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Content Management Systems (CMSs) and Accessibility

Content Management Systems (CMSs) let you create websites without having to write software or know much about web technologies -- they separate the task of creating and managing the content of your site from the task of building and maintaining the underlying structure. This lets 'average people' set up and manage a site, and makes it easy for contributors to write and comment. Drupal, Joomla!, WordPress, and Plone are popular CMSs. This article provides an overview of CMSs and accessibility, and how to get started.

Note: this article does not cover the specific types of CMSs used widely in education, called learning management systems, such as Blackboard and Elluminate.

How CMSs Work

CMSs are all about simplicity, and they use 2 techniques to achieve their goal of simplification; both have accessibility implications.

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Free Computer AT Already in Macintosh Computers

The Macintosh OS X operating system built-in accessibility features to make the monitor, keyboard, or mouse easier to use for many people. This article provides information on these features, including how to turn them on and use them. Some of these features are also available in earlier Macintosh systems; please contact us if you would like more information. Another good resource on Macintosh accessibility is the AT Mac blog.

Mouse Assistance/Alternatives

MouseKeys

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Free Computer AT Already in Windows Computers

The Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 operating systems all include a wide range of built-in accessibility features. These can be activated to make the monitor, keyboard, or mouse easier to use for many people. This article provides information on these features, including how to turn them on and use them in all three versions of Windows. Most of these features are also available in earlier Windows systems.

Mouse Assistance/Alternatives

MouseKeys

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Assistive Technology and Elders

When considering assistive computer technology for elders, three issues need to be addressed: how will they need to be accommodated, what technology exists to provide accommodations, and how can these technologies be presented so elders will use them.

How Do Elders Need To Be Accommodated?

For elders, disability exists on a continuum of severity. Some disabilities are a natural part of aging and are generally mild.  Other disabilities rise in incidence with age, and may be mild to severe. Finally, more people with mild to severe long-term disabilities are living well beyond retirement age.

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Making Browsers More Accessible

Browsers are the software programs used to access the web, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. All have accessibility features built in; you can add more features by downloading add-ons. This article covers what's available for each of these popular browsers.

Internet Explorer

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Accessible Voting

The Help American Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 mandates that people with disabilities be able to vote independently and privately. This mandate may involve machines that are either specifically designed as accessible alternatives, or are used by all voters but have mandated accessibility features.

Accessible voting machines should have the following capabilities:

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Mobile Phones and Vision Loss

The main problem for blind and low vision mobile phone users is access to the screen: menus, address books, text messages, incoming call information, etc.  Just like computers, the solutions are to enlarge the text or turn it into speech.  Some phones have these features right out of the box; others require add-on software that may cost as much as $400.

This article will cover some of the options available, and point you to more information resources in this fast-moving market.

Built-in Features

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E-books and E-reading Software

Electronic books (e-books) are an alternative to print, and may be useful to people who have difficulty reading because of vision or cognition disabilities, or who have difficulty holding a book or turning pages.  However, not all e-books are automatically accessible to blind users.  Libraries and schools should carefully consider their choices when making e-book decisions.

This article covers some of the most popular current choices.

E-book content may be available in different computer formats. Some books and magazines are available as standard text files or Microsoft Word documents. These are easily accessed by the use of screen reading software.

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Software and Hardware Media Players

Audio and video files can be played on hardware devices (such as an iPod or portable DVD player), or via software on a computer (such as Windows Media Player or Apple QuickTime). This article discusses what to consider when determining options for making these files available for use by individuals with various types of disabilities.

Hardware media players

Controls: Controls should require minimal hand movement and activation pressure for the benefit of people with dexterity disabilities. Make sure that they are not too easy to activate or too close together.  Multiple controls with different shapes allow blind users to distinguish among them by touch.

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Large Computer Pointers/Cursors

Current computer operating systems use a small icon called a pointer or cursor that moves on the screen when the mouse is moved. The most common pointers are an arrow, a vertical bar that appears in word processing document (sometimes called the I-Beam), and a hand that appears on web pages when the pointer is on top of a link. These pointers can be quite small or may blend in with the background, making them difficult to see, especially for people with low vision.

This article discusses several ways to make the pointer more visible. Utilities built into the operating system can make the pointer easier to see by making it larger, providing higher contrast, or providing supplemental visual cues. If these are not sufficient, some third-party programs have additional capabilities.

Try It Yourself:

Pointer modification: Provides themes that change the color and size of the standard pointers. One Windows option has an option for animating the pointers, which may help in catching users' attention.

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