Category Archives: Social Media

CSUN and the iPhone

The day before CSUN, I opted to use my AT&T upgrade to get an iPhone.  As I have previously posted, I had played with a friend’s iPhone before, only for a few minutes and found it impossible to use.  However, after talking to other blind users of the product who were successful and raved about it, I decided to take a risk.  After all, I have 30 days from the purchase date to return it, so why not?  I was actually nervous, not a normal reaction for me when I get a new peace of technology.  I had one night to become familiar enough with it to make and answer calls, knowing I would need my cell phone quite a bit in San Diego.  I got a few helpful beginning tips from some visually impaired friends who had been using their units for quite some time.  I also did some research on Apple’s site to learn all about iPhone’s accessibility features.  While experimenting, I called several people in my contacts list by accident, sent a few blank or confusing text messages and somehow uninstalled the Voice-over screen reader and had to reset it up through iTunes.  Still, I persevered, eager to learn and overcome the challenges I was presented with.  Slowly, as time passed, my trepidation faded and I actually became very excited about all of the possibilities of the iPhone!

The first and most useful bits of information were the 1 and 2 finger double taps.  These are imperative gestures when using the iPhone with voiceover turned on, because nothing will activate unless you double tap with 1 finger.  From what I understand, Voice-over creates a little box that visually moves to each icon, number, letter, or button that you touch on the screen.  Whatever element that little box is around will be activated with a 1 finger double tap, which can be performed anywhere on the screen.  The 2 finger double tap is used when answering and ending a call (VERY IMPORTANT,) as well as playing and pausing music in the iPod.  You can perform this action anywhere on the screen in these two scenarios.

Other handy features include but are not limited to:

  • The ability to practice gestures and learn what they do in training mode.
  • Call people in your contacts or dial numbers with the built in voice control.
  • Set up tripple click home toggle to turn Voice-over on and off.
  • 2 finger swipe up to read the entire screen.
  • Moving or flicking 1 finger left and right to navigate through icons and menus.

Once I knew these little tricks, I could do anything and go anywhere on the iPhone!  I could even go to iTunes and download applications, most of which worked very well with Voice-over.  A whole new world of possibilities was suddenly available to me!  Buyer’s remorse?  No way!

At CSUN, I attended some very helpful and informative classes referencing the iPhone and available apps to help people with disabilities.  One of the first sessions was that on an app called Proloquo2go, which is Latin for, “speak out loud.”  I had heard a bit about this some time ago from one of our blog readers, but this session detailed just what the app does and how it has helped so many people, who have previously been unable to simply communicate with their peers, teachers and family members.  The application uses a combination of pictures and text entry, allowing the user to customize it to fit their needs.  Tears literally filled my eyes when they showed Proloquo2go in action, as it enabled a young girl to interact with her friends and family.  Suddenly, she was able to easily express her thoughts and desires, her silence had been broken.  Prior to this app, there have been assistive technologies that do the same things, but this is the first of its kind that will run on a mainstream consumer device, which is stylish and everyone recognizes it as something “cool.”  What a difference it has already made in the lives of so many!  Check out the Assistive Technology Forum for information about the app itself, as well as any accompanying technologies you may need to get started.

Right after that session, I spent the next hour hearing iPhone and Voice-over in action.  I was writing notes like crazy and it took great effort on my part to resist the urge to pull out my own iPhone and try the things that were being demonstrated.  I was amazed at everything it was able to do, noting that there are very few barriers preventing me from using the available features of this little technology.  Most applications work pretty well, Voice-over can handle them if they are developed correctly, and there are accessibility guidelines the makers of the apps can use as part of their design.  I left that session with a wealth of information and things to try on my own.  Before leaving however, I talked to the representatives that were there from Apple, congratulating them on making such great strides in accessibility.  When large companies like them take the time and effort to include everyone in their product development considerations, it really brings home just how far we have come in accessibility education.  I’m not saying there isn’t still plenty more work to be done, but the awareness is spreading and really making a difference!

There were other sessions involving iPhones and iPods throughout the CSUN Conference, and there will no doubt be even more like them next year as the popularity of these devices continues to grow.  For myself, I am really happy with the product and my decision to give it a try.  I am not looking back, only forward as new and exciting possibilities arise with the iPhone!

An Update that is Long Overdue

If you are reading this post, then you know that our blog has a new home and is no longer found at www.universallydesigned.net.  We are hopeful that we can maintain our friends and readers that we have gained over the past couple of years and continue to provide you with useful information about assistive technologies and happenings at Knowbility.  Please spread the word and keep tuning in and engaging with us.  It will now be possible to easily follow us via RSS, which will no doubt make it more convenient to stay updated.

As always, there is a lot of excitement going on at Knowbility.  We have all been very busy as we strive to provide accessibility to the web and all it has to offer.  We are very much looking forward to our annual AccessU Accessibility Training Conference, which will happen in May here in Austin.  Check out our course descriptions and register yourself, or if you know of anyone who could benefit from this fabulous opportunity, send them our way!  We have some of the most renowned accessibility experts as instructors and we really feel that the knowledge they will provide will help everyone make web content Section 508 compliant, user friendly and accessible to all.  I am looking forward to seeing some old friends and making new ones at this year’s conference.

This past month, 3 of us from Knowbility were very privileged to participate in this year’s CSUN Conference in San Diego.  Our Executive Director Sharron Rush, Access Works Project Manager Jason Hester, and myself took part in dozens of informative sessions and met some fantastic people along the way.  I plan to share some of my new knowledge and experiences with you, there was so much valuable information gained in such a short amount of time.  So look for weekly posts focusing on something I learned at CSUN!

Our Access Works program is growing.  We strive to hire more Vets and people with disabilities, providing them opportunities through flexible employment that will give them marketable knowledge and skills.  Our team has been working tirelessly to train new hires in document remediation, web site assessments and user experience testing.  As a long-time employee for Knowbility and Access Works, I can personally say that it has made a world of difference for me, as I pursue my own career goals!

Knowbility now also has a Wiki, where you can both get useful information and share your knowledge with us.  Come check us out at Http://wiki.knowbility.org.  I think you’ll find some great content there and feel free to create an account and add to that.

Now that we’ve done a bit of house cleaning and you are up to date with our happenings, I look forward to once again being able to provide you with some fun and exciting tidbits about technology.  I hope you’ll find that as things evolve in the world of the internet, Knowbility is right there embracing the changes and giving you the best accessibility information in a fun and easy to understand way.  So, as I recently heard a flight attendant say just before takeoff: “I hope your seatbelts are fastened, because we’re about to go really really fast!”

Knowbility at SXSW 2010

We at Knowbility had another fabulous year at Austin’s annual South by Southwest Interactive Media Conference.  There were so many awesome people to talk to from all over the country and even internationally.  We made several new friends who share our interest in accessibility, some of whom had never thought about it before in terms of websites and web content.  Our booth was a great success, offering information about Knowbility and our mission, as well as demos of ATSTAR, accessibility testing tools, and screen readers.  I visited so many websites using JAWS and Window-eyes, while my victims wore sleep masks/blind folds and listened along with me.  Some of the sites worked well, while others needed accessibility attention.  To give you an idea of what the experience was like, here are some of the sites I looked at and a little about my interaction with those who represented them.

I talked to Julia Hix, who does PR and marketing for the Zimmerman Agency.  We discussed social media and its accessibility issues.  Are there any guide-lines in place for social media accessibility?  Are there tips out there on how to build Facebook aps with accessibility in mind?  She was very interested in what we do at Knowbility.  One of her clients is VPG, who design vehicles for people with disabilities.

Hemen Patel with Crmmetrix stopped by and was interested in creating accessible content on his site, particularly surveys.  I looked at one of his surveys and he is off to a great start!

I got to talk to Photographer Riva Lehrer and visit her site.  She takes the photos for Access Living out of Chicago, but also has a lot of other art work and photography.  She gave me some fantastic resources for blindness blogs and podcasts to follow.

Dewey Winburn’s son Isac came by and we looked at the site for his band Mother Falcon.  We would love to see them in our next AIR Interactive!

I went to causes.com and spoke with its programmer.  Some of their flash content was not accessible, but what a great place to go to raise funds for your favorite cause, like accessibility for example.

I found a great possible resource at Volunteeract.com and talked with Bobby Saini who represented that site.  It looks like a good way to coordinate social media, volunteers and fundraising all in one place.

Speaking of social media and marketing, I visited Social Toaster.  This automated software puts all of your social networking tools in one place for tracking and easy access.

Brian Razzaque took me to Vision Multimedia Technologies, where people can get help in creating websites.

I talked about user experience testing with Felix Desroches from EchoUser-Experience Innovation.  Perhaps we can exchange ideas with them as we conduct our own user experience testing with people with varying disabilities.

Also regarding user interface and experience testing, I talked to Aaron Swan with Infragistics.

Alexa Wheeler from the University of New Mexico came by.  She teaches web design and would like to incorporate more accessibility into her courses.  I think listening to a Screen Reader in action was very helpful to her.

I looked at Visual Hero Design with Andy Vansolkema.  As they help people create visual design for their websites, they may think a bit about accessibility now.

I looked at several other sites and engaged in great conversation with so many!  Accessibility is an exciting topic, there is so much to talk about.  Every time a new technology is developed, there are challenges and opportunities just waiting to be explored.  I really enjoyed giving people a perspective some of them may have never before considered, so thanks to everyone who came by our booth and listened.

Along with our booth at SXSW, we also participated in many panels and workshops.  March 14 was entirely dedicated to accessibility and we made some great contacts throughout the day.  There were many other accessibility and disability advocates present.  Empower Everyone is an accessible shopping web site, that finds prices and stores for a specified product and shows them in a very easy to use format.  In the afternoon, there was also a panel featuring IGDA, a group that addresses the issue of accessible games for people with disabilities.  One of the films featured on March 15th was “For once in my life,” a story about a band whose members had different disabilities and are preparing for a once in a lifetime concert performance.  Knowbility was very privileged to have the band members at our awards party later that evening.  We hope to stay in contact with them as they share their talents!

An important part of the SXSW event is awarding our AIR Interactive teams and non-profits, as well as recognize this year’s Dewey honorees.  I learned a lot about Dewey Winburn, founder of the SXSW Interactive Media Conference.  In his memory, awards are given to those who spend their lives making a difference in the digital industry.

We offer big congratulations to our  AIR Interactive 2010 winners:  For people’s choice, which was voted on by our visitors at the booth as well as on-line: Team Unchain My Art for Diverse Arts Culture Works – End Cultural Heritage District Third place: Team Insane in the Membrane for Lisa Laratta  Second place: Team Unchain My Art for Diverse Arts Culture Works – End Cultural Heritage District And this year’s first place winner for the most accessible website for AIR Interactive: Team Water Gang for Outreach Productions

Overall, I think 2010 was a fun and exciting year for Knowbility and our communities.  Everyone’s spirits are high and we are motivated to think of new and advanced ways to make technology and the web accessible for all!

Facebook Redesign for February 2010 Still Needs Improving

Recently, the newest version of Facebook was unveiled, promising more features and ease of use for everyone.  For the past several months, I have elected to use the mobile version of Facebook, mainly to avoid all of the clutter and headache that I encounter on the main page.  However, many of the features of Facebook are not available on the mobile version, from applications and photo uploading, to the ability to chat with friends who are on-line.  I have chosen to miss out on those features for the most part, avoiding the main page whenever possible.  When I heard about the redesign, I decided to try it out.  After all, maybe they made it a little more user friendly and I could start taking advantage of those features I have been denying myself by sticking to the mobile version.

I went to the main page and wanted to log in.  I was eventually successful, but the password edit box was not labeled, so I had to arrow around to make sure I was putting it in the right place.  The page seemed just as cluttered to me, headings are there but there are so many that using them to navigate is almost as time consuming as tabbing and using the arrow keys to go through the page content.  There are several access keys at the top, but many of them don’t make any sense.  Examples of this, “0, Alt+2,” “1, Alt+3,” “5, Alt+4.”  It seems as though they are using access keys to get to access keys?

There are a ton of buttons and edit form fields that you cannot tell what they do if you look at them out of context, by listing all available forms and controls on the page.  The same goes for links, it is very difficult to get where you want by finding your link in a links list.    I tried tabbing through and not using the arrow keys, and it seemed that I was not able to get to the area to type “What’s on your mind,” the tab key only got me to the area just above that edit box at the end of the top frame where it says “most recent.”  When you press buttons to add suggested friends or even like something, there is no feedback given as to whether or not you did anything, other than the button now says it is unavailable.  Sometimes you can find more information at the bottom of the page, such as a message telling you that someone will have to confirm your request, but you really have to look for it.  Also, it seems there is a very important message from Facebook about security settings, but this appears at the bottom of the page, I may have never gotten to it if I hadn’t been looking for something else.

As far as the chat feature, I found it a bit difficult to use.  Sometimes I could see who was on line at the time, however it was confusing figuring out who was actually available to chat with.  When I activated the chat link, a new window opened, but the edit boxes were not labeled and it was unclear where to start typing and with whom I was about to chat.

I think there are some definite efforts being made by Facebook to make many things accessible on their main page.  They have been working with the American Foundation for the Blind for quite some time and have made some great strides.  That said, there is still a long way to go.  There is an active Accessibility Improvement Group Facebook members can join, where we can have the opportunity to voice our concerns.  Personally, I will still choose to use the mobile version for most of my Facebook interactions, simply because I can get the information I want in a condensed fassion.  But for the times I wish to interact with the main page, it would be nice to see continued improvements regarding both accessibility and usability.

Some Exciting Knowbility News

The New Year brings some fantastic Knowbility events that I want to make you aware of, so that you may either participate, or help us spread the word.  First is our 9th annual AIR Interactive, where teams of web developers are matched with local non-profit Arts organizations and given a month to create an accessible website.  The participants are recognized at Austin’s SXSW Interactive Media Conference in March, and a winner will be chosen.  You can still register either your Arts organization or web design team and the deadline is January 24th.  This is a really fantastic opportunity to give people with disabilities access to the local Arts via the internet.  As a musician myself, I love to know when performances are happening and to be able to fully participate on these websites really means so much to me!  Not to mention the training that both web designers and members of the non-profit will receive in Section 508 guidelines.  Please, tell your friends, post it on your social networks, let all who have an interest in this know about this fabulous opportunity!  Here is one example of a past AIR Interactive accessible site.

We are also giving a Web Accessibility Conference next month in sunny California!  Participants will have instruction from some very renowned accessibility experts and usability professionals, and be given tools and techniques they can use not only in web site design, but in Microsoft Office file creation.  If you’re looking for an excuse to visit the Silicon Valley in February, why not register for CALWAC?  Time is limited, so reserve your spot today!

I really love working for Knowbility!  There is always something exciting going on, events where we can reach out to people in various ways.  But our success depends on the support of those who believe in the importance of access for all.  When we all put our minds and efforts together, amazing things really do happen!  So show your support for Knowbility and our mission!  We greatly value any contribution, weather it be time, money or just dropping our name in conversation.  The work we do is vital to so many and can enhance and change lives, I can personally attest to this.  Accessible technology has opened countless doors for me in my life.  Thank you so much for continuing to read this blog and actively participate in giving new life to people with disabilities through accessibility!