Accessible Design Practices

Every effort has been made to ensure maximum accessibility by applying standards-compliant design to the production of this website.

Standards-compliant design

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), along with other groups and standards bodies, has established technologies for creating and interpreting web-based content. These technologies, which are referred to as "web standards," are carefully designed to deliver the greatest benefits to the greatest number of web users while ensuring the long-term viability of any document published on the Web.

By designing and developing this website with these standards, we simplify and lower the cost of production and maintenance and are able to deliver content that is accessible to more people and more types of Internet devices. Websites developed along these lines will continue to function correctly as traditional desktop browsers evolve, and as new Internet devices come to market.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and xHTML

CSS is a simple but powerful mechanism for defining the style and presentation (fonts, colors, margins, and borders) of Web documents. xHTML combines the power and versatility of XML (Extensible Markup Language) with the familiar Web language of HTML. xHTML is the next version of HTML and is designed to allow for richer Web pages capable of displaying on a widening range of browser platforms, including mobile phones, PDAs, and televisions.

Content based in XML and xHTML can be easily modified to be read by the new browsing applications emerging on a variety of Web devices. Through the use of CSS, the content can be set up to render differently in each device according to its inherent capabilities.

By using xHTML and relying on CSS, the pages on this website load faster and are more accessible to all Web browsers and specialized browsing environments used by the visually or physically impaired. By avoiding the use of tables to establish layout and by stripping out font, color, and margin rules from the markup, and aggregating all those style rules into CSS files, design changes can be propagated to all site pages instantly.

Site accessibility features

This site employs many features to make information more accessible:

  • All images have text alternates (ALT attributes)
  • Pages are organized to be functional, even with javascript turned off
  • All text uses relative font sizes so text can be enlarged or reduced using the text size options available in visual browsers (see instructions below)
  • The site can be navigated without the use of a mouse (see instructions below)
  • All pages use flexible page formats so pages can be automatically resized for different window sizes and screen resolutions
  • Page formatting is achieved with CSS to ensure that the semantic structure of the information is preserved
  • All pages are designed with separate cascading style sheets, so they can be replaced by user–defined style sheets
  • This site follows World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, recommendations and accessibility guidelines

Metadata

Metadata has been added to all pages to provide important orientation information to users. The metadata provided includes:

  • A meaningful page title
  • The document language
  • A !DOCTYPE statement to validate to a published formal grammar
  • A description of the site's content
  • Keywords describing the site's contents

Browsers

You will be able to best experience this site and take full advantage of its features by using a standards–compliant browser. The following browsers support numerous web standards including CSS, xHTML, and the DOM (a universal means of controlling the behavior of web pages):

JavaScript

This site may use JavaScript to improve site design, aid user-interaction and validate forms. The use of JavaScript has been carefully considered and implemented so that its negative impact on site accessibility is as minimal as possible. In particular, we have worked to:

  • ensure the JavaScript is directly accessible;
  • provide an accessible, non-JavaScript alternative when JavaScript cannot be made natively accessible;
  • use device independent event handlers;
  • ensure that normal browser functionality is not modified in a way that may cause confusion or inaccessibility;

Despite our attention to providing non-JavaScript alternatives, certain features of this website might not provide such alternatives as JavaScript is essential to the proper functioning of these features.

Ajax integration

Ajax is shorthand for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML and represents a technical approach to building web applications which relies not only on XMLHttpRequest, but on CSS, DOM, and other technologies. Some functionality on this website may involve Ajax integration in an effort to enhance usability, quicken the responsiveness of the user interface and enrich the user experience as a whole.

Plug–ins

Macromedia® Flash™

This site may make use of Macromedia® Flash™ software. Please ensure that you have the latest Flash Player plug–in from Macromedia® (version 6 minimum required).

Known performance issues with Flash

If you have the Shockwave Flash Player running in the background, Flash movies playing in your browser will run significantly slower. To alleviate this problem, simply quit the player application.

The performance of this website may also suffer if you have multiple browser windows with Flash content open at the same time. To enhance the performance of this website, please close other browser windows containing Flash content which you may have open at the same time.

Flash and local connection objects

This site may use local connection objects to enable multiple Macromedia Flash movies to send instructions to each other. As a result, this site's performance might suffer if you have multiple browser windows with Flash content open at the same time. This is due to the local connection object's becoming 'confused' as to which other Flash movie it ought to send instructions to. To remedy this problem, please close other browser windows containing Flash content which you may have open at the same time.

Macromedia and Flash are trademarks of Macromedia, Inc.

Bandwidth considerations and processor speed

Efforts have been made to ensure that this website is as bandwidth-friendly as possible. However, your experience here will be enhanced if you access this site with a fast connection to the Internet (DSL, ISDN, Cable, T-1 etc.) and a computer operating at 500Mhz or faster.

Site navigation

A consistent navigation structure has been provided on all pages of this site. The navigation bar may be used as an indication of which section of the site the user is currently viewing. The selected link is clearly highlighted in the navigation bar.

Links are displayed clearly and in context. The 'title' tag is used to provide additional information about links where necessary. This additional information may be viewed in some browsers when the user's mouse hovers over the link. Some screenreaders may also take advantage of this information.

Access Keys

Access Keys have been implemented throughout the site. Access Keys allow users to directly activate a link using only their keyboard. A full list of the Access Keys used on this site is provided below.

The site can be used without a mouse. The following access keys are will take you to commonly viewed pages such as the home page.

Access Key Function
0 Navigate to the Accessibility page.
1 Navigate to the Homepage.
9 Navigate to the Contact page.

The procedure for using shortcuts, or 'Access' keys, varies depending on which web browser you view the site with. The following table shows the AccessKey combinations for a range of popular web browsers:

OS Browser Access Key Combination
Windows Mozilla ALT + AccessKey
Windows Explorer 4+ ALT + AccessKey (to focus the link) + ENTER to activate
Windows Netscape 6+ ALT + AccessKey
Windows Opera 7 SHIFT + ESC, followed by AccessKey
OS X Firefox CONTROL + AccessKey
OS X Safari CONTROL + AccessKey
OS X Opera CONTROL + AccessKey
OS X Netscape 6+ CONTROL + AccessKey

Use of text on this site

Most navigation elements are plain text and we have provided text alternatives to graphics on the site.

Users who wish to increase the size of the text on screen may do so under the "View" selection on the Browser's main menu [look for an option called "Text Zoom," "Text Magnification," "Text Size," or "Font Size." From that point it should be relatively simple to find and select an additional sub menu option that adjusts text size to your needs.

Visual design and encoding

This site uses Cascading Style Sheets for visual layout. In this way, structure is separated from design. The use of Cascading Stylesheets allows users to apply their own style sheets. The site may however be viewed without stylesheets. No information is lost when stylesheets are disabled.

Relative values were used for all measurements, including font size. This allows the site to adjust to the user's screen size. It also allows the user to set his/her own preferred font size.

The site was designed to take full advantage of version 6+ browsers. However, it may also be viewed using version 4 browsers. It is possible to view the site on both these browser groups without any loss of information, though there will be some visual differences due to varying browser support for Cascading Style Sheets.

Color

The site has been designed using colors that should be both visually appealing and yet provide enough contrast for users who suffer from color–blindness. However, the user may choose to view the high contrast version of the site by setting this option via the style sheet preference buttons located on the top of the site's pages.

Images

This site's interface makes carefully considered use of images and where images do appear, they include text alternates to enhance accessibility.

Content

This site makes use of xHTML tags that provide additional information about structural items. These are used to add summary descriptions to tables, explain hierarchy within tables, provide emphasis on words and phrases, provide an explanation of abbreviations and to add structure to forms. These tags are often hidden from visual browsers but provide valuable information to non–visual browsers.

Lists

Many lists have title attributes which describe the content of the list in greater detail. Elements are marked up as lists if they follow a logical, structured order.

Links

  • Many links have title attributes which describe the link in greater detail, unless the text of the link already fully describes the target (such as the headline of an article or name of a person).
  • Links are written to make sense out of context.

References

Accessibility Software

  • JAWS, a screen reader for Windows.
  • Home Page Reader, a screen reader for Windows.
  • Lynx, a free text-only web browser for blind users with refreshable Braille displays.
  • Links, a free text-only web browser for visual users with low bandwidth.
  • Opera, a visual browser with many accessibility-related features.

Help Us Make Our Site More Accessible

We strive to make this site accessible to all users. Feedback and suggestions as to how the site can be further improved are welcome. Please send us your feedback, suggestions or queries. Thanks!