Joining OmniTI

Right, now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’m happy to announce here that I will be joining Jon at OmniTI to form part of their interface design team as an accessibility engineer!

Essentially, I’ll be doing the stuff I love: accessible interface design, consulting and training, and quality assurance (“pedant duties”). And I’ll be doing it from within the loving arms of one of the Web’s cleverest companies. To echo what I said the other day, working with the people at OmniTI over recent months has been great. Even though I’ve been working remotely, I’ve been surrounded by really clever folks, which means it’s always a learning experience, and always fun. Hopefully, some of them feel that they have been learning from me, too.

I’ve always sat somewhere between the back-end development geeks and the front-end creative types. In my new job, I will be concentrating on interface design, but I will be working closely with other teams to help ensure accessibility is built into the applications built by OmniTI. It’s perfect for me, and I’m really looking forward to it.

What a way to round off the year! I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of cool stuff in store for 2009. I hope you all have a great Christmas, and I’ll see you on the other side of New Year!

End of the year—all change, please!

Wow! These past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Sit with me a while, and try not to throw up on my trousers…

November

In November, I was invited to the Web Developers Conference in Bristol to sit on a panel with Elliot, Elliott, Dan and Dan (spooky, eh?) to talk about Working in the Industry & Loving the Web. It was a great day, organised by Alex Older to give web design students at UWE in Bristol the chance to meet and talk to people in the industry. The panel was great to be part of—it was my first time seeing a conference from the stage and I really enjoyed it. Hopefully, we imparted some valuable words of wisdom to the audience! As always, it was a real pleasure to meet wonderful folk from our community, and to talk with some of the students in the bar after the event. Both the conference and Bristol SkillSwap the night before were great. If you’re a web design student at UWE, go to next year’s conference. It’s really something that other universities should be doing as well.

November was also brought to you by the number 5, the colour blue, and a healthy dose of rock music. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to PHP North West, but I heard it was excellent and lots of fun.

December

This month, I’ve mostly been wearing my editor’s hat, both at work and in play. I have a strange affection for editorial work, especially as I was pretty crap at English at school. My inner stickler for correct grammar seems to prefer the written word as a medium for articulating my thoughts—a little like how just the right amount of alcohol brings moments of clarity. One of this month’s highlights has been working with Chris, Sean and Jon to set up and run this year’s PHP Advent Calendar. If you’re a PHP developer, be sure to head over there for a good read.

But the big, fat news is that my esteemed colleague and friend, Jon Tan, has joined OmniTI as their Creative Director. We’ve been doing work with OmniTI for some time, and I must say that working with them has been edifying and a real pleasure. The offer they extended to Jon is a great testament to his talents and character, and is truly deserved. Congratulations, my friend.

What about Grow Collective? Well, you’ll have to wait and see what the New Year brings. Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag, I can tell you: I will also be joining OmniTI. In the meantime, I’m off to start my Christmas holiday by getting cosy with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie! Happy Christmas to you and yours, and I’ll see you in 2009.

Linkage

  1. Alex Older: WDC2008, It’s over….for now
  2. Dan Donald: Web Developers Conference
  3. Elliot Jay Stocks: Round-up of 2008 speaking events
  4. Pete Coles: Web Developers Conference Write Up
  5. Rick Hurst: Web Developers Conference 2008

Updated assistive technology videos following comments from Victor Tsaran

Updated some of the notes following comments from Victor Tsaran. Loads of new videos to be added shortly.

Aural CSS notes updated following tests with Opera Voice and FireVox

Opera and the FireVox extension for Firefox both claim to support some of the CSS 3 Speech module properties. Following some quick tests on Windows, Opera 9.62 seems to work reasonably well, but the latest FireVox appears to have broken support.

jQuery UI accordion: enabling keyboard navigation

A couple of weeks back, Karl asked a question about jQuery UI’s Accordion interface widget and keyboard accessibility. I’ve got my head in various JavaScript frameworks at the moment, so I took a quick look.

This article is now a little out of date. The jQuery UI team seem to have updated the framework to use tabindex="-1", fixing one of the problems I outline below. The example code may now be obsolete. I hope to review this soon.

So, what’s an accordion when it’s at home?

You’ve got an accordion interface when you have a small collection of vertically-stacked, collapsible layers of content that a user can flip between. It’s a similar concept to tabbed interfaces where you view one chunk of content at a time, but in an accordion each of the interface controls are vertical and span the full width of the content. It’s easiest explained with an example (make sure you have JavaScript enabled).

Problems with keyboard accessibility

Karl was finding that, while you could navigate and control the accordion using the keyboard in Safari 3 and Internet Explorer 7, there were problems when using Firefox 3. I’m not yet sure why, but it didn’t work at all for me in Opera 9.6.

When testing with Firefox 3, I observed the following:

  • If there is a link inside the accordion control, you cannot navigate to it when tabbing forwards through the page. However, you can access the link when tabbing backwards using Shift+Tab.
  • You cannot tab back through the page from the accordion control using Shift+Tab. Keyboard navigation is trapped.

I traced the problem to the tabindex="0" that jQuery dynamically adds to the accordion controls. The idea is to actually improve accessibility; tabindex="0" should tell browsers to make the accordion control part of the tab order, no matter what type of element it is. For example, if you have a heading as a control for your accordion, setting tabindex="0" on it should allow you to tab to it, even though a heading is not normally accessible using a keyboard.

The onclick problem

Despite this seemingly life-saving technique for adding elements to the tab order of a page, it doesn’t necessarily ensure that our interface is now keyboard accessible. I’ll be doing some testing and explain in a follow-up entry. Following Alistair’s comment, I’ll clarify here by adding that the tabindex technique is valid, but I believe it needs to mature before it can be relied upon.

For now, I can only advise that developers use standard HTML control elements (such as <a> and <button>) to ensure accessibility to keyboard users.

Firefox has problems handling tabindex="0"

So, back to the problem at hand…

Unfortunately, it seems that Firefox has problems with tabindex="0", causing the keyboard navigation issue that Karl was experiencing. The technique could be a good solution, but only if it was widely supported by browsers and was sure to work with assistive technology.

It looks like Jörn Zaefferer is on the case at the jQuery end and is removing the tabindex attributes set by jQuery. In the meantime, this move will (hopefully) force developers to use standard HTML control elements for their interface controls. Unfortunately, the majority of developers may see their interfaces working when using a mouse, assume that it’s all okay, and not test keyboard accessibility.

Fixing it in the meantime

You can “undo” the tabindex that jQuery sets by setting up your accordion something like this:

$('#accordion').accordion({
	header: ".ui-accordion-header"
});
$('#accordion .ui-accordion-header').attr('tabindex','');

Here, we’ve told jQuery to blank all the tabindex attributes on the accordion “headers” (i.e. the accordion interface controls).

An even better solution would use standard HTML control elements (<a>, <button>, …) in the first place, as mentioned above. However, this can restrict your markup a little, and may not make much sense, for example, if you’ve marked up each of your accordion layers with a heading. In any case, you can always the accordion controls dynamically, giving you a bit more freedom as to what element you use.

Added jQuery UI Accordion keyboard accessibility tests

Added examples of jQuery UI‘s Accordion widget to test keyboard accessibility, particularly in Firefox, which seems to have an issue with tabindex="0".

dotjay feeds fixed

I’ve been aware of a problem with my feeds for a little while. The main feed has been working okay, but some of the others I used to offer went a bit screwy. It should all be fixed again now.

You can subscribe to just my blog entries or to entries with a particular tag. So if you only want to be fed my accessibility posts, you can just subscribe to my accessibility feed. I’ve also included a new lab updates feed. Lab updates will also appear in the main feed. I’ve tried to redirect all previous feed URLs so that they will continue to work. My apologies if they break.

Test cases for tabindex bugs in Firefox

Added test cases for weird tabindex behaviour noticed in Firefox.

Trouble setting up a custom front page in WordPress 2.6?

I don’t know if this is a quirk of WordPress 2.6.2 or if something has changed in recent versions that aren’t reflected by the WordPress documentation, but I’ve had a hell of a time setting up a custom front page and shifting the blog index off to its own directory (like example.org/blog/). If anyone else is having a problem with 2.6.2 and custom front pages, this could help you…

In case it matters, I’ve got WordPress installed in its own directory and the site is using a custom theme.

To create a custom front page, you can use the is_front_page() conditional in the index.php theme file:

<?php
if ( is_front_page() ) :
?>
<h2>My front page</h2>
<?php
else:
?>
<h2>Other templates</h2>
<?php
endif;
?>

To create the blog index at /blog/, you need to create a dummy page called “blog”. You should be able to create a template for that page as the blog.php theme file. For some reason, my WordPress installation is not picking up the blog.php theme file, as it should according to the documentation. Without that file, it wasn’t falling back to index.php as I expected either. The latter observation I realised to be my own stupid fault as I had a page.php theme file that was being picked up by WordPress and used for my blog index. Still, blog.php should override the page.php file and it isn’t.

So, I’m currently using page.php for the blog index, detecting it using if_page('blog'):

<?php
if ( is_page('blog') ) :
?>
<h2>My blog index</h2>
<?php
else:
?>
<h2>Other page templates</h2>
<?php
endif;
?>

If you don’t have page.php in your theme, WordPress should fall back to using index.php. As mentioned above, you can detect the front page in there using is_front_page(), but you should also be able to detect the blog index in that file using is_page('blog').

<?php
if ( is_front_page() ) :
?>
<h2>My front page</h2>
<?php
elseif ( is_page('blog') ) :
?>
<h2>My blog index</h2>
<?php
else:
?>
<h2>Other templates</h2>
<?php
endif;
?>

I hope this helps someone else out there.

Embedded audio player added for audio clips

Audio clips now playable using the excellent XSPF music player.