Christian Heilmann

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Archive for October, 2005

European Member of Parliament sees not much improvement in accessibility

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Just got this as part of the e-government bulletin. Just another example as to how web accessibility has bigger issues than non-encoded ampersands.

European Accessibility Shortcomings ‘Shameful’, Says MEP
Richard Howitt MEP has said it is “shameful” that EU institutions have still not themselves widely embraced global web accessibility guidelines, despite urging their adoption on member states.
“My own institution’s web site was recently found to be inaccessible to people with a disability,” Howitt told an eAccessibility conference hosted in London last week by the UK Presidency of the EU (
Last December, European institutions agreed that web accessibility guidelines should be adhered to by all public sector web sites across the whole of Europe. However Howitt, who is president of the European Parliament’s All-Party Disability Group, said: “It is shameful that the European Parliament is unable to do that nine months later. It shows the huge chasm that exists between good intent and what is the reality in terms of market and the daily experiences of disabled people.”
One of the aims of the conference was to discuss the EU Communication on eAccessibility ( which lays out an action plan to ensure all Europeans receive equal access to digital and electronic products and services. Howitt warned delegates that action on the communication is imperative. “If in two years’ time we have another set of dialogues, you risk losing the confidence of the European Parliament and the citizens of Europe. It’s no good just talking about it: challenge us as politicians to agree it.”
Next month sees the release of findings from a study commissioned by the UK’s E-Government Unit on the accessibility of public sector web sites from across EU member states. The research is due to be published at the ministerial conference on e-government in Manchester in November (

How superfluous commenting can bite you

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

i just had a fun bug to kill: A client complained that their site is not working. The code is theirs, all we did was update some flash movies. What didn’t work, was a popup window showing the flash movie.

Now, the code was Dreamweaver generated and the out-of-the-box functions have their version as comments on the line of the function name:

function MM_openBrWindow(theURL,winName,features) { //v2.0,winName,features);

There seems to be some optimising setting on the client’s server that deletes all whitespace in the documents, and when they uploaded the above code, it ended up as:

function MM[...]([...]) {//[...]);}

This commented out the whole function and broke the popup. Learning from that: Don’t use embedded JS in an unknown environment.

Ask me things on the World Usability Day webcast

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

Following the 10 Reasons why clients don’t care about accessibility article on Digital Web I was asked to participate in the World Usability Day webcast about web accessibility.

So if you have a question to ask about the matter at hand – how to sell accessibility in the large business world – please feel free to enter your question on the post about the webcast:

Webcast Homepage – 10 reasons clients don’t care about accessibility

Neat little colourblindness simulator for OSX

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Just got an URL from a friend that is too good to be kept just in my private stash: Sim Daltonism is a real-time colourblindness simulation app for Mac OsX. You can select what type of colourblindness you’ll like to simulate and a small window shows the area around the mousepointer with this filter enabled.

This little gem might save some traffic and us less time spent copying+pasting into Photoshop (and checking with the Vischeck plugin).

Flavour of the month: Generic CSS frameworks for all!

Friday, October 21st, 2005

It is amazing how the same idea seems to grip multiple developers at the same time. While the heydays of yet another image replacement technique seems to be over, flexible multicolumn CSS frameworks are the new sliced bread.

Thierry of TJK Design shows his One clean HTML markup, many layouts, Mike Stenhouse offers a CSS framework and Dirk Jesse brings Yet another multicolumn layout (in German).

If that is not enough, Alex Robinson gave me his impressive monster of an article + generator “one true layout” (to be released on P.I.E. soon) for review.

Update Stop the Press: The article is now live and can be read and enjoyed: In search of the One True Layout

A lot to read and skim through, and very great ideas, too. My concern is that it seems that everything generic tends to become a bit bloated and cryptic over time (DHTML libraries anyone?) and we’ll need to see how we can chop the ideas down into digestible chunks.

A lot of extra code has to be added to support outdated browsers, for example, and it would be cool to have these extras in an extra style sheet, for those who want to say “to hell with bad browsers” instead and keep their sheets clean and maintainable.

Sorry if that is already the case in some of those, I am also busy reviewing the AJAX/XML chapters for the upcoming JavaScript Reference for O’Reilly and prepare my webcast for the world usability day.

Read the linked bits now, you know it is good for you!