Accessibility Standards and Efforts - First Try

In order to better serve those who use this site, the following steps have been taken to ensure this site is accessible to everyone. The fundamental accessibility features are on by default. This site uses your selected text size for display. This site allows you to set the width for all pages as wide as your screen, or more, and most pages can also display in quite narrow confines. Also everything that works by JavaScript also works by other means with no difference in user interaction (though there may be slight differences in screen display and refresh)1. In general, images are not necessary for the full benefit of the site (though the photo gallery does lose something in the translation to text). There is no place where color comprehension is of required significance. And finally, there are additional interactive accessibility features which can all be turned on at once by using ALT-I. (How the Access Keys, AKA ALT-keys, work is browser specific as described below.)

But first, a couple of conventions used in this page. All keyboard key names are CAPITALIZED and emphasized on this page. Keyboard key combinations are hyphenated thus ALT-A means "hold" (by whatever means) the ALT key down while pressing the A key. A combination may include more than two keys. A sequence of keys is separated by commas (","), e.g., ALT-M, TAB means the ALT-M combination followed by TAB. A capitalized character key, such as A, can be effected with it's unshifted equivalent, i.e., "a". And key names are standardized and may not reflect what your keyboard shows or says: CONTROL = CTRL = CTL, ENTER = RETURN, CMD = COMMAND = [loop-cornered-square]. A keyboard key may have more than one key name, e.g., key "2" is the unshifted version of the same key as "@" which is effected with the addition of the SHIFT key.

And a word about tab stops, known as tabindexes in HTML parlance. Windows Firefox and Internet Explorer have a "natural" tab sequence that moves the user across and down including form fields and clickable links. Unfortunately Opera has a minimal tab sequence that lands in form fields but not on links unless every page creator actually codes in a tabindex for the link. Further, once you code in one tabindex you practically must put them all in since valid landing places without tabindexes always follow those with. Unfortunately Opera also recognizes "-1," which browsers should ignore, as a valid tab stop. In spite of all that our basic page structure (header, footer, menus) all have tabindexes coded in. This means that, until we get a system in place to automatically insert tabindexes to links or form fields within the page content, Opera and Firefox and Internet Explorer will all "TAB" through all the boilerplate page material (header, menus, footer) before the content unless you ALT-T to jump to the end of the "trail of breadcrumbs" that appears above the content on all but the home page. Macintosh/Apple based browsers are a major disappointment all to themselves and their specifics are noted below.

Access Keys

Some browsers support web page defined accesskeys. Often these keys enable jumping to specific links or locations by typing keys defined within the page. At the top of every page and (presumably) visible to page "reader" browsers but not regular CSS browsers is a list of our standard keys (TAB key access to the list is off, in most browsers, by default). If you are using a reader and it does not "read" this list please let us know—and COMPLAIN to your browser author—so we, and/or they can adjust things. (Unfortunately some "reader" authors are operating under the mistaken notion that they should "show" only what is visible to sighted persons thus making "the experience" the same for all, but which, of course, makes it impossible to create an equivalently accessible page and starts an endless spiral of ever more insane "fixes.")

  • I = Turn on (or back to default) all Interactive Accessibility features
  • 0 (zero) = Accessibility statement (this page)
  • 1 (one) = ISP Home page
  • 2 = Skip ("visually") to main content
  • 4 = Search box
  • 8 = Privacy Statement
  • 9 = Feedback/Contact Us
  • M = Move to the start of the Main Menu
  • S = Move to the start of the menu for the Section of the site the page is in
  • T = Move to the end of the "Trail of Breadcrumbs" so you can TAB into the content
  • F = Move to the start of the Footer Menu
  • B = Turn on (or off) content area Bolding of Links (and focus/active link highlighting)

Also the web page can be narrowed (or rewidened) by clicking the rightmost icon below the top right corner Michigan State University logo. The default is wide with your browser set type size but in some circumstances you might wish to use the narrow, smaller type option in order to do, for example, Opera or Internet Explorer 7 bitmap enlargements which enlarge text and graphics on a pixel by pixel basis. You may also want to use the Printer icon to get to a printer friendly version of the content of the page without all the boilerplate page structure elements. All access keys that can actually do something are still available in a printer friendly version of a page.

In the following paragraphs are browser specific instructions. They may not be exactly correct for older versions of browsers or newer versions of browsers than those we tested with. We strongly suggest, to avoid confusion, you only study the one applicable to you for your current browser and that you play with it a bit in your browser to understand what works and what doesn't. Unfortunately we also must suggest that, if you cannot use the mouse point-and-click model (which all below browsers support very well) and you need the accessibility features, that you choose only one of the recommended browsers below or an accessibility browser that has solid mechanisms built in to appropriately handle most web pages.

Windows Internet Explorer: RECOMMENDED You can press ALT plus an access key then the ENTER key if an action, such as following a link to a new page or to a menu within the page, is to be executed. To get to the search box is simply ALT-4. Other examples are, ALT-0 (zero), ENTER, gets you to this page while ALT-M, ENTER will get you to the first Main Menu choice (ENTER would then follow that menu choice link and take you to the page or another TAB would land you on the next Main Menu choice, etc.). For more on Windows Internet Explorer see 1.

Windows Firefox 2(+): RECOMMENDED You can press SHIFT-ALT plus an access key and that will immediately execute any appropriate action (such as following a link) or land you in the search field (SHIFT-ALT-4) or land you on the first position in a menu. Unfortunately when you land on the first item in a menu it only half has the focus, if you TAB you move to the next menu choice then you can SHIFT-TAB back to be able to press ENTER to actually go to the first menu choice. When on a link, such as in a menu, the ENTER key will follow the link. For example, SHIFT-ALT-M, TAB gets you onto the Faculty Main Menu choice which you can then follow by pressing ENTER or you can move to the next menu choice with TAB. SHIFT-ALT-0 (zero) will bring you directly to this page. SHIFT-ALT-4 will land you in the search box.

Windows Opera: NOT RECOMMENDED In Opera each time you want to use an Access Key you must first activate the Access Keys by pressing SHIFT-ESC (where "ESC" is the escape key) then you can simply press the key without any other ALTing, SHIFTing, etc. (In theory, you can read the list of access keys that pop-up when you activate the keys but unfortunately their type-size is apparently fixed (perhaps to your Windows default size but not your browser size) and the list is in no particularly useful order (the reverse of the sequence order in which they were defined in the document). Also, unfortunately, the extra access keys for the benefit of Firefox also show up but are rendered so poorly they will only confuse, ()) really means "the right parenthesis key" or, more correctly, "the shifted zero key.") Unfortunately also, Opera doesn't understand how tabindexes should work (though they are "standards compliant") requiring all web page developers everywhere to spend millions of man/woman hours to always put in explicit tab stops. And if you do that Opera stops on "-1" tab stops which should be considered "off" and which are in the current ISP pages and used correctly by Internet Explorer and Firefox for Windows. Adding tab stops to the page structure elements (though not the content), which is what we currently have done, to satisfy Opera makes all browsers follow the same TAB sequence through heading, menus, and footer before entering the content. Unfortunately we haven't added content tab stops (yet) so you cannot tab to page content links in Opera and, worse still, when you do use, for example, SHIFT-ESC, M to get to the Main Menu you only get there visually, pressing TAB starts you at the first tab stop and pressing ENTER does whatever Opera thinks your current action focus is.

On your Mac (etc., Apple) computer first you probably should be sure System Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts > "All Controls" (the radio button at the very bottom—below the shortcuts scroll box) is checked. This setting is user login specific so each user on a computer will need to set it. The Firefox browser effectively won't work at all without it though the others will.

Mac Firefox: NOT RECOMMENDED or RECOMMENDED only if you have System Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts > "All Controls" checked. You can press CONTROL plus the access key. If that follows a link or lands you in the search field (CONTROL-4) then everything is fine. With "All Controls" checked, an access key that takes you to the start of a menu takes you there visually but only half-focuses on the first menu choice. If you TAB you move to the next menu choice then you can SHIFT-TAB back to be able to press ENTER to actually go to the first menu choice. When on a link, such as in a menu, the ENTER key will follow the link. For example, CONTROL-M, TAB gets you onto the Faculty Main Menu choice which you can then follow by pressing ENTER or you can move to the next menu choice with TAB. CONTROL-0 (zero) will bring you directly to this page. CONTROL-4 will land you in the search box. For more on Mac Firefox see 2.

Mac Internet Explorer: RECOMMENDED (But only because it beats some alternatives. This product has not been upgraded for some time and the current plan is to never again upgrade it thus we suggest you find another browser as soon as practical. Also, due to it's incomplete CSS implementation, we may, or may not, ever get the special features button menu to show up below the MSU logo.) First, check Preferences > Web Browser > Browser Display > Keyboard Accessibility > to see whether TAB or OPTION-TAB moves to links and fields. We will assume TAB. Access Keys are accessed with the CONTROL key plus an access key (or CTRL but not CMD). For example, CONTROL-0 (zero) gets you directly to this page. Unfortunately, CONTROL-M will get you visually to the correct spot just before the Main Menu but then TAB (or OPTION-TAB) will move you to the ISP Logo link to the ISP Home Page rather than to the first Main Menu choice. Pressing the TAB repeatedly will get you into the menus and from one menu to the next and eventually into the page content area links and any content area form fields. Once on a menu choice or link, ENTER will then follow that menu choice link and take you to the page. For more on Mac Internet Explorer see 3.

Mac Safari: RECOMMENDED (But barely.) First, you must have the tab cursor within the document for any access key to work. Get there with OPTION-TAB (TAB works also but only if you stop on a form field). It may help tremendously if you have the ISP bolded links feature turned on. Then use CONTROL plus the access key. If the access key follows a link you will be immediately taken to that page (or stay in the page but turn on a feature). Using CONTROL-4 to land you in the search field does not work. And really unfortunately, using, for example, CONTROL-M will correctly visually place you at the start of the Main Menu but you cannot then use the keyboard to get from there to the first Main Menu choice without OPTION-TABing from wherever the cursor is currently located anywhere on the page to the choice you want. Continued OPTION-TABing will eventually start moving you through the link and fields of the real page content where pressing ENTER will follow links.

You may gather from all this that browser builders, not web page developers, have a long way to go to get any real semblance of consistent and useable accessibility. Anyone, even a browser developer, is welcome to e-mail the ISP Web Development team (webdev@isp.msu.edu) with links or well written instructions on how specifically to implement accessibility features for specific browsers. Whether the information is for users to set up options in a browser or for us to do additional (but not ridiculous) development any feedback is welcome.

Section 508 Compliance

We are striving to be in compliance with the provisions of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Unfortunately there are no bright-line guidelines that can be met to know when one is, or is not, fully in compliance. We believe we are in compliance at the moment except for the behavior of some browsers on the "Quick Jump" selection list of ISP related sites available at the top of each page. We are in compliance on browsers such as Firefox and Safari that only trigger the onchange() event when a dropdown list item is actually selected. If you have JavaScript on, we are not in compliance on browsers such as Internet Explorer and Opera which (mistakenly) perform the onchange() event every time the DOWN ARROW key is pressed, i.e., you can only DOWN ARROW to the first selection choice before being instantly taken there via JavaScript code. In Internet Explorer you can turn off JavaScript in your security settings1 and in Opera (and most browsers) you can turn it off somewhere among the settings for content or web pages. In Opera (and most other browsers) with JavaScript off you can tab to the Quick-Jump selection list, DOWN ARROW to make a selection then ENTER (or TAB, ENTER) to go to the selected site.

Page Design

All pages are coded in XHTML 1.0 Transitional. The mark-up is mainly used for semantic purposes, and is in in compliance with the standards of this language. To support the widest range of browsers we do, however, occasionally use a table structure for layout purposes. We use the smallest table structure necessary to achieve the visual objective and clearly summarize the purpose. Such table structures will read row (by row) across columns exactly as if the contents were in a list. Most visual presentation is implemented with Cascading Style Sheets.

More Information on Accessible Web Sites

Dive Into Accessibility
An online book written and maintained by accessibility expert Mark Pilgrim. An excellent place to start.
The U.S. Access Board
A Federal agency devoted to accessibility. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is the work of this board.
Web Accessibility Initiative
An initiative of the World Wide Web consortium, the purpose of which is to pursue accessibility of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research and development.

1More on Windows Internet Explorer JavaScript: To turn off JavaScript (which is minimally used in this site and which is never essential) in Internet Explorer you can set the "Zone Setting" to "Restricted" by locating the zone status information along the bottom edge of the Internet Explorer browser window (it will say normally "Internet" in an area toward the right end of the status bar. Double click that then pick the "Restricted" zone choice then click the "Sites" button and add www.isp.msu.edu. You can double check that JavaScript is off by clicking the "Custom level..." button then toward the bottom finding "Scripting" "Active Scripting" and being sure the "Disable" option is selected. (If you already have JavaScript off for the "Internet Zone" then it is off for our site too, no need to make us a restricted site.)

2More on Mac Firefox: You may wish to examine an Accessibility Extension for Firefox available at http://firefox.cita.uiuc.edu/index.php. Extension Add-ons for Firefox are user login specific. And, what's worse, for a multiple user Mac Firefox may NOT update for individual users, only for the original user that installed it though the other users will use the new version on their next login. At least that is my experience. For the non-initial installer, the Firefox update process does go through all the motions and appears to have completed correctly however, once the user closes Firefox and reopens it, whatever old version the initial installer last did will be what they get, not the "just installed" version. I have no idea what the implications are for "automatic updates" of the Accessibility Extension given that the extension install IS login user specific, an install to the initial installer's login–again, at least in my limited experience–DOES NOT become visible to other individual login users. (Without "All Controls" checked, an access key that is to take you to the start of a menu takes you there visually but then there is no way whatsoever to move into and through the menu. Neither TAB nor OPTION-TAB get you into the page or its content. It may help some if you have checked the Firefox Preferences > Advanced > General > "Always use the cursor keys to navigate within pages" check box but you'll need to push the up and/or then down key several times to finally land somewhere that you can then see where you are and even then it will help tremendously if you have turned on the ISP bolded links feature.)

3More on the Mac Internet Explorer: To turn on the ISP Bolded Links feature generally CONTROL-B specifically, or CONTROL-I for all accessibility options is best. Otherwise press TAB or SHIFT-TAB as appropriate until you land on the "Michigan State University" logo in the upper right hand corner of the page. Now watch the status line in the very bottom edge of the browser window border and press the TAB key a few times until the displayed link shows "?b=b" (or "?b=r") at it's right end. If the last character is "r" you are already in Bolded Links mode. If the last character is "b" then press the ENTER key to switch modes. Or you can turn "Show Style Sheets" off under Preferences > Web Browser > Web Content > Page Content then you can see all the buttons below the MSU logo.

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