Tag Archives: standards

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!


AccessU at CSUN 2012: Progressive Enhancement

Derek Featherstone, one of the Web accessibility community’s most dynamic speakers, will explain and illustrate the idea of progressive enhancement beginning at 1:30 PM on Tuesday, February 28. In this session, Derek will build upon the technical information that others have covered such as developing with CSS3, HTML5, and WAI-ARIA to build sites and applications that work for everyone. When you’ve learned to apply the principles of progressive enhancement, you’ll know how to build Web sites and applications that work with a range of browsers, operating systems and platforms, and assistive technology.

As Derek explained in his article ARIA and Progressive Enhancement from November of 2010

You’ve seen this before. You:
1.start with pristine, semantic HTML,
2.provide a layer of presentational suggestions via CSS (these may or may not be overridden by user styles), and
3.provide a layer of behavioral enhancements with JavaScript (again, these may or may not be overridden or supplemented by user scripts).

You’ll be able to watch Derek and ask him questions as he demonstrates the theory of progressive enhancement, makes it “real” for you, and helps you understand how to think about practically implementing it throughout the design and development processes.

Derek’s Ottawa-based company, Simply Accessible, is known for its Monthly Q & A calls. Subscribers submit their questions, and they’re answered during a live seminar. The next call will be held on February 23.

Derek writes excellent thought-provoking articles that raise issues and offer practical solutions to web accessibility problems. All of his articles can be seen over on the Simply Accessible site at simplyaccessible.com/archives.

If you know people in the San Diego area who could benefit from this and other sessions that will be part of Knowbility’s AccessU at CSUN 2012, please encourage them to sign up. There’s still time to join Knowbility and this outstanding group of speakers for either or both days.

Lainey Feingold shares Sh%t Folks Say to Web Accessibility Attorneys at AccessU at CSUN Feb 27

Actually the title of her talk is Legal Issues Behind Web Access:  The Law is a Key – Let’s use it!  There is still time to sign up and attend two days of practical web accessibility training in San Diego.  Read on for a preview of Lainey Feingold’s unique and engaging perspective and come to AccessU to hear her keynote in person.

Lainey Feingold is excited to help kick-off the Monday morning session at AccessU at CSUN.  Her alternative presentation title is “Sh%t Folks Say to Web Accessibility Lawyers.”   Why? Because she wants to highlight the positive aspects of (drum-roll) the “LAW” and clear up some misconceptions people have about legal issues and how they relate to web access.

What kinds of things DO people say to web accessibility lawyers? Things like “the law is a blunt instrument – don’t use it if at all possible” or “I never mention the law – too negative.” Or “Talking about the law backfires –  I try to ignore it.”

Here are a few advance take-aways from the session:

  • The right to independently access, and interact with, information on the web is a civil right.  And it is a right written into both federal and state law in the U.S. and other countries.  (We’ll briefly talk about what those are.) Civil Rights are good – so why do so many people think of the law as bad?
  • There are lots of different ways to USE the law.  A lawsuit might be considered a punch in the stomach…  But other methods – like Structured Negotiations that Lainey practices – is more of an outstretched hand.  Lesson?  Don’t confuse the “what” of the law with the “how” of the law
  • Legal strategy has been key to advancing web inclusivity.  There are lots of legal strategies – some don’t even involve lawyers!  We’ll talk about them all Monday morning in San Diego.

Lainey Feingold has been working on issues of web accessibility for over fifteen years.  She has negotiated web agreements with large institutions including Major League Baseball, American Cancer Society and Bank of America.  More information on the LF Legal website.  A short summary with links of all the press releases related to the web accessibility settlements she’s negotiated is found on her site as well.


AccessU at CSUN 2012: Designing for Accessibility

Molly Holzschlag, an active participant in the World Wide Web Consortium’s Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) working Group, will show you how to design with CSS, while keeping accessibility in mind. During her session on Tuesday, February 28 at 8:30 AM, Molly will convince you that accessible sites don’t have to be ugly and/or boring. You’ll learn how to implement CSS that’s clean, scalable, and creates a better experience for all of your site visitors, including those who have low vision.

To date, Molly has some 35 books to her credit. And, at the moment, she’s authoring another for O’Reilly on “CSS for Screen and Print.”

In the Web community, Molly is certainly known for her ability to speak and write clearly about the value of open standards and a Web that works for all. She’s recently started a series, in .Net Magazine, in which she plans to interview members of the CSS Working Group. Take a few moments to read the first article, Inside the CSS WG: Daniel Glazman, co-chair.

After you attend this and other AccessU at CSUN sessions, you’ll leave feeling enthusiastic about how to assure universal information access as you design for mobile and Web-based platforms. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for Knowbility’s AccessU at CSUN 2012 today. Please help us spread the word to project managers, administrators, and Web developers in the San Diego area. Feel free to share this message with colleagues.

Knowbility Gets a Blog!

After ten years of evangelizing, training, and developing community around the critical notion that technology should be designed to be available and usable by everyone, Knowbility has invited several members of our community to weigh in on the current state of technology inclusion.

How is the industry doing? Are we nearer to reaching accessibility goals? What are the critical issues facing our field? Now that we have the attention of government agencies, how do we get the standards to actually be, well, um….enforced?

These and many other questions, comments and ideas around the happy notion of accessible technology will be explored on this blog. Welcome!