Tag Archives: John Slatin AccessU

AccessU has an (almost) accessible app

Each year after John Slatin AccessU, Knowbility’s annual web accessibility training conference, we sit down with stakeholders to debrief and suggest improvements. In 2015 the deep yearning was for an app. Attendees, instructors, and staff felt an AccessU app would help everyone stay in touch with general events, quickly communicate changes to the schedule, and provide overall support to the community-building that is a foundation of what makes AccessU the great event it is. And of course, the app had to be fully accessible.

We are so pleased and excited to be able to announce the new (almost) accessible AccessU app that we wanted to share with you a bit about our journey.

Building from scratch was quickly found to be outside the budget of a small non-profit org like Knowbility. And so the search began for an accessible, customizable conference app that we could subscribe to. We enlisted the brilliant Jon Gibbins to help with the search since we would work with him on the customization. Searching for “event apps” or “conference apps” yielded quite a few options. But you probably won’t be surprised to learn that response to our inquiries about accessibility ranged from “Oh yeh, it is accessible to both iOS and Android devices” to “Accessible? what do you mean by that?”

So instead, we began asking “Does your app meet the BBC Guidelines for mobile accessibility?” Lots of “Let me get back to you on that” followed by resounding silence. After a few months of this, we were beginning to lose hope. But then – hallelujah – we got this from Alicia at Guidebook:

“Thanks for reaching out to Guidebook. I just doubled check with our support team, and they said they believe we do meet BBC’s mobile guidelines…”

OK there are a few caution lights here such as “they believe we do…” but still, we were encouraged! A few quick calls to verify that we wanted to buy the subscription version, become paying customers, work with an assigned support rep, and we were off to a warm and friendly dialogue.

In the meantime, Jon discovered that Guidebook had actually published a VPAT – and they were the first conference app we found that did so.  Jon began validating the VPAT while Board member Hiram Kuykendall did a quick informal check of the free Guidebook app. Hiram came back with not-so-good news. The app was not really very accessible at all – unlabeled buttons and form fields, images with no alt text, interminable navigation – the usual suspects.  Hmmm, back to you, Jon – what about that VPAT?

Jon’s more formal testing of the VPAT revealed that Guidebook had unfortunately misstated several accessibility features.  Our experience is that often when VPATs are inaccurate, it is due to the fact that a company does not fully understand the requirements – and that seemed to be the case here.  We offered to deconstruct the VPAT for them – at no charge – and help get the product aligned to their public claims.  Guidebook said, “Sure thanks, we will work it into our development sprints” and voila, we were all singing in tune,  had a common mission and shared understanding of what was possible within that timing.  Wahooo, let’s go!

Knowbility’s John Sweet and Jon Gibbins worked with the Guidebook team over the next few weeks, pushed the accessibility improvements out to the app stores, and the result is the first ever AccessU app.  Please download, use it and continue to give feedback. We are so pleased with the way we have been able to work with Guidebook to improve the accessibility of this handy tool. But we know it is not yet fully accessible – the class rating system is still wonky, for example – and so we want to hear from you about your own experience. We are hopeful to get the rating system accessible in time for the conference but will craft functional alternatives if that proves to be impractical. So, while it is not all rainbows and unicorns, we extend kudos to Guidebook for working with us,  and are very excited to be able to offer this service.

We learned valuable lessons – if you hit an accessibility barrier, look for another way. If you are turned down in your accessibility requests, keep asking. Most people genuinely want to be inclusive and if you support them and make it clear where the path is, they are more likely to follow it. Since our AccessU theme in 2016 is teamwork, we found this to be a terrific experience to share and now we pass the ball your way.

Please reply here with any comments you have and/or send your experiences and suggestion to IT Director John Sweet who is simply john at knowbility dot org.

We sincerely thank our friends, the good people at Guidebook and can’t wait to hear from you all. See you next month at St. Edward’s University in Austin Texas!

 

Jan McSorley will keynote AccessU 2016

Knowbility is pleased and very excited to announce that Jan McSorley will be the keynote speaker for AccessU 2016! Jan has vast and varied experience building and inspiring teams to integrate digital accessibility into all they do.  From early days spent persuading her peers at the Texas School for the Blind of the importance and value of the Internet to her current position as Head of Accessibility for Pearson School Division, Jan’s career has been one of passionate advocacy for fully inclusive technology.

In her talk, Jan will give her perspective on how to identify key players who can further accessibility within a company (even when those players themselves may not even realize it themselves.) She will share true stories of how to invest in and inspire them so that they wake up one day to find themselves not only playing for the accessibility team, but recruiting others to join.

In her talk, Jan will give her perspective on how to identify key players who can further accessibility within the company (even when they themselves may not realize it.)

“Fairness and inclusion are unifying concepts that almost everyone agrees are important,” Jan says. “Very few people would openly argue against the idea that people with disabilities should be afforded the same access to educational and vocational opportunities as people without disabilities.  After all, in the United States we have civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, so surely businesses and organizations are all abiding by those laws … right?”

“While it would be nice if all we had to do was pass legislation and then have everything fall into place, the reality is that civil rights laws related to equally effective access for people with disabilities are often ignored – sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes deliberately”, she adds. “The underlying reason for ignoring accessibility is that it’s a very complex problem to solve.  Even if there were scores of highly-trained accessibility professionals standing at the ready with capes in hand to save the day, most businesses and organizations don’t even understand their need for accessibility expertise, so they are most definitely not in the position to hire an elite team of accessibility personnel.”

Effective accessibility teams can be built in organizations, even without the open support of management or a robust budget.

“The fact that accessibility is more often misunderstood than understood, makes the jobs of those few enlightened individuals who find themselves as the lone accessibility voices in a wilderness of ignorance, a bit more difficult, but certainly not impossible.  Effective accessibility teams can be built in organizations, even without the open support of management or a robust budget.  The ultimate goal is that every person in an organization is a member of the accessibility team who is doing their part for accessibility within the context of their job responsibilities.”


 

AccessU is a conference that brings leading experts from around the globe to Austin, TX to teach and talk about accessible design skills. The conference provides practical resources, encouraging participants to explore various aspects of digital inclusion and master role-based skills involved in launching successful accessibility initiatives. You can register for AccessU 2016 by clicking on this link: AccessU Registration to catch Jan McSorley and other internationally known leaders in accessible design and development.

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:

Jazz, Screen Readers, and Dollar Coins: 30 Seconds with Jennison Asuncion

In the third installment of our 30-Second Interview series leading up to the 2012 John Slatin AccessU, instructor Jennison Asuncion talks about jazz music, a stockpile of one dollar coins, and why he’s passionate about making accessibility accessible to developers.

Who are you?

I am an accessibility professional, if you will. I work in the field of accessibility. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now, mainly in the financial services industry, and I also happen to be a screen reader user. I’m a big fan of jazz music, live comedy, and cross-country skiing, and I’m really into social media – big on twitter, and things like that.

Jennison Asuncion
Jennison will lead a session on screen readers at AccessU.

What will you be doing at AccessU?

I’m coming to AccessU to teach an introductory course for designers and developers on how to use a screen reader, both NVDA and JAWS, and how to use that as part of an approach to testing for accessibility. I’m excited because it’s a great opportunity for people to have hands-on experience playing with the screen readers and to ask questions of an actual screen reader user. There are myths about accessibility and screen readers that some people are too polite to ask – I’m a casual person, very open. And because I work in the field of accessibility, I can answer questions from both that perspective and the perspective of an end user.

Why do you care about accessibility?

It matters to me because technology is being used so much now in so many different areas, at school, employment, the way we live and participate in society. As a person with a disability, I feel very fortunate with where I am, working, and having had the chance to go to school and all that – I want to make such opportunities  are accessible to other people.

I am passionate about making accessibility  accessible to developers and designers and other IT folks – it can be a complicated issue and can seem like a daunting effort. I want to make sure they are comfortable with it and can ask questions and get the information they need to make things accessible.

People think because I have a disability, I’m going to be a huge advocate for people with disabilities, and don’t get me wrong, I am. But I know that developers are interested in accessibility and want to do the right thing, but they’re stymied and don’t know where to start. We have to talk to them, get in front of them, be approachable, and make accessibility approachable for people. If I can use the fact that I’m blind to hammer home certain points, I’ll do it. It often helps to hear someone with a disability talking about the impact when technology is not accessible to them.

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

I’m always learning stuff, but when you’re asked for one key nugget…give me a second here. I just learned recently on NPR that in the US there is a stock-pile of dollar coins that are not being used. There’s just a stockpile. We have a dollar coin in Canada, but we use it. In the US, the Federal Reserve has them, they’re just piled up somewhere.

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

I want them to think about what it would be like if they had someone they cared about who wasn’t able to take a course, or work, or vote, or shop online because the website wasn’t available to them in an accessible way. That’s it.

Anything else?

This is my second year coming to AccessU, and really it is a great opportunity to get into the classroom. In previous lives, I’d had that experience with training people. It’s great to meet up with people who are just getting into accessibility and to network with them. I’m big into networking.

That’s one thing I’d tell people: Make sure to bring your business cards – we can trade them, and expect an invite on LinkedIn!

 

Jennison’s presentation is on May 15 at 2:00pm, but you can start networking with him even before AccessU – find him on twitter @jennison or look him up on LinkedIn: www.jennison.ca

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).