A brand new web gateway

A brand new web gateway McGill University

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McGill Reporter
February 13, 2003 - Volume 35 Number 10
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A brand new web gateway

The web is a remarkably powerful tool for accessing and distributing information. But certain features of web-page design can shut out those with visual or mobility impairments.

Web-surfers might have noticed a big change on McGill's web gateway. As of February 8, a three-month process to make the McGill internet presence more user friendly has come to fruition.

"We wanted to make the site available to as wide a range of people as possible. That meant we had to modify the way our templates are coded and the way they display information so that users with mobility problems as well as people with visual impairments, would be able to use the pages as successfully as people who are able to use their eyes fully," said Web Communications Group manager Karl Jarosiewicz.

Eliminating Javascript pull-down menus was an important part of this process. Text-reading software used by visually impaired computer users can't handle Javascript. The fine-motor mouse control needed to successfully navigate the pull-down menus hindered those with mobility impairments.

Now McGill's nearly 10,000 sites are navigable with access keys, forms can be "tabbed" through and graphics are tagged so reader programs can recognize them.

Conducted under the guidance of vice-principal (information systems and technology) Anthony Masi, the project's success was due in part to the work of Michael Pereira and information architect Eric Smith. Pereira started by researching what McGill needed to do to comply with more rigorous accessibility standards.

"Michael found that for most stuff we were doing the right thing, but there was plenty of room for improvement. What we discovered as we were going along was that not only were we making it easier for people with visual impairments but we were making it easier for everyone cruising the website."

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