Web Accessibility Basics

What is web accessibility & why is it important?

Web accessibility is about making your website accessible to all Internet users (both disabled and non-disabled), regardless of what browsing technology they’re using. In addition to complying with the law, an accessible website can reap huge benefits on to your website and your business.

Please read the articles, Benefits of an accessible website – part 1 and Benefits of an accessible website – part 2 for more about the importance of web accessibility.

Your website must be able to function with all different browsing technologies

The first and perhaps the most important rule of web accessibility. Not everyone is using the latest version of Internet Explorer, with all the plug-ins and programs that you may require them to have for your website. Different browsing technologies can include:

  • Lynx browser – Text-only browser with no support for tables, CSS, images, JavaScript, Flash or audio and video content
  • WebTV – 560px in width with horizontal scrolling not available
  • Screen reader – Page content read aloud in the order it appears in the HTML document
  • Handheld device – Very small screen with limited support for JavaScript and large images
  • Screen magnifier – As few as three to four words may be able to appear on the screen at any one time
  • Slow connection (below 56kb) – Users may turn off images to enable a faster download time
  • 1600px screen width – Very wide screen

DirecTV versus Dish Network versus cable

When I first signed up for DirecTV, I did so rather begrudgingly. I hate signing long-term contracts for services, but I was truly tired of only having five networks from which to choose (we were only able to pick up NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC and three PBS channels – we didn’t even get UPN or the WB – which, in our area, consequently became MyNetwork and the CW, respectively).

However, I’ve actually become rather attached to the service over the last year or so. I like the all-digital network (which cost me more than twice what DirecTV is costing me when I had the digital cable service when I lived in a cable-ready house), with the built-in programming guide. I actually am at a loss for what to do when I turn on the television at someone else’s house, and I can’t just hit the “guide” button to see what’s on.

An Amusing and Disturbingly Accurate Post

I came across a very amusing and disturbingly accurate post the other day on a blog I frequent. The content of the post deals with how to diplomatically deal with the barrage of requests you get for “front page exposure” at an institution of higher learning.

I’m not sure how much of this translates to the corporate world, but this is a common occurrence at many colleges and universities.

Thankfully, I don’t deal with this at my job nearly as much as Drew seems to.

Running PHP Scripts with Cron

Lots of programmers like PHP for its ability to code and develop web applications fast. Well, this programming language was built for web. We have recently did post on caching with php to make your web sites faster. Today we want to cover another topic many developers are puzzled about, “How to run PHP Scripts with crontab?”

Cron is normally available on all Unix and Linux distributions; if you cannot access it, contact your root or server administrator. It is a daemon which allows you to schedule a program or script for a specific time of execution. If you want to learn more about cron, click here or type “man crontab” at your command prompt.

I have found myself in the need to run PHP scripts at specific times. For example, to update the content of a website, to remove expired articles, to send out e-mails on a given date and a lot more. While some may think that this is were PHP is doomed, I will show you how it’s done.

A Manual crontab?

The first solution that came to my mind was to run the script directly from my browser (e.g. entering www.mydomain.com/script.php into the web browser).

Since I need to run my script on a regular basis, I squashed that idea. My goodness, all the extra hassle is ridiculous.

Avoiding SQL Injection with PHP

This is a very quick tutorial to help people avoid SQL injection with their PHP scripts. It seems all too common that people are writing PHP scripts without considering the fact that someone could easily inject some malicious SQL code that could wreak havoc on an entire Web site.

To put it very simply, for those of you that don’t know what SQL injection is; it’s basically sending SQL code through a script that causes the query to execute unintended commands. Some very good examples of SQL injection can be found in the Wikipedia article.

Here are a few very quick tips to help you avoid SQL injection. Of course, nothing is foolproof, but this should take you a long way.

What I’d Like To See – A Partnership Between DirecTV and MS

Okay, so if the world happened to be an ideal place; here is what I would like to see. I would like to see Microsoft strike a deal with DirecTV, that would allow Zune owners to hook their Zunes directly into their DirecTV DVRs and transfer recorded programs onto their Zune.

I realize that I’m reaching here, which is why I said that it would have to be an ideal world. It’s not that far of a stretch, though, to imagine some company trying to compete with the iPod striking a deal with Dish Network, DirecTV, Comcast or some other major player in the pay-TV world. If the companies were somehow able to work out the legal implications, imagine how great it would be to be able to hook up your digital media player and download the latest episode of Heroes or Doctor Who (or whatever your favorite TV shows are). That USB jack on the front (and, in my case, at least, on the back, too) should be made useful for something eventually.

What are your thoughts on this? Is this something you’d like to see? I know that Apple already introduced Apple TV, which seems to be a similar concept; but I can honestly imagine a company like Microsoft partnering with DirecTV or Comcast or someone, and allowing you to associate a Zune with your DVR.

I’m sure it’s just wishful thinking, but I’ll keep on wishing.