of UNT policies and guidelines and the state and federal accessibility guidelines might seem alarming in scope. They are simply common sense rules and best Web practices that have been recommended by the Web community at large for years. By reading through them, you will be able to see that each guideline was created for a specific purpose and provides much needed structure to allow all users to have the best experience available on the UNT Website. It is, after all, the Web user or audience that we create these pages for in the first place. If you have any questions about any of the guidelines please contact me at 940-565-3476 or you can e-mail Moffitt@unt.edu .