Tag Archives: knowbility

Usability Meets Accessibility in our Access-Works Webinar – Sept 5th

Our Access-Works usability/accessibility Testing Portal is live at Access-Works Portal! Join us for a 30 minute live demo-webinar Wednesday, September 5th, 3PM CST. It’s free.

Knowbility Executive Director, Sharron Rush, and Loop11 CEO, Toby Biddle, will show how the portal works and talk about why including users with disabilities in site testing is not just a good idea; it saves you time and money.

If you’re a Usability or Accessibility professional, please join us. Reserve a seat today – register for the webinar. With the Access-works testing portal you can ensure that your site is universally designed for a diverse marketplace that includes persons with disabilities.

Knowbility and Loop11 created the Access-Works Portal to make remote usability and accessibility testing easy. The portal lets you choose test participants from a database of users with disabilities using a wide range of assistive technologies like JAWS, WindowEyes, and NVDA screen-readers, ZoomText and MAGIC Screen Magnifiers, Dragon Naturally Speaking Voice Recognition Software, refreshable braille displays, alternative input devices and more.

Good Web Designers and Usability Professionals understand the need for inclusive design and the problems associated with integrating accessibility as an afterthought. Check out these papers on why.

Cost-Justifying Accessibility – Paul Sherman (2001)
Accessibility and Usability in Information & Communication Technology – Bloor Research (2007)
Assessing Usability for People with Disabilities through Remote Evaluation – The Paciello Group (2002)

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).

A modest list of accessibility events at SXSWi

Two themes continued to surface during this last glorious week spent with the accessibility tribe at the CSUN Conference on Assistive Technology.  One has to do with professionalization of the field and the other with communication to those other than the initiated. I can’t think of a better place than SXSWi to move the ball forward on both of these themes. So…inspired by The Great Big List of 2012 CSUN sessions, I compiled a list of accessibility related topics and activities that will be featured in the midst of the madness that is SXSW Interactive next week.

The modest list

There are more than 5000 events and sessions at the SXSW conference, so I know I have missed some.  Please use the comments below to add to this list anything that I have overlooked and if you need accommodation while attending SXSW, they have information posted.

Friday March 9

Popping Your Bubble: Stories of the Digital Divide

2 pm at the Sheraton Austin.  Tales of people with marginal access, primarily people of color and those in rural settings. Accessibility advocates might attend and draw parallels with disability.

The Future of Access to Digital Broadcast Video

5 pm in the Austin Convention Center (ACC), Room 9ABC. This should be a great discussion of why online video needs to be accessible too. Experts, including Andrew Kirkpatrick, Glenn Goldstein, Otto Berkes, and Shane Feldman will discuss challenges and share processes.

Saturday, March 10

AT&T Mobile Hackathon

This is an all-day event that requires pre-registration and will award up to $46K in prizes.  There is not a word about accessibility in any of their promo, so perhaps an accessibility coder can crash the party and capture the flag?

Accessible HTML 5 Canvas? Really? How?

At the Radisson Town Lake at 11:00 am to 12 noon.  A workshop format to teach technical details of how to create an accessible HTML DOM structure, tie it to the visible Canvas surface, and more.  With Charles Pritchard, Cynthia Shelly, David Bolter, Richard Schwerdtfeger, big brains all.

Accessibility MeetUp

Come to the Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 615AB at 12:30 pm for a meet and greet with SXSW attendees who are interested in accessibility from newbies to greybeards. Knowbility is organizing so there will be fun as well as tons of resources.

Sunday March 11

Will Accessibility Rain on Your Cloud Parade?

At 11:00 at the Hilton Garden Inn Elizabeth Woodward, a Senior Software Engineer with the IBM Research Human Ability and Accessibility Center will take a look at the additional thought and planning needed for accessibility success in the context of cloud computing.

Time to choose:  At 3:30 on Sunday we are presented with a trifecta and I don’t know how to advise you to choose your first, second, and third.  Maybe you can buddy up and draw straws with your friends.

Designing for Awareness in the Attention Economy

At 3:30 at the Stephen F Austin Hotel, usability specialists Brian Sullivan and Taylor Cowan consider how to get the attention of different types of users, including users with disability.

Demystifying the Future of the Web and Apps

Also at 3:30, at the Radisson Town Lake Paul Trani of Adobe leads an advanced workshop that includes CSS, HTML5 and how to balance media strengths and weaknesses for success in the world of mobile and progressive enhancement.

Preserving the Creative Culture of the Web

Also at 3:30 in the ACC, Room 9ABC, this presentation by Jason Scott, Kari Kraus, Nick Hasty considers accessibility of digital content over time as technology changes.

Dewy Winburne Community Service Honorees

Here in the Austin Convention Center, Room 8A is another event starting at 3:30.  But this one runs until 6:00 pm.  If you attend a previously mentioned  3:30 session, you can still get by to network with, learn from, and be inspired by the honorees for the 2012 Dewey Winburne Community Service Award. And you will especiallywant to attend to cheer for Judy Brewer who leads the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at the W3C and is one of the Dewey honorees.

AIR-Interactive and Dewey Awards Party

At 6:00 pm, winners of the 2012 Accessibility Internet Rally AIR-Austin/AIR-Interactive awards will share the stage with the 2012 Dewey Award winners and music by Mother Falcon. Badges not needed at the St David’s Episcopal Church event center.

Monday March 12

On Monday, the trade show booths are opened, including Knowbility’s SXSW Accessibility Center.  Come by all day for demos of assistive technology, updates from the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C, and talks on trending accessibility topics by Knowbility partners from Deque Systems, the Paciello Group, MicroAssistAdobe and St Edward’s University .

Few of the break-out sessions on Monday have direct reference to accessibility, but my interest in the intersection of disability and the arts made me look at this one and I plan to drop in.

Performance and Technology: Keeping Arts Alive

At the ACC in Room 12AB a panel of artists and technologists including  Alyce Myatt, Asa Kalama, Beth Burns, Conor Roche, and Robert Matney explore the interaction of media, technology, and performance art.  Knowbility has collaborated for years with VSA Texas to produce fully accessible performance events (SightSoundSoul) and I am eager to see if and how disability is integrated into this discussion.

Tuesday March 13

How the iPad Can Save Accessibility

At 9:30 am Marty DeAngelo of Digitas Health presents his ideas on how to use new devices to make user experience even better than on the “old web.”

Transforming Social Media for the Senior Community

Also at 9:30 in the Omni Hotel ballroom, Brian Lang of Seniors In Touch talks about designing for all, inclusive design to reach the growing segment of the population over 65.  There is  significant overlap between the needs of  those with disability.

Beyond a Thousand Words: Accessible Complex Data

At 11:00 head back to the Convention Center, Room 10AB for what I expect to be an informative talk by IBM Research AbilityLab’s Susann Keohane and Brian Cragun.  They will describe their research considering how to render real time data analytics in accessible formats.  They will share some of the accessibility challenges of charts, large datasets, and node diagrams and some techniques to make them more accessible and usable by people with disabilities.

Breaking Down Walls, a Decentralised Social Web? 

At 12:30 Evan Prodromou leads a panel in Ballroom BC at the ACC to consider the closong of the web. Even though the web is founded on open, decentralized principles and accessible, non- proprietary technology, the trend for closed systems seems to be growing. No one owns e-mail, usenet or http, but proprietary social services seem to be moving away from openness. How to fix?

Flash: F Bomb or Da Bomb?

Another 12:30 option is this panel of developers giving their perspective on whether Flash technology is he Holy Grail of interactive web design or the virtual thorn in their web experience. In ACC Room AB with Aubrey Gross, David Greene, Kristine Schachinger, Phillip Gross.

The Semantic Web Has Gone Mainstream! Wanna Bet?

Core Conversations have become a favorite part of the conference, where you can get small groups of people with shared interest to give diverse perspectives.  This one will be held in the Hilton Austin Downtown in Room 616AB and led by Juan Sequeda of UT and Peter Mika of Yahoo.

Your mission – should you choose to accept it

Well, I said it was a modest list and out of some 5000 events, it is not huge.  Still it is a considerable commitment if you try to provide all that support by yourself.  So please spread the love, attend those of most interest, tell others about them and if you are not at SXSW this year, tell your friends who are here.  Ask accessibility questions at other sessions, too – let’s show support and keep accessibility as a topic and as an integral part of other tech talks.

I was greatly influenced to write this list by events at CSUN last week.  Some of that genesis is here:

 Accessibility as an IT profession

Knowbility took a skeptical position before the CSUN conference on the need for an autonomous, separate accessibility professional association.  But it was clear from the response at the CSUN conference that even skeptics felt that something was needed to change the perceptions that mainstream developers and technologists have about accessibility. SXSW is one of the largest technology conferences in the world and there is an openness to accessibility there that allows great conversations about how to integrate accessibility professionalism into overall best practices.  Knowbility will have a large booth that we have dubbed the SXSW Accessibility Center this year. We will be evangelizing the reality that “good design IS accessible design” and we invite participation from those who want to share resources and techniques at the booth.  Call Knowbility and talk to Carolyn Gibbs.

Web Accessibility Community Collaboration

On Wednesday at the CSUN conference I was part of a web accessibility community collaboration panel discussion that generated tons of great ideas from attendees around using existing resources and recognizing different levels of engagement and expertise to broaden the community of accessibility practice.  You can read much of the brainstorming by looking for the Twitter hashtag #wacol (pronounced in my mind, way cool!).  One idea that swirled around and around was that when accessibility topics show up at mainstream conferences, we need to promote them! attend them! create a buzz about them!

Hence, this list.  Please let me know if it is useful, if you attend any of these sessions, and about others you find next week.  Onward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web accessibility and coming of age

Knowbility is 13 years old.  Founded in February of 1999, we have become a teenager. It’s often an awkward age for people, and lately I’ve wondered if Knowbility might also be subject to the same common struggles.  Who are we?  Who do we want to be? How do we fit in with the rest of our world?  As our industry of web accessibility makes critical decisions about how best to advance the field, these type of questions inform our position.  Knowbility has grown from community advocacy to industry leadership and before we weigh in with opinions, we owe to our colleagues and constituents some background on how our perspective was formed.

Grassroots origin

It has been a challenging, fascinating, and rewarding journey.  Knowbility started out being all about the community, all the time. Our Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) program was created to thumb the nose at the notion that accessibility had to be dull or dumbed down.  AIR is a true collaborative brainchild, forged with dedicated combined effort of the broad community, led by people with disabilities, and determined to prove untrue the perception of accessibility as a barrier to innovation.  Give us a chance to teach accessibility to web professionals, frame the development within a competition, and then watch out for the results!

We expect  sites created in the competition to be cool, innovative, and accessible all at once.  And these cool accessible sites are donated pro bono to nonprofit groups.

It worked!  Knowbility engaged thousands of individuals – nonprofit leaders and web professionals – to care about accessibility, at least long enough for developers to build an accessible web site for a local nonprofit group.  Teams from giants like Dell and IBM compete against frisky teams put together in Refresh groups and BarCamps.  And it’s not at all predictable who will win the trophies and  the bragging rights for creating the most accessible site of the year.  For a few years, the team to beat was an independent husband and wife team who ultimately hired on at Convio.

AIR participants went on to work for Apple and Google and Microsoft; they went on to found their own companies; they took accessibility positions at government agencies; and they took their AIR conditioned passion for accessibility with them.

Expertise for hire

AIR participants, trainers, and judges included  John Slatin, Jim Allan,  Jim Thatcher, James Craig, Glenda Sims, Kathy Keller, Phill Jenkins, Brenda Adrian, Jon Wiley, Kathy Wahlbin, Pat Ramsey and many many others.

As the years passed and the trainings became more finely honed and effective, and as the judging form became more standardized, we were able to offer services and to do what many nonprofits can’t do – charge for our knowledge and experience.  We love working with companies and agencies and helping craft their accessibility strategies and roadmaps.  We love organizing accessibility training conferences. Earning revenue is a great opportunity for a nonprofit organization like Knowbility.  Fee for service offerings allow us to train and hire people with disabilities, including veterans with newly acquired disabilities.  So I would be remiss if I did not remind readers that Knowbility can help you with your company accessibility assessment, planning, and implementation.

But the point I want to emphasize is the notion of the free exchange of ideas that comes from collaborative effort. Collaboration is multidimensional, and creates the inclusive environment that is the very foundation of both innovation and accessibility.

The expertise developed over 13 years at Knowbility came directly from the community AIR programs, and AIR is still at the heart and soul of what we do.  I wrote elsewhere about the exhilaration of AIR activities. And, if you are at SXSW in 2012, please plan to attend the awards party to catch some of the excitement.  That thrill and the sense of active participation in a meaningful community collaboration helps create the dedication to accessibility that so many developers come away with. Knowbility has trained more developers on the practical application of accessible web development techniques than anyone, anywhere.

And as a result has accessibility become mainstream for web development professionals?  Nope, accessible design practice is not mainstream at this point and is often misapplied and misunderstood. So, the question is always with us – how do we get there?

Our community is now giving serious consideration to the best way forward in order to professionalize, standardize, and certify accessible web development skills. The notion of a professional accessibility organization is suggested and is worth serious consideration.  All praise to the US Labor Department, the Assistive Technology Industry Association and others who are giving this important matter such deep analysis.

Is it time for a skills certification?

Our perspective has been formed across many years in the accessibility trenches.  In 2001 when Knowbility was still a toddler, board member Jon Carmain urged us to be “first to market” in a web accessibility certification.  We did extensive research and concluded that the field was not stable enough and not ready for a certification to be put into place and that Knowbility was not mature enough and had not enough credibility to be a certifying agent.  But it is a notion that sits always on the back burner as a consideration.

The notion of a certification for web sites, for web developer skills, and for usability professionals is one that has merit. The question is how?

On Feb 28th, the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) will convene an Accessibility Forum at the 27th annual Conference on Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities organized by CSUN. The topic our community is asked to consider is “Taking Accessibility Mainstream: Making the case for an international society of accessibility professionals.”

This is a great topic for consideration and comment.  The forum agenda and the line-up of panelists is stellar.  This brief history of Knowbility above is offered so that readers will understand our background and put our comments in perspective. Next week we will post again with Knowbility’s position on the creation of a professional accessibility organization as a certifying body for such a set of certifications.  Stay tuned and weigh in with your own perspectives – we’d love to hear them!

While I was teaching… Nose to the Page (1)

I recently had a remarkable teaching experience.

I was teaching on typographic accommodations that support visual readers with low vision. I had explained how there are more than 20  common ways to get low vision and these can attack about 15 systems in the eye and brain. This means that low vision does not manifest in a uniform way. That is one among many reasons why individual choice of typographic setting is so important for visual readers with low vision.

I had gotten to the point where I show style sheets that had worked for real people in my experience. I told the anecdote about my friend, Bob, who looked at my favorite style and said, “If I had to look at that all day, I’d puke”.  When I put up a style a woman in the middle row got very uncomfortable. She said, “Could you turn that off? It makes me ill to look at it, or I’ll have to leave the room”. I quickly changed the style sheet, and she went on to say that she finally understood what was wrong in her life. People kept shoving solutions to her visual problem at her, and they told her she was crazy for claiming that they didn’t work. She said, “When people call you crazy long enough, you begin to believe it”.

I spent the rest of the day finding a style that would please her.  With, ZoneClipper, experimental software developed by Abhay Mhatre and me, she now reads the HTML articles she needs for her work in comfort.

Had PDF been the medium, there would be no happy ending.  My student and I are both grateful for the gift of style choice we get from HTML+CSS, but PDF obstructs choice.

Don’t Blame Yourself

If you have low vision, and you have lots of trouble reading PDF files, you are not alone, and you are not doing anything wrong.  Chances are, there is no way you can make that PDF document look like you need it to look.  The reflow option on the Adobe Reader is buggy.  Saving as HTML usually introduces many errors even with properly tagged PDF.  The widely touted claim of PDF accessibility excludes you.  My advise to my community of visual readers with low vision is do not blame yourself, just dig in and treat your PDF document like it is paper.  For you and me PDF is effectively paper.

Contrast PDF With HTML

PDF does not separate content from presentation, at the level needed to support reading with low vision.  PDF allows the ability to distinguish between headings, paragraphs and lists elements even if you cannot see the text.  It enables document element navigation like heading navigation.  This is one level of separating of content from presentation, but it is incomplete.

Most other technologies allow element level detection, but they also support separation of presentation from content, all the way down to the individual letter of text. This is the level people with low vision need.  The visual style preferences of people with full sight shut readers with low vision out of reading most text.  Font sizes, visually confusing font faces, kerning, single spaced lines and disorienting color schemes like the standard black print on white background are just a few factors of presentation that  contribute to impaired perception of text.  PDF cannot remove most of these barriers.  It can adjust size and color in limited ways, but that is it.  Within a PDF file, the style and content of text are inextricably tangled.

When you contrast PDF with HTML, you understand just how limited the visual choices are for PDF.  HTML and CSS enable every change in text presentation needed to include low vision.  With HTML and CSS you can choose font family, font size, color, spacing (line, word and letter), margin size and borders.  Moreover, you can apply different presentations to different document elements.  Headings can have one look. Paragraphs can have another look that visually distinguishes them from headings.   Lists can have another look.  Visual readers with low vision need visual cues to separate the semantic elements of documents.  They are like people with full sight, they just need different visual cues.

The templates for most word processors supply a similar range of changes in presentations.  They are not as clean as HTML with CSS, but they work.  PDF is unique in its extreme inflexibility.  That is why it is inaccessible for visual readers with low vision.  It denies the freedom necessary to adjust the presentation of text. People with low vision just cannot get the flexible typography they need to read, especially professional materials.   PDF files, even tagged PDF files, just cannot deliver.

I never read PDF for fun.  It usually causes me physical pain and nausea.  I make numerous reading errors.  Of my many friends with low vision I know none who can finish long documents in PDF using Adobe Reader.  I have finished two in my lifetime.

Most of the time, I print the document.  I use Xerox enlargement to get a 140% bump in size.  Then I use a 2.5x hand magnifier.  That gives me 350% enlargement, sore eyes and a very stiff neck.  PDF is just too much for my reading stamina.