www.Thataway.org and Accessibility
This past year, we have decided to move our website in a new direction. Older versions of our site have relied heavily on old website design methods or WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) software that did all the coding work for us. Although this produced websites accessible to a majority of web browsers, it did not take into account visitors with special needs. With the latest version of our site, we have begun to address the needs of all our visitors using web standards, such as style sheets, and accessibility functions to assist those visitors with special needs.
Beginning with the January 2004 launch of the latest version of www.Thataway.org, we have implemented the following new features:
- Our site's layout is built exclusively with style sheets, providing a simpler structure that is more accessible to alternative browsers such as screen readers (for users with sight-based disabilities) and PDAs.
- We have rebuilt all our visual content to include "alt" tags to accommodate users with sight-based disabilities.
- Each page comes equipped with a link that enlarges the font face for people who have difficulty with small type, but do not use a browser equipped with a similar function.
- Each page has the added functionality of access and tabindex keys. See below for a list of available functions.
February 4th, 2005 Update:
It has come to our attention that our fontswitcher may no longer work with Internet Explorer 6 SP2 if certain security settings our left on (script blockers). At this point, there is nothing we can do about this. Also, because access and tab key functionality varies from browser to browser, the browser that you are using may not allow them.
We realized going in that we wouldn't earn an A for accessibility right away. But our goal has and will continue to be striving for the most accessible site we can. And, as always we appreciate and depend on your suggestions and keen eyes. Thanks!
Access & Tab Keys
For our visitors that are familiar with the following, we have added a small handful of access and tab keys to our pages to help with navigation. Not every accesskey or tabindex is found on each page, for example, the "r" is only found on pages with a link to a previous page.
Access Key Settings
- accesskey "k" = skip navigation
- accesskey "b" = about us menu
- accesskey "m" = main page
- accesskey "c" = contact us
- accesskey "u" = advanced updates
- accesskey "s" = advanced search
- accesskey "a" = accessibility page
- accesskey "r" = return to previous page
- accesskey "t" = top of the page
Tab Index Settings
- tabindex "1" = main page link
- tabindex "2" = search entry
- tabindex "3" = search button
- tabindex "4" = advanced updates link
- tabindex "5" = large text link
- tabindex "6" = top of the page link
www.Thataway.org and Web Standards
What are web standards?
A very short and incomplete answer is that web standards are "a set of rules that provide web designers with a common method for designing material for the internet." These rules were researched, tested and published by the World Wide Web Consortium and take into consideration all forms of internet use, even those by users with special needs (whether they be computers or software to assist with disabilities, automated services or different technologies such as webphones or handheld computers.)
Hey! What happened in my Netscape (or IE) 4.xx browser?
One negative result to switching to a standards-based design is the need to finally walk away from one of the most popular (in its time) older browsers: Netscape 4. Unfortunately, the designers of Netscape 4.0 pretty much ignored the advice of standards professionals and decided to do things their way. The folks at Microsoft tried to keep up with Netscape 4 by emulating them. Because of this, the 4.0 browsers do not handle websites based on web standards very well, causing pages built with style sheets, the design component of web standards, to "break."
We've coded around these browser limitations. If you view our site with a 4.0 browser, you will only see our site's content, not the design that is presented through our style sheets. Sorry.
We don't want to tell our visitors how they should be accessing the internet, but if you are still using a 4.0 browser, please consider upgrading. We realize for some this is not as easy as it sounds or might not seem possible, but...
I can imagine there are a few stalwarts hanging on to their old Windows or Mac systems because they admirably do the job they need to. If these systems were built before the advent of the internet, then it's quite likely that a later browser will not work properly. But if they are slightly newer, then you might want to consider the following alternatives to your 4.0 browser.
For older Macintosh Computers:
Opera 5.0 is not as standards compliant as its big brother Opera 6.0, but it is better than Netscape 4.0. It's free as long as you can put up with a small banner ad.
Opera 6.0 has good support for web standards and is also free if you can put up with the banner ad. This link will download the software.
IE 5+ for Macintosh is one of the best browsers out there and the first to come with excellent standards support. It is worth upgrading an old OS 7 Mac to OS 8.1 just to have a reliable modern browser. It is a small and fast program that is unique in all respects; unlike anything else that Microsoft has released for the web.
For older PCs:
Here is a solution if you have an older Windows 95 or 98 machine and you don't want the hassle of upgrading your Microsoft software or just don't want to give the corporate world more of your money.
Mozilla is a cousin of Netscape and is a great browser in its own right. It is also free and will work on a Windows 95 system. It demands computer power that might not be easily had on really old Windows 95 machines, but it doesn't hurt to check it out. This link will take you to a download page.
If you do decide to upgrade Internet Explorer, make sure you upgrade to at least Internet Explorer 5.5.
But what if my computer is just too old?
The first computers that were built with the internet in mind (or perhaps it would be better to say, with the hardware to handle the demands of surfing the web) did not start appearing until 1994-1995. Anything older will require thoughtful upgrading of both hardware and software to keep up with current demands.
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