Please support Knowbility programs

For the first time in our 14 year history, Knowbility is launching an annual fund drive.  We are fortunate to have been able to earn fees for many of our training and consulting services. But our foundational programs have community roots that need nurture and support. Our goal is to raise $150,000 to keep our programs strong. Won’t you help us meet that goal?

We are asking for your support of those programs, currently at risk, that serve nonprofit organizations, K-12 schools, and employment of people with disabilities.  For example:

  • The Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) is a community program that builds accessible web sites for nonprofit organizations.  Previously funded by corporate donations and city grants, those funds are not being offered in 2012.  Donate to AIR programs.
  • ATSTAR is an acronym for Assistive Technology Strategies, Tools, Accommodations and Resources. The program helps classroom teachers understand assistive technology and make assessments to ensure that kids get the AT they need to succeed. Originally funded through Department of Education pass through grants, those funds are no longer available. Donate to support ATSTAR.
  • AccessWorks, a program previously funded by the Developmental Disability Council, trains and hires people with disabilities – many of them veteran with disabilities – to perform accessibility testing and remediation on electronic documents.  Help AccessWorks employ veterans.

At a time when educational, employment, and social opportunities rely on equal access to web technologies, we cannot afford to lock people out.  Knowbility’s programs make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities and their families.  Please help us continue to serve them.

Thank you,

Sharron Rush
Executive Director. Knowbility.org

 

Leaving the Fringe: 30 Seconds with Jimmy Bogard

It’s the last day of AccessU, and Ragsdale Hall at St. Edward’s University, the center of our operations, is quiet. Over in Trustee Hall, though, Jimmy Bogard of Headspring is teaching a post-conference class called “Accessibility for ASP.net.” If you didn’t make it out, you can still hear from Jimmy in the last of our 30-second interviews!

Who are you?

My name is Jimmy Bogard. I am a Technical Architect at a firm here in Austin called Headspring, where I oversee training and things like that.

What will you be doing at AccessU?

This year, I’m teaching a one-day class on Accessibility in ASP.net. At the end, students should be able to understand not only what accessibility is and why it’s important, but how to use ASP.net to achieve their accessibility needs.

Why do you care about accessibility?

Honestly, I didn’t for a long time. I didn’t even really know about it until I had the opportunity to work on a project for some county governments here in Texas. For them, it wasn’t a nice thing to do. It was required. But they had an employee come in who had to use their software that was not accessible. She was visually impaired, and on some screens she had to have other people type in information for her – things you wouldn’t want someone else to type in – like her social security number. It just kind of hit home how much inaccessibility was affecting her normal daily job and her life.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?

The concept of responsive/reactive design. For content websites, it’s expensive to build mobile/tablet specific offerings. But with CSS3 and HTML5, you can build a website that adapts its layout to whatever area you have shown. Instead of just stretching content, you can actively build separate styling for separate viewable windows, providing a much less riskier alternative to building and deploying a completely separate website for mobile devices.

What would you tell people who don’t think accessibility should be a priority?

All it takes is sitting down with someone where it actually matters to them. They didn’t make a choice to have any kind of a disability, but your choices are negatively affecting their experience. It’s always so, if you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you find out what insignificant choices you make have a negative effect on someone.

Anything else?

I’m excited to see how much accessibility has left the fringe of web development, and become a central part of things going forward. An example is HTML5, and we’re seeing that this isn’t a chore at the end, or something that benefits just people with disabilities, but it’s something that is good for everyone.

 

Thanks, Jimmy, for closing out this year’s AccessU!

We hope that everyone enjoyed the conference in 2012 – and we look forward to seeing you next year!

30-Second Sponsor Feature: Deque Systems

In a different type of 30-Second Interview, we’d like to introduce you to the Platinum Sponsor of the 2012 John Slatin AccessU, Deque Systems. Deque not only boasts a long-time commitment to accessibility and a great love for Knowbility, but the company’s dynamic team includes some great accessibility experts and evangelists with deep ties to our organization: Paul Adam, Glenda Sims, and Karl Groves- just to name a few!

Deque Systems Logo

Tell us a little bit about Deque Systems, and how the company got its start.

Deque Systems is a web and software accessibility company that works with major government agencies, educational institutions, small and mid-size businesses, and Fortune 500 companies to eliminate the risk associated with their customer-facing digital properties being inaccessible to handicapped users.

We were founded in 1999, and our first accessibility tool was a product called RAMP for testing static sites back in the days of HTML3. The company has grown very rapidly in the 10 years since RAMP was introduced, and the product has since been replaced with FireEyes and Worldspace Sync which were developed to address the challenges of the jungle of modern, dynamic web content.

When did you first get connected with Knowbility?

Years ago!  Sometime in 2007.

Why do you love Knowbility?

We love Knowbility’s mission and commitment to its mission. Deque share’s Knowbility’s dedication to making technology accessible and helping the disabled to live with the level of independence enjoyed by able-bodied users. Knowbility also does an excellent job training people and educating them about accessibility.

You’re coming back to AccessU as our top sponsor for the second year in a row – why did you decide to support the John Slatin AccessU again this year?

We see no reason to stop now!  AccessU is exactly the kind of event we want to encourage and support. And I know our employees who will be in attendance are excited about a number of programs at this year’s event, including offerings on mobile accessibility, rich internet applications, and the fully accessible evening at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar.

 

We are so grateful to Deque CEO Preety Kumar and the rest of the Deque leadership team for their ongoing support of Knowbility and our programs. Visit their website at www.deque.com, follow them on Twitter (@dequesystems), and check out all the presentations by the Deque team at AccessU next week:

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

We wanted to observe Global Accessibility Awareness Day with our usual attitude – finding the fun side of accessibility. Kudos to Joe Devon and Jennision Assuncion for the great idea and promotional effort behind this day. Here at Knowbility, we decided to embed an accessible video player (all controls are operable from the keyboard) and to provide captioning and audio description (AD). We chose as our topic the important activity of belly dancing that should be equally available to all – thanks to Zaheer Rafiq for the use of her terrific instructional video. Along the way a few other pieces have been suggested and are in the works. This page remains a work in progress as we are still completing captions and AD for Mr Clueless. We will update with details of the obstacles we encountered very soon.

In the meantime, we have people to thank!

Big shout out to Gene Rodgers and Dave Dauber, the maestros behind the Gene and Dave show and our captioning gurus. Thanks to Celia Hughes and her staff, our great good friends at VSA Texas for the audio description. Thanks to all staff here at Knowbility for putting up with the general head scratching and hilarity of getting the instructional video done. Check out what others are doing on the website or by following the hashtag #GAAD. Enjoy! The next time we meet, we’ll ask if you have been practicing.

Belly Dance Basic Moves

Clueless By Gene Rodgers

Once You Know How: 30 Seconds with Whitney Quesenbery

For the fourth installment of our 30-Second Interview, Whitney Quesenbery, who will be doing “2 ½” things at AccessU, talks about discovering the importance of accessibility, getting older, and how learning even the simplest things can completely change a user’s experience.

 

Who are you?

My name is Whitney, and I believe in accessibility. I primarily work in user experience, but who along the way discovered accessibility because accessibility is simply experience for even more people. That’s how it’s defined in the ISO standards – it used to be a completely separate part of their taxonomy, and now it’s defined as usability for the broadest range of people.

Whitney Quesenbery
Whitney Quesenbery, Usability Expert and AccessU Presenter

What will you be doing at AccessU?

At AccessU, I am doing 2 ½ things. I am doing two presentations and a panel that are part of the Usability and Design track. One session is about how to do usability testing quickly and inexpensively, using a minimum of resources. It’s about how we can do the least work possible and still have it be really effective.

The other session is on conducting user-centered reviews. A couple of years ago, I ran a full day usability testing track, and people thought it was great – but they kept saying that it’s really hard to get access to people – it’s hard to get access to people with disabilities, hard to get out of their office, and hard to get permission. A user-centered review is a technique where we think about people who are real out in the field, and write a little story for them. For example, I could say, “I’m my friend Mary. I’m in a wheelchair, but I have full mobility in my upper body.” You define who you’re going to be based on your own knowledge, plus other research, and channel them, be those people for the review. It’s an easy technique that doesn’t find everything, but it does find those first 12 stupid things you want to fix before you do a full usability test. Plus, it’s a great way to get your whole team involved. They can each take on a role, and each bring a different perspective.

For the panel I’m leading brings together some of the teachers from the design and usability track. Often, people will go out and do usability testing, then come back with a list of issues. Then what? We’ll talk about how to wrap it back in to the process.

Why do you care about accessibility?

I should tell you the story about how I went from “Yeah, of course we should do accessibility. Big deal.” It was just one of those things you should do. I had an amazing opportunity after the 2000 election to join a federal advisory committee to write national voting guidelines. The law that had been passed said that not only did we need voting systems that didn’t produce chads, but we had to make it available to people with disabilities, including the blind. We are still working to resolve the apparent conflicts between accessibility and security, but I believe it can be done, especially if we think of accessibility as an intrinsic part of the design, not an add-on.

Then I got older. And I got bifocals. Plus, I spend a lot of time watching people as part of my user experience research work. You start seeing how people struggle, and the different ways in which they struggle, and I began to see that if we took designing seriously for people outside the bell curve, it would help the people in the middle of the bell curve as well. If we consider all the different things that make us partially disabled at any time, we’d end up with technology and websites that are better for everyone. There are a lot of features that were originally just for accessibility that everybody uses. My favorite example is curb cuts. But I’m sure you’ve used Google maps right?

Yes, of course.

Did you know that the text directions were not planned – they were forced in as an accessibility feature? The original plan was that it would all be visual. Then they realized that of course people would want to print the directions, and there wasn’t a way to get the resolution good enough. The text directions were suggested as an accessibility feature.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?

I’ve just spent the last two days doing interviews with people in the federal government who do emergency response planning. I constantly have this experience where I learn about things have no knowledge of.

But, more practically, I learned a new gesture on my iPad that has changed the experience for me. If you take four fingers and push the screen up, you get a little bar with all the running applications. You don’t have to go home and jump back to move between applications.

I’ll tell you about the most amazing thing I’ve taught recently – I’ve taught my mother how to use the contacts list in her phone. It wasn’t just me; it took me and a couple of people at Verizon. I think it’s on the same line as my iPad discovery – it’s the same type of basic knowledge.

I once put together a report called “It’s Easy Once You Know How.” We were testing two small business systems with everyone from the small business owner doing her own bookkeeping to an accountant who managed a team of bookkeepers. At some time during the 90 minutes we spent with them, every one said that “It’s easy (do use this software) once you know how.” It’s true of so many things… including accessibility.

What would you tell people who don’t think accessibility should be a priority?

Planning on getting old, one day?

That is what I tell them. That they may not think it’s a priority because they’ve never seen its impact. I guess we can turn that around and say people with disabilities have been invisible because it’s hard for them to be out in public. The more you see the impact, the more you want to do it.

But really, I just say, “Planning on getting old?”

 

Find out how to age gracefully (at least in the digital realm) with Whitney. Find her on Twitter at @whitneyq, visit her website www.wqusability.com and check out all her presentations at AccessU: http://www.knowbility.org/v/staff-detail/Whitney-Quesenbery/78/.