Tag Archives: Accessibility Institute

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:

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/.

Not Your Ordinary Conference: 30 Seconds with Elle Waters

 

Elle Waters
Elle Waters, who will mix things up at the 2012 John Slatin AccessU.

Elle Waters has put something new on the menu for AccessU: One part accessibility and one part video games, mixed together and served with a side of costumes for refreshing treat, available for a limited time only. Get a taste with the following 30-Second Interview, the second in our series featuring the presenters of the 2012 John Slatin AccessU!


Who are you?

My name is Elle Waters, and I work at a Fortune 500 health insurance company called Humana. I’m a web accessibility specialist. That’s my day job, but I’m also a huge advocate for grassroots accessibility awareness and education and part of the accessibility unconference movement – I think you can call us a movement. It’s gotten pretty big and is in several cities now.

What will you be doing at AccessU?

We have a 3.5 hour workshop targeted toward accessibility professionals in big business or government – places not specifically about the biz of accessibility. Wendy Chisholm (@wendyabc/www.sp1ral.org)  from Microsoft will be helping present somehow, possibly through Skype – she was the catalyst for this workshop. Our goal is to help people craft their accessibility message so that they can move it within the company for a better understanding of accessibility and then better adoption and better funding. We are going to start with a talk about video games…and we may show up in costume. This isn’t going to be a dry presentation.

Costume? That’s awesome. So tell me, why do you care about accessibility anyway?

I care because I believe very much in equality on the web. It’s what I’ve been doing ever since I got involved on the web. I first got interested in virtual worlds; I loved how it provided a way for people in far-flung parts of the world to connect and break down barriers. I want to reduce barriers and make things accessible in the truest sense. I believe in freedom of the web, and I believe this is a civil rights issue.

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

What I’m really interested in lately is the research side of things. I’ve started getting more involved in understanding people with cognitive disabilities and how we can cater toward their needs. By lately, I mean just this week. I’ve also been reading about people with vestibular disorders, which I’d never thought about before, and I’m really excited to learn about it. I’m plumbing the depths of the not-so-apparent disability groups and figuring out what their needs are.

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

There’s a two-punch way of being able to talk to people. They either deal with it now or deal with it later. They either take a proactive approach and get to be a leader in the field, to be a herald of standards, and to take pride and ownership over the quality of their site. Or they can do it later. But then I tell them that the movement is already here, and a demand for equal access has already been established. Corporations can either be ahead of that wave, or swept away by it, which usually involves litigation or compliance issues. If you’re not thinking ahead, you’re going to be left behind your competitors.

 I spend a lot of time talking to leaders in the corporate world, so this my “stump speech.” For other people, I talk more about the civil rights of accessibility and inclusion, but the corporate world isn’t as interested in that.

Any last words?

Yes! I encourage people to go to AccessU because there are more interesting speakers, and I don’t mean myself, this year than any of the other years that I’ve seen, and I expect it to challenge people and excite them and really turn over what they think about learning conferences….like having costumes.


For a full serving of Elle’s presentation, join us at AccessU on May 15 at 2:00pm. And learn more about Elle on her website www.ellewaters.com, or follow her on Twitter (@nethermind).

More than the 3 A’s: 30 Seconds with Kel Smith

The 2012 John Slatin AccessU training conference is just a few weeks away! As we look forward to the start of the program, we’d like to introduce you to Kel Smith, this year’s Keynote speaker. Kel is the author of the upcoming book, “Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward without Leaving People Behind” and the owner of a digital accessibility company called Anikto.

I’d rather let Kel introduce himself, however, so I called him up on Monday and asked a few questions. If his responses to this 30-second interview are any indication, we’re in for a real treat during his keynote presentation:

 

Who are you?

I am Kel Smith, and I have dedicated the last 10-12 years to developing emerging technologies, specifically looking at how technology can include disenfranchised populations. This has involved a lot of disability research, obviously, but also considering persons with particular diseases, the economically disadvantaged and the like.

What will you be doing at AccessU?

Kel Smith Headshot
Kel Smith, Keynote presenter, AccessU 2012

I have been asked to do a Keynote to the fine folks who are attending AccessU; I was asked by the fine folks at Knowbility, who I admire and respect, and I will be talking about innovations in accessibility and what we can learn from the people I call “digital outcasts.”

Why do you care about accessibility?

A number of reasons. Number one, because I have a deep belief that if you make things easier for people with the highest degree of physical and cognitive challenges, you make things better for everybody.

Selfishly, I also believe that we are creating a prototype for our own future. At some point, we all will take advantage of ramps and curb cuts. We’re all going to get older, and all of us fall on the spectrum somewhere. We all have things we’re good at and not good at. If we’re going to talk about “user-centered design,” we have to look at all the users.

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

About accessibility or in general? There is still a surprising polarity between people who believe in web accessibility. It’s better than it was five years ago when I was laughed out of board rooms for bringing it up. But there’s still a polarization in expectations for what makes a site accessible and what that means.

Last week I was in a meeting and an art director brought up section 508 compliance. At first, I thought “Great! This is a creative type, talking about accessibility.” It turns out, their concept of compliance just involved putting “those three A’s up there” to change the size of the text on the page. It’s getting better, but there’s still a long way to go.

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

If you’re designing for a group, you have to understand how they’re going to use it. You can’t do that sitting in your office. You have to talk to people who have experience with it, or better yet, talk to people living in that realm, people who use it every day.

If people tell me it’s not important, I ask why. Because you already designed it and you don’t want to redo it? Because you don’t believe there’s a need or a rationale for it?

One thing I never tell them is “You’re going to get sued.” It doesn’t actually happen very often. But I do tell them that they’re leaving money on the table. This is a group of people that is shopping from home; if your site isn’t accessible, they’re not buying from you.

Any last words?

I’m really looking forward to doing this, and I’m happy to do this. I hope I do a good job and represent Knowbility well!

 

I’m certain Kel will have no problem with that. You can catch his keynote presentation at 12:30pm on Tuesday, May 15th at the 10th annual John Slatin AccessU training conference in Austin.

Not registered yet? It’s not too late! Just visit www.knowbility.org/accessu to register today!

 

Taking Accessibility to New Heights with the AccessU Summit!

 

Classes have been announced for the first-ever AccessU Summit (formerly called “AccessU @ Your Desk”), an all-virtual element of the John Slatin AccessU, to be held on May 15, 2012. Presented by Environments for Humans, in partnership with Knowbility, the program will feature some of the most engaging, dynamic accessibility experts available, presenting a variety of topics throughout the day.

AccessU Summit

Molly HolzschlagGlenda SimsJason KissHenny Swan

TBA by Molly Holzschlag, Open Web Evangelist

Practical Accessibility Testing by Glenda Sims, Senior Accessibility Consultant at Deque

Screenreaders, ARIA & HTML5 by Jason Kiss, Accessibility Consultant and Researcher

Mobile Accessibility by Henny Swan, Inclusive Design and Accessibility Consultant for the Web

Two additional courses will be announced soon. AccessU Summit attendees will not only participate in these presentations, but will also have access to any handouts and archives available from the full John Slatin AccessU line-up held in Austin on May 15-17, 2012.

 

Registration is open for the AccessU Summit & John Slatin AccessU!

AccessU Summit – May 15, 2012

Register online: AccessU Summit Registration
Use the discount code 20ACCESSU to save 20% off the listed registration fees.

 

John Slatin AccessU – May 15-17, 2012 in Austin, TX

Register Online: John Slatin AccessU Registration
Early bird discounts automatically apply until April 15th – don’t wait!