Even the clearest, most well-planned Web sites can pose a real challenge to people
with vision problems. Likewise, people with motor skill problems may be unable to
use a mouse and must rely on keyboard shortcuts to navigate a Web page.
To make Web sites more accessible to those with a variety of disabilities, the Web Accessibility
Initiative (WAI)梐 part of the World Wide Web Consortium梙as proposed
guidelines for the design of Web sites. In fact, the U.S. government has mandated its
own set of guidelines (Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act) for all Web sites
built by and for the government. Some states have even more stringent guidelines,
and countries throughout the world are in the process of developing similar requirements.
Following the WAI guidelines will improve your site by making it accessible
to a larger audience.
Dreamweaver MX 2004 provides several tools for meeting these guidelines and helping
Web designers build more accessible sites (Section 5.2.1). But for comprehensive analysis of
your site, use the Accessibility site report. With it, you can evaluate your Web pages to
make sure they comply with W3C guidelines and the requirements of Section 508.
Checking your site against accessibility standards is similar to running any other report.
Follow steps 1-4 in Section 15.6, taking care to turn on the Accessibility checkbox.
Once the report is complete梬hich may take awhile for an entire site梩he process
of identifying and fixing the errors is a little different than with other reports.
Select an error in the Results panel (see Figure 15-14).
Accessibility errors come with one of two designations: Failed and Manual. A
failure (marked by a red X in the Results panel) indicates that some item on the
page fails to meet one of the prescribed guidelines. The most common failure is
missing Alt text for graphics.
"Manual" errors are those that Dreamweaver's not sure about. Check them manually
and make corrections, if you deem them necessary.
In both cases, fixing the problems is up to you; Dreamweaver doesn't do any
You can set up the Insert Image command to help you with missing Alt tags; see Section 5.2.2. In addition,
you'll find some guidance in the new accessibility guide built into the Reference panel (Section 10.5).
Click the More Information (i) button in the Results panel.
The Reference panel shows a description of the problem and techniques for fixing
it (see Figure 15-14).
The UsableNet Accessibility
Reference provides diagnosis
and recommendations for
all accessibility problems
encountered by Dreamweaver's
Double-click the name of the file in the Results panel.
As with other reports, Dreamweaver opens the file and automatically highlights
the offending code. You can then make the recommended changes and save the
15.7.1 Accessibility Priorities
As you'll quickly learn, there are a lot of different guidelines for creating accessible
sites. The whole issue can be confusing (some helpful resources are listed in the box
Building Web sites that meet everyone's requirements can be
daunting. Unless you have screen-reader software to simulate
the experience of a visually impaired visitor, or a crew of
people with a variety of impairments (from color-blindness
to repetitive stress injury), to test your site, how do you know
what it takes to build a fully accessible Web site?
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to get you started.
The best place to start is at the Web Accessibility Initiative's
Web site, especially their accessibility resources page:
Here you'll find lots of information, including examples of different disabilities some Web surfers face, plus tips,
checklists and techniques for making sites accessible. And
if you do want to see how screen readers work with your
site, you can download a demo of JAWS, one of the most
popular screen readers, at
Finally, Macromedia dedicates an entire section of its site to
Here, you'll find explanations of the issues, tips
for using Macromedia products, and a showcase of accessible
To get you started, here are a few of the priority items recommended by the WAI:
Images, animations. Use the Alt property to describe the function of each visual
element on a page (Section 5.2.2).
Image maps. Provide Alt descriptions for each link in an image map (Section 5.4).
Hypertext links. Use understandable text for all links. Try reading it aloud to make
sure the text clearly indicates where the link goes. Avoid "click here" links.
Organizing page content. Use headings, lists, and consistent structure. Avoid the
<font> tag; instead use Cascading Style Sheets for text styling.
Graphs, charts. Summarize information contained in informational graphics.
Scripts, applets, plug-ins. Provide alternative content, in case active features are
inaccessible or unsupported.
Frames. Use the noframes element (Section 9.2.1) and title each frame page.
15.7.2 Accessibility Options
Dreamweaver's accessibility report covers all the WAI recommendations and Section
508 requirements. This thoroughness is commendable, but it may be more than you
need. By all means, pare down the report to include just the guidelines that apply to
your site. To do so, choose SiteReports and turn on the Accessibility box. Click the
Report Options button to open the window shown in Figure 15-15.
The Accessibility options window lets you
control which rules Dreamweaver uses
to evaluate a Web site's accessibility. You
may want to fine-tune this list based on
recommendations in this book or from the
online sources mentioned in the box in
You can disable any rules Dreamweaver uses to evaluate your pages. To turn off an
entire category梖orms, frames, or tables, for example梒lick the name and click
Disable. If you'd like to get more specific, click the + button next to a category name
to expand a list of individual rules for that category. You can select and disable one or more rules. For example, if your site doesn't use frames (Chapter 9), you'll save time
and Dreamweaver's energy by turning off the frames category.