One strength of the Joomla community of frontend and UI developers has been that accessibility and its implications for web sites was an acknowledged requirement do their best to consider accessibility guidelines every day.

For many years I talked at conferences about accessibility, but lately it seemed to be unnecessary. The community has moved a great deal forward in terms of accessibility and people have increasingly had an open ear on accessibility issues. However, I am concerned that accessibility is now receiving less attention.

What were the reasons for the turn-around?

  • Is it the awesome new features in HTML5 which make people forget about accessibility, although HTML5 also has plenty of really good accessibility features?
  • Could it be that in education the importance of accessibility is not communicated?
  • Are the international web standards too complicated to understand or too detailed to be considered?
  • Are there no project managers left who can put the increasing number of pieces together in complex processes that belong to a project?
  • Are there economic reasons for neglecting accessibility requirements?

Perhaps each plays a partial role, and perhaps it doesn't matter too much what the real reason is. Joomla! has great potential and we must not lose the opportunity. Let us take accessibility back into focus when developing. There are several aspects to be considered. Let us look at a few.

  • No unnecessary layout tables
  • Separating content and presentation (layout and formating with CSS)
  • Semantic and logical structures
  • Careful coloring
  • Consideration of minimal contrast ratios
  • Variable font sizes
  • Fluid or elastic layouts
  • No images of text
  • No transparent backgrounds for images
  • Making sure that navigational elements are perceivable
  • Making sure events are not mouse-triggered, but can be triggered also with a keyboard
  • Highlighting focus (keyboard)
  • And so on

From my point of view the major flaw in the new layouts is currently the semantics.

What are semantics?

Semantics is a linguistic term and describes the relationship between characters and their meaning. Semantics become important on web sites when users are to find, combine or exchange information in an easy manner. This elementary requirement doesn't even put users with disabilities the main focus.

Semantics is about giving documents a methodology to enable all user agents to deliver a logical and readable page, so that user agents and users can work efficiently. Browsers, search engines or other tools (e.g. transformation tools) as well as human beings can work better with semantic pages. Of course, a semantic page is also the basis for an accessible page, but it is definitely not limited to that.Creating a meaningful and logical structure is not always easy - it depends a lot on the content or the project.

When creating Joomla! Templates or dealing with frontend results we are not bound to a fixed structure! We must offer a structure that is flexible and reacts to user requirements. Putting it to a point: We do not know what content structure the user is going to require, we do not know how many columns are needed in a layout and we do not know where a certain module is going to be positioned. That is not an easy job.

HTML5 has simplified this process by giving us elements which we didn't have before. We can improve the Joomla! Frontend to perfection. We have a deadline for Joomla! 3.0 in the near future. In Joomla 3 so far the main design focus has been on developing better ways for extension developers to interact with the core of Joomla in a seamless way. This is important work for everyone. However it is also important that this build on but not replace the tremendous work that Joomla 2.5 did in terms of web standards, accessibility and semantics.

I hope we are able to discuss and implement accessibility and a meaningful semantic structure.

I opened a thread in the UX forum

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