Two years ago today, on March 10, 2008, I launched this website, LFLegal.com. Back then, I had never heard of an anchor that wasn’t on a boat, and didn’t know an ordered list from a market list. But Mike Cherim built me an accessible web site and taught me how to use it. Today, even though most people I know have sites far older than mine, I’m happy to be celebrating the beginning of LFLegal’s third year.
In this post you can read about:
- What I’ve learned about accessibility from maintaining a WCAG 2.0 AAA site
- Tips for quickly finding information on LFLegal
- Some of my favorite posts on LFLegal
- My Thank You’s to Mike Cherim and others who have made this site possible
You can also read the Simplified Summary of this Document, a feature of LFLegal designed to satisfy AAA Success Criteria 3.1.5 of WCAG 2.0.
I hope you will contact me and give me your feedback about the site. I’d love to know what you find useful, hear your suggestions of what could be improved, and learn what additional information would be helpful to you. Please use the Contact Form to let me know what you think.
Maintaining a WCAG AAA Site: Lessons Learned
Mike Cherim designed this site to satisfy the AAA Success Criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Read the Accessibility Conformance Statement for LFLegal. Because of Mike, LFLegal was one of only two AAA sites internationally to be included in the WCAG 2.0 Implementation Report. Read the post about the Implementation Report.
Of course, building an accessible site two years ago does not guarantee that LFLegal is an AAA site today. Yet the basic architecture of this site was so well designed, and Mike Cherim made the back end of this Word Press site so easy for an html novice like me to use, that I believe the site still satisfies all AAA Success Criteria. I will leave it up to my site-testing friends at AFB Consulting, WebAIM, DeQue and elsewhere to let me know if I am wrong!
I have posted 54 articles (including settlement agreements, press releases and general news items) since the site was launched in 2008. (The site already had 46 posted settlement agreements and press releases on launch date that were dated according to when they were in fact negotiated and released. If you look in the June, 1999 archives, for example, you will find the very first Talking ATM press release every issued in the United States, jointly issued by Wells Fargo and the California Council of the Blind on June 23, 1999.)
What have I learned about maintaining an accessible site?
- Number one: Like most things in life, maintaining an accessible site is a lot easier if you have the right tools. If you are building or re-building your website, get professional help from someone who understands accessibility at a deep level. The Guild of Accessible Web Designers is a good place to start.
- Number two: The qualities of patience and mindfulness have been key to me in maintaining an accessible website. I need to remember to slow down enough to check my link text, validate html before posting, make sure I’ve used the abbreviation attribute when needed, test all internal links, and think hard about whether the alt text makes sense out of context. When I do, because of Number one above, the site will remain accessible.
- Number three: Accessibility matters: It is gratifying to hear from friends, colleagues and strangers with visual impairments how easy it is to find information and navigate this web site. For those of you new to the world of accessibility who may be reading this post, trust me when I say that accessibility matters.
- Number four: Accessibility helps sighted people too. I was disappointed some months back to read that “the colours [on LFLegal] are sombre and fitting for a corporate site but there’s just no wow factor.” Read the full review of LFLegal on AccessSites.org It may be true that there is not a lot of razzle dazzle to providing information about advocacy efforts around accessible information and technology. But I can honestly tell you that many sighted visitors have told me “Wow – I really like your web site.” They may not know that they are talking about features core to accessibility such as color contrast, easy navigation and clear links, but I know they are.
- Number five: Simplified Summaries are not so simple. To satisfy WCAG Success Criteria 3.1.5, LFLegal offers a “Simplified Summary” of every post. Criteria 3.1.5 requires an alternative whenever content is written at a level “more advanced than the lower secondary education level after removal of proper names and titles”, and pretty much every page at LFLegal tests at twelfth grade reading level or higher. Mike Cherim made it very easy for me to add the simplified summary at the back end, but writing it has often been a challenge. I often wonder if anyone using the site actually relies on the summaries, I ponder whether I’ve fairly captured the essence of the post, and worry about equating reading level with intelligence. Often, preparing the summaries feels like going through the motions, and I’m glad that 3.1.5 is a AAA criteria. In our Structured Negotiations settlements we ask entities to meet AA standards only.
Tips for Finding Information on this Site
Here are three most important links on this web site:
Structured Negotiations Link
Probably the most visited link on LFLegal is the Structured Negotiations link. It is one of a short list of content links immediately following the main page heading on each page. It appears visually as a graphical link (with a picture of smiling negotiators) on the top right corner of every page on the site.
Selecting that link and landing on the Structured Negotiations page, you will find a list, with links, of all the settlement agreements negotiated using Structured Negotiations instead of litigation since 1999.
You will also find a link to all the press releases issues about these settlements, as well as a link to FAQs about Structured Negotiations — the collaborative advocacy method used for the past 15 years to address issues such as accessible website, accessible pedestrian signals, Talking ATMs, tactile point of sale devices and accessible health care. Visit the Structured Negotiations page now.
I didn’t understand it when Mike set the site up for me, but probably the single most useful link on LFLegal is the Categories link. Every time I put up anything on my website, I assign it to one or more categories. Those categories are designed to make it easy for you, the reader, to find what you are looking for on this website and access all content, no matter when it was posted.
For example, there is a category for Talking ATM settlements, and another for Talking ATM history. One for Point of Sale press releases, one for web accessibility settlements, and one for articles about audio description. Currently there are 27 categories on LFLegal. When you select any one of them from the Categories page, you get a list of short summaries, with links to full posts, of all content within that category displayed chronologically, with the most recent post first. Visit the Categories Page now.
Here’s a confession: It wasn’t until I was writing this post that I discovered that the Archives page of my own site contains a list, with links, of every single post on LFLegal — today’s post makes 101 — in chronological order. I knew that the Archives also has links to every month when something was posted, and selecting those links will give you a short summary of every post that month. That part has not proved too helpful to me. But I was excited to find the list of every post. Visit the Archives list of every post now.
Favorite Posts / Popular Posts
The most popular posts on the site, based on the number of hits, have been articles in September, 2009 about Google’s purchase of ReCaptcha and the New York Attorney General’s web settlement with HSBC, and the recent post about Major League Baseball’s commitment to making mlb.com and the team sites accessible.
My favorite posts to write were not necessarily the most popular. I was excited to write about blind advocates in Pakistan demanding banking access, and was happy when that post lead to an email exchange with the principle organizer of that effort. I felt I was preserving important accessibility history in writing the posts that appear in the Talking ATM history category. These posts don’t get a lot of attention but I have several more in the works.
Another favorite post was about the launch of The Barrier Free Healthcare Initiative, a collaboration designed to advocate for accessibility of information, technology, services and facilities in healthcare. And finally, I am glad to have the People in the News category on this site as a place to post pieces in memory of and honor of friends and colleagues in the accessibility field.
I would not have a website, let alone an accessible site, without the help and support of many friends and colleagues, including those listed here.
Thank you Mike Cherim for building me a great site and teaching me how to use it.
Thank you Louis Libert for putting up all the pictures on LFLegal and coding much of the longer content.
Thank you Josh Miele for many things, including telling me how many Braille characters fit on one line of a business card, thereby helping me chose LFLegal for the url of this website.
Thank you to the following blind computer users, who, in addition to Josh, have collectively taught me so much of what I know about web accessibility, and have done so with patience and support: Brian Charlson; Lucy Greco; the staff at AFB Tech, including Brad Hodges, Lee Huffman and Darren Burton; Marlaina Leiberg; Donna Pomerantz; Frank Welte; and Vita Zavoli.
Thank you to Jim Thatcher, web consultant extraordinaire; to Gregg Vanderheiden who, among other significant help, initially encouraged me to go for the AAA designation; to Andrew Kirkpatrick for helpful advice on PDF and other accessibility issues, and to Shawn Henry, who taught me about web accessibility long before I even thought about having my own web site.
Thank you to the many many members of the blind community who have sent me feedback on this site as well as other websites, thereby teaching me what is really means to have an accessible and usable web site, and why it matters.
Finally, thank you to Linda Dardarian and her nationally recognized civil rights firm, Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen and Dardarian. Linda is my principal co-counsel in negotiating the settlements and writing the press releases without which there would be no LFLegal.