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Archive for the ‘accessibility’ tag

MarkUs 0.8.0 is out!

with one comment

The summer started two months ago and I am very proud to announce to you the latest release of MarkUs, version 0.8.0.

We have added a lot of great features : 🙂


  • We are now using Rails 2.3.8, the latest version of the 2.3.x tree
  • Some bug fixes on submission dates and grace period credits
  • Python and Ruby Scripts in order to help users to interact with MarkUs through the API
  • Displaying and annotating images
    • A lot of accessibility features have been implemented :

    • Missing labels & Better focus on forms
    • Adding annotations in downloaded code from students repository
    • Re-arrange criteria using keyboard
  • MarkUs is now completely internationalized and a French translation is available

So what are you waiting for? Get MarkUs 0.8.0 right now!

Diane Tam
Dina Sabied
Evan Browning
Anton Braverman
Nelle Varoquaux
Bryan Shen
Severin Gehwolf
Mike Conley
Benjamin Vialle

I hope I didn’t forget someone. 🙂

Written by Benjamin Vialle

July 7th, 2010 at 11:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Accessibility in MarkUs

with 6 comments

I have been working on making MarkUs more accessible, particularly to blind users.  To help me with this goal I installed a free open source screen reader, NVDA.  I plan on using other screen readers and technology in the future as well as working with blind users.

To begin with, the screen reader is really fun, but after navigating for sometime you start to get frustrated with the length of time that it takes to do some things, and the voice gets annoying too.  I can see why people who use screen readers all the time make the voice go so fast, you want to be able to listen to everything as fast as you could read it visually.

After working with MarkUs for a few days in this format, here are some key features for accessibility that I need to work on, and which other developers should keep in mind when working on user interfaces:

  • Everything has to be accessible using the keyboard only!  This is the only input method that we can assume everyone will be able to use.  The biggest problem with this in MarkUs is the accordion menus, they are only accessible through the mouse.  We will have to either get rid of them or make it so that they can be navigated to using the keyboard.  Another problem is dragging and dropping for reordering things, this is really convenient with the mouse and should not be removed, but we should add alternative buttons for keyboard access.
  • Focus is a problem, especially with javascript making new boxes and windows appear.  When these things appear the focus remains where it was before, and when you are using only a screen reader it seems like nothing happened.  For things like the upload file window, the box that seems to be in front of everything else on the screen is actually at the end of the document, so you have to tab through a lot of things until you see that something new has actually appeared.  If we could automatically change the focus when something like this appears, that would be a lot of help, and it would probably help everyone else too.
  • Every form input element should have a label!  We are pretty good at doing this so far, but there are places here and there where there is text that describes the form element, but is not formatted as a label.  It’s pretty easy to change this text into a label and it really helps to identify what each element does, otherwise you just hear something like “checkbox unchecked” and have to go hunt for the text that labels it.  There are some places where having a label does not make sense for sighted users (like in a table of students, we don’t want to have a label beside each checkbox) but we can make hidden labels in this case for the benefit of people who don’t see the visual association.

Overall we have already done a good job of making things accessible just by following web conventions well, and if we deal with the points I mentioned above then I think MarkUs will be doing well  accessibility-wise.  The next step is to work with someone who actually requires the use of a screen reader, and I’m sure I will learn a lot more about what we could do to make things better!

I am using the wiki page as a way to keep track of progress for myself, look there for more specific details.

Written by Evan

June 1st, 2010 at 9:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized