Sunday, February 28, 2016

Accessibility basics for author websites

This post provides tips for how to test your website to ensure it is accessible to readers with visual impairments or mobility impairments. While these tips can work for all websites, the features we targeted are common on author websites.

Primary considerations for testing your website's accessibility
  • Keyboard accessibility: can you navigate via keyboard to everything, especially using the TAB button?
  • Color and style: have you considered users with color-blindness or poor vision?
  • Text and images: can a screen-reader handle the text on your webpage? Do the images provide captions or alternative text that describe what they are?

Tools that webmasters can use to test your website


Try this: To discover how easy it is for a disabled user to navigate your website, put away your mouse/touchpad and use the keyboard only! The short-keys below can be used in place of mouse-clicks.

Key Use
Tab Move to the next focus item (links, text boxes, and other items that can be interacted with)
Shift+Tab Move to the previous focus item
ALT+Tab Change to next window
ALT+F4 Close window
CTRL+W Close tab
CTRL+A Select all
CTRL+D Bookmark (Firefox), Favorite (IE)
CTRL+T New tab (Firefox, IE)
CTRL+V Paste
CTRL+X Cut (Copy and Delete)

Website Design Basics 

When you (or your web designer) is creating the site, please consider the following accessibility recommendations.

Color Alone for emphasis
  • Do not use color alone for emphasis. (For those with color-blindness, certain colors--such as green and red--might appear gray or black.) Instead, use color with either italics or bold to emphasize text.
  • Inaccessible example:
    The books in green are available for purchase. The books in red are coming out next year.
    • A
    • B
    • C
    • D
  • Accessible example:
    The books in green italics are available for purchase. The books in red bold are coming out next year.
    • A
    • B
    • C
    • D

  • Use link text that provides context. "Author website" is better than "click here".
  • Style your link differently than the rest of the text.
  • Provide alt text for all images.
  • Important images should have meaningful alt text.
    <img src="Arabian_knights_book_cover.jpg" alt="Arabian Knights" />
  • Presentation images should have an alt text of ""
    <img src="background_pattern.gif" alt="" />
  • Use labels.
    Example code:
    <label="fname">First Name</label>
    <input type="text" id="fname" name="first_name" />
    <input id="gender_f" name="gender" value="female" type="radio" />
    <label for="gender_f">Female</label>
    <input id="gender_" name="gender" value="male" type="radio" />
    <label for="gender_m">Male</label>
    Example in action. (Note that you can click the word "female" or "male", and the radio button gets marked. This is because we used labels, and it provides mouse/touchpad users a larger target to click when they fill out a form.)


  • Tools for webmasters: ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) is now a part of HTML5, and most attributes and roles are supported by all major browsers. Here's a link to the W3C's documentation on ARIA
  • Use the ARIA attribute role: "grid" for data, "presentation" for layout tables. This helps improve navigation for screen-reader users.
Example for role="grid"
Name Gender Age
Julie Female 21
Michael Male 20
Sam Unspecified 19

Example for role="presentation"
A variety of opportunities available as a part of Given University's student life
Activities Clubs Greek Life
Housing Sports Student Union
Stuff Theater

  •  Use the ARIA attribute scope.
    Row headers (<th>) should have scope="row". (Here with light green shading)
    Column headers should have scope="col". (Here with light blue shading and bolded, centered text)
    Name Population GDP (USD)
    Australia 21,507,717 915,098,000,000
    Canada 33,476,688 1,445,000,000,000
    New Zealand 4,451,017 122,193,000,000
    United Kingdom 63,181,775 2,316,000,000,000
    United States 315,317,000 15,094,000,000,000

  • Multimedia
    • If you have video or audio, have transcripts available.
    • If you have video or audio, provide controls to allow users to, at minimum, pause and play the media. Volume controls are also ideal. Using the native controls available in HTML5 generally provides the most ideal experience.
      <video width="320px" height="240px" controls="controls">
      <source src="interview.mp4" type="video/mp4">

    Additional Links for Webmasters

    Saturday, February 27, 2016

    Random images - Canada

    Summer 2015: I cruised through Canada, from Montreal to Boston on the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Here are a few random images from that trip.

    Prince Edward Island-- I've just met Anne of Green Gables.

    A chateau in Quebec City. You can see the funicular on the cliff, for transporting people from the lower city to the upper city. (I'm scared of heights, so the funicular trip was done with eyes closed.)

    Landing in Montreal at night

    Friday, February 26, 2016

    teen blog post about pressure on students

    I found this blog post--The Tipping Point-- on YA Books Central about how pressure is affecting students in college or younger. The post is well-written and thought-provoking. Its eloquent author is a teen.

    It's sad and scary how many teens are making drastic choices in response to bullying or pressure to succeed. Suicide is one of the leading causes of teen deaths (one-third!) Silicon Valley is experiencing a near epidemic.

    These deaths are preventable. If you know someone who shows signs of depression or makes comments that concern you, have them seek help. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 .

    Sunday, February 21, 2016

    Writing at a weekend retreat

    I will soon be heading off for a weekend away with four writer-friends.  Once there, we will spend all of our waking hours writing or revising our works-in-progress. At least, that's the plan.
    Mountain retreat, 2014

    We've been doing this for nearly a decade. Twice each year, we rent lodging an hour or more away from Raleigh. We arrive, claim a bedroom, stock the refrigerator with food (not the healthy kind!), and park our butts in the living room to write, write, write.

    Normally, we head for the beach or the mountains. This year, it will be Pinehurst, which is a good thing. None of us golf; ergo, no distractions.

    I have two goals: (1) make progress on edits of Wish You Were Here (I Wish #3) and (2) begin drafting a new book (as yet untitled.)

    Perhaps this sounds like a working weekend. But really, it's not. I love to write. I love hanging out with my "retreat buddies". And I love indulging in a sleep/eat/read schedule with no one to judge!

    Monday, February 15, 2016

    Cover reveal for The Possibility of Somewhere

    My September release is The Possibility of Somewhere (writing as Julia Day.) Here is the gorgeous cover!

    It was first announced on the Griffin Teen blog, and now I'm sharing it everywhere.

    Before I became a published author, I heard horror stories about the difficulties of getting a good cover. Many authors complained about how little input they had and how their covers didn't match the story or characters at all.

    That was not true for me! I'm so happy to say that I gave a lot of input, and the cover designer really paid attention. I love this cover.

    If you would like to learn more about The Possibility of Somewhere, please signup for Julia Day (my other pen name) on:

    Sunday, February 14, 2016

    hawaii vacation

    So I'm just back from a vacation to Hawaii.  Here are three photos to enjoy!

    From the island of Kauai

    I'm relaxing on the beach in Maui. Although you can't really make them out, my daughter and her friend are off in the surf.

    Volcano National Park, the Big Island