Category: SIG information

Information about the Accessibility SIG.

Call for Knowledge Base Articles

Members are invited to contribute posts for this blog about disabilities and the practice technical communication and about design of information products that are fully accessible to end users with disabilities. With the migration of this website to STC hosting complete, the SIG is now able to build its knowledge base. If you have questions or would like to contribute to the Accessibility SIG site, please contact the manager.


STC advocates for members with special needs

A Special Needs Committee was formed in 1997 at the STC conference in Anaheim, California. Its first meeting was at the 45th STC Annual Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Judith Skinner, founding member, presented the History of the Special Needs Committee at the 2001 conference in Chicago, Illinois. Three months before the 2002 conference in Dallas, Texas, the committee was told that STC committees do not have a long life and it would be terminated.

Special Needs SIG is founded

The founding members scrambled to quadruple the membership and get the required 75 signatures on a petition to form a SIG. By 2003, the SIG had grown from 20 committee members to 260 Special Needs SIG members.

Accessibility SIG

In 2004, the SIG was renamed the AccessAbility SIG, using a play on English words. In 2015, this was changed to the Accessibility SIG to make the name accessible to speakers of all languages and so it would be rendered correctly regardless of the software application. A brochure was published in 2005.

Leadership and Process Documentation

Formation Reports and Presentations

Presentations were given at the 48th International STC Conference in Chicago, Illinois, May 13-16, 2001 about how the SIG started.
  • "How Did the Special Needs Committee Get Started?" by Mark Hanigan
  • "My Brain Works...My Legs Don't! Let's Take the "Dis" out of Disabilities" by Judith Skinner
  • "History of the Special Needs Committee" by Judith Skinner, presented by Dan Voss
  • "The Story of the Starfish" by Dan Voss

Accessibility of this Site 2000 – 2014

Note: The following description of this website applies to the site prior to its migration to STC hosting, competed in August, 2015. Some statements about accessibility and implementation of WordPress may no longer apply.

On this page:

Website Accessibility Information

This site was originally designed in XHTML Strict with accessible features and considerations to give all visitors a similar browsing experience. Unfortunately many of those features are lost when converting the site to a WordPress site. Lost features include
  • Stylesheets that allow users to select higher or lower contrast views or preferred color background tints for low vision, color blindness, and dyslexia.
  • Stylesheets that allow the user to switch font sizes or switch to viewing the site in text only.
  • An aural stylesheet for screen readers and audio assistive technology.
  • Sidebar navigation
  • Bottom navigation, replaced with the WordPress Page Directory in the center sidebar
  • On-page navigation, for example,  in some browsers the on-page link goes to the first line below the referenced header.

Website Conventions

Cascading Style Sheets

The entire website has been converted from a table-heavy design to a W3C-validated CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) design and layout. Cascading style sheets (CSS) replace table-defined page layout and spacer graphics so that pages will load as fast as possible and information will be in a logical order. Tables are used for presenting data only. CSS separates site content from presentation and offers the following benefits:
  • Consistent look and feel across the entire site
  • Smaller page size/lower bandwidth usage (less demand on servers)
  • Better user experience (smaller page size leads to faster site loading)
  • Better search engine optimization (increased information/markup ratio)
  • Cross-browser compatibility (CSS is supported by most browsers)
  • Future compatibility (valid, standard-compliant markup ensures reusable data)
  • Better accessibility and usability (screen-readers, access keys, alternative formats)
  • Better extensibility (i.e., printer-friendly, handheld-friendly)


The website does not use "Session" cookies to track your visit. Information is not saved for future visits.


The colors used in the website for links and change status flags were chosen using the: For more information about color, see Accessible Techcomm's Web Accessibility: Color and Typography resources.

Mobile Theme Requirements

The original website used two columns on the home page to show more sections near the top of the page. Because two columns are not supported in mobile themes, content split into two columns are now in one column. This may be problematic for CSS tables—more mobile use will let us know if the tables need to be changed to straight text. The HTML title= attribute has been removed from all links and images because the title= attribute hides things in mobile browsers. (See Title Attribute Removed.)

Blaskan Browser Support

This site aims to comply with current standards on Web accessibility. To ensure that we meet or exceed the guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C-WAI) and WAI-ARIA, we continually review our site and modify pages to remove accessibility problems for people with disabilities. The Blaskan theme for WordPress is fully responsive and built for smartphones, tablets, netbooks, laptops and desktops. Accessibility is highly prioritized, following the WAI-ARIA specification as well as possible. For more information about the Blaskan theme see the Overview and Demo. The Blaskan theme works on many browsers. Among the supported browsers are
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Chrome
  • Opera
  • Internet Explorer 7+
  • Android
  • Mobile Safari (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch)
  • Opera Mini
Navigation features for screen readers include a "skip" link to jump to specific areas on a page. For people using audio assistive technology, there are skip links to go directly to the main content and to the navigation areas on the site. All links going to other websites will open in the current browser window. Use the Back button to return to this site. (See Target Window Attribute Removed) CSS is used to style the links with the following features:
  • Hyperlink, a navigation link to another page or place on a page. These links are blue in the body of the page and white in the navigation menu at the top.
  • Active, a link that will be viewed when clicked on. These links have a different font color with an underscore. For links that are currently being viewed in the navigation menu, the active menu item will be identified by a different color.
  • Visited, a link that has been seen, but is no longer open. It may have been visited during the current browsing session or it may be listed in the history of previous sessions. Content links have a gold font color in browsers that support this feature.
  • Hover is the link state when the mouse moves over the link borders. Focus is the link state when the tab key moves to a link. As you move or tab from link to link, the current link is said to have focus. Hover and focus states help make links more prominent so users can tell which link is the current one. The hover state gives the links a distinctive font color and an underline seen by sighted users. The focus state is for users who use the keyboard to move between links. Focus uses the same font colors and text decoration (underline) as the hover state to give all users a similar browsing experience.

Accessibility Features

This website aims to make the information it provides accessible to everyone including those with physical or mental disabilities and those with slow Internet connections. There are many challenges for Web developers and designers to handle when creating an accessible website such as the large variety of screen readers, browsers, platforms, and accessibility needs. What is accessible for one person may not be accessible for another. The site is designed using current standards from WAI-ARIA and practices shown at Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM) to be used by the average user and by users who work with screen readers or audio assistive technology. Also see the Accessible Techcomm's two-part Internet Accessibility / Usability resources list.

Title Attribute Removed

Research shows that the HTML title= attribute is problematic for many users such as mobile users, keyboard only users, screen reader users, and others. (See "Using the HTML title attribute - updated" by Steve Faulkner of The Paciello Group) In mobile browsers, the title attribute hides things from view.

Tabindex Attribute Removed

Research by the Ontario, Canada provincial government and other research groups shows that the HTML tabindex= attribute can create an illogical tab order. Several browsers do not support tabindex and it can cause confusion by conflicting with preset tabbing in screen readers. (See "Drawbacks to tabindex" from the WebAIMCenter for Persons with Disabilities.) Tabindex is considered a poor accessibility practice because it adds additional tab stops for all keyboard users and the tabindex technique is not supported by all browser and assistive technology combinations.

Target Window Attribute Removed

In the previous website, which used XHTML, the target="_blank" attribute for opening a link in a new window is not supported by XHTML, so instead, we used rel="external" with supporting javascript to open offsite links in a new window. HTML5 and WordPress do not support rel="external". The target="_blank" attribute is allowed in HTML 5 but we are not using it because opening a link in a new window to show it is not part of the current website is not liked by many users and it is not accessible for people with cognitive disabilities. Some people with cognitive disabilities have a difficult time remembering how they got to content off the current website. Because they are in a new window, the Back button will not return them to the place they were before going off the website they were on. For this reason, we are not opening offsite links in a new window. All links going to other websites will open in the same window. Use the Back button to return to our site. For more information about web accessibility and cognitive disabilities see the articles on the WebAIM site.


Images on the site provide alternative descriptive text. However, some browsers or screen readers cannot be relied upon to recognize alternative text. Previously, we added a title in the image links to compensate for these inconsistencies. These have been removed for the reasons given above in Title Attribute Removed. A few images may have a long description to provide additional information about important images.


Frames are not used to separate sections of the window area to include several different web pages. Websites with frames are difficult to navigate with a screen reader unless you actually know that frames exist and which frames contain the information for which you are looking.

PDF Files

Most pages on this website are available in HTML5 or ASCII text format, which are easily read by people who use screen readers. However, some of our information is provided only in Adobe PDF format. Some of the newer PDF files are created with accessible features. Users can convert older PDF files to an accessible format using the Adobe® Acrobat® Reader™ with Accessibility. For more information, see the Adobe Acrobat Accessibility page.

Fonts and Page Width

The website uses relative font sizes (em and percent), which allows users to use the browser's View menu to increase or decrease font size. Some of the WordPress theme design uses absolute font-sizes (pixels. The pixel unit does not scale upward for visually-impaired readers or downward to fit mobile devices. Some modern browsers are able to modify pixel size using the "zoom" feature in their browser but pixel units will cause problems on high density mobile devices. For examples of readable and unreadable onscreen fonts, see the Fonts Comparison table. For more information, see CSS Font-Size: em vs. px vs. pt vs. percent. Page width is adjustable by the user. Flexible CSS layout allows text to reflow to fit the new space. When the window is pulled out wider, the page will also become shorter as more text is put on a line. If you make the page too narrow, some elements may overlap. We have tried to make adjustments in the code to fix differences in the way various browsers handle spaces. If your browser shows the bottom navigation area or other areas of the page overlapping in places, reload the page and the CSS will adjust the flow.
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