Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for March 21

We present to you a menu of tidbits collected in recent days that are too short for blog posts and sometimes too long for a tweet (when we want to add clarifying comments). Headings provide a light grouping to help you skim the offerings. Bon appétit!

Happy Birthday, Twitter

Twitter turns 4 today. Could we have imagined the social Web of 2010 back in 2000? Social media is even "invading" the world of technical communication – read Anne Gentle's "Community and Conversation" if you don't believe me. Even though the concepts are changing the way we work, the technology is still dragging its feet in the area of accessibility. In my opinion, Twitter.com is a rather wonky Web application, and some of the desktop Twitter applications leave much to be desired. Thank goodness we can celebrate Twitter's birthday with an accessible Twitter application on the Web called Easy Chirp! Hurrah for @EasyChirp! What?! You haven't tried Accessible Twitter? I don't use assistive technology at all, and I love it! The interface is cleaner (easy on the eyes), and no weird AJAX-y things appear just because your cursor rests momentarily over a link of some kind. It works for me.

The Old Folks at Home

Speaking of growing older… @jebswebs shared a not-so-new, but still interesting article about Glimpse Into The Future by Michael Rogers, December 2009, about Boomers and Technology. He examines the attitudes of today's boomers regarding their use of technology, and what they expect in the future."  Updated

I am always slightly amused by the discussion of age and technology. My gut feeling is that some of it is just a stereotype. I think availability and motivation is a huge factor that is not always discussed. A love of genealogy or connecting with grandchildren on the other side of the globe are motivating factors to learn about computers. Even with motivation, helping hands are always appreciated. Those of you who are are the IT department for older relatives might enjoy the Computing Guide for Boomers.

Alzheimer's and dementia are some of the nasty surprises that await the aging population. Temporary relief or support is possible with assistive technology. What does that have to do with technical communication? Technical communicators can help with the documentation, user interface design, user testing, and all sort of tasks to make these cool tools available to the public. Like the SenseCam, a "A Little Black Box to Jog Failing Memory" (a device to nudge the memory of a mind succumbing to Alzheimer's disease.)


Did you know that people with disabilities can travel? Yup. They take planes, trains, automobiles – you name it. That means they want hotels now and then. Like anyone else, they want to book their hotel online. So? That means that hotel websites need to make it clear what facilities they offer. What is it like navigating the hotel in a wheelchair or with a white cane? Do they have equipment for the deaf, such as a vibrating alarm clock? Is there a roll-in shower or bath stool? Are there enough electrical outlets for recharging scooters or CPAP equipment?

The Expedia press release Expedia.com Launches New Accessibility Search Tools for Disabled Travelers dated February 16, 2010 announced the launch of new accessibility search tools for disabled travelers from the giant in the travel industry: "Travelers in the U.S. can now visit Expedia.com to search for lodgings in the U.S. that offer accommodations including accessibility equipment for the deaf, accessible bathrooms, accessible paths of travel, Braille or raised signage, in-room accessibility, a roll-in shower and more."

Expedia and Hotels.com's Accessible Room Gimmick Abledbody.com was not impressed with Expedia's move for (at least) five reasons.

  1. Customers can search for, but not book, accessible rooms.
  2. There's no guarantee you'll get an accessible room.
  3. Yes, there was a lawsuit against Expedia. – In other words, this wasn't done out of human kindness.
  4. The ADA already covers most of these accessibility features.
  5. The accessibility box is hard to find.

I have tried booking an accessible room twice (not through Expedia). I was sharing a room with someone who needed the room to be accessible. Both times, I was forced to finish the transaction over the phone – the form was not sufficient. In one case, I got a hotel call center who botched the booking, but fortunately, the hotel involved was able to resolve the issue. With the possibility of speedy online booking today, additional effort and steps for booking are, well, they are a slap in the face. @AquinasWI takes a positive view of Expedia’s accessibility efforts. Maybe we should stop being so grumpy and join him. (Crossing our fingers, too, won't hurt!)

Usability Doesn't Mean Ugly

Some people think that a usable site is an ugly site – that you cannot have good design and usability together. In Top 11 Best Designed University Websites by Todd Zeigler, March 9, 2010, the author looks at the top 100 university websites from a given list and names the top 11 best-designed of those websites. I saw no mention of accessibility. Curious, I did a quick check with WebAIM's WAVE. Three of the top five had an accessibility error or two. Of the top five on this list, number 1 (Johns Hopkins) had two accessibility errors (forms lacked labels) and number 4 (Rutgers) had 19 accessibility errors (alt text). WAVE reported one error for University of Chicago, but I couldn't find it. You might think these specific errors are minor. Hello. These errors are so banal – so Accessibility 101 – that they should not be there. These sites might be pretty, but it's pretty silly to have these simple oversights.

Color My World

When technical communicators discuss colors for hyperlinks or graphics, the topic of colorblind is often forgotten. I recall (but have lost) one amazing thread where someone who was colorblind jumped into the discussion. That was an eye-opener for everyone participating. We have colorblind resources on Accessible Techomm, but the harried, one-stop shopper might prefer the Colblindor website. The site is all about color blindness – by someone who knows what he is talking about!

Collaborative Subtitling

Mozilla is behind the Collaborative subtitling design challenge. The full title is "Collaborative subtitling — How can users quickly create a timed transcript of any video on the web?"

As the site says, "Participatory Culture Foundation and Mozilla are working to build a universal system for creating and collaboratively improving subtitles for any video on the web. We believe that many users would be willing to contribute and translate subtitles if there was an easy way to do so. And that we can use this energy to knock down language barriers for popular online video."

Important dates for the exciting challenge are

  1. March 2010 – Launch of the Collaborative Subtitling Design Challenge
  2. April 26th, 2010 – Submission Deadline
  3. April 29th, 2010 – People's Choice Voting starts
  4. May 11th, 2010 – People's Choice Voting ends
  5. May 17th, 2010 – Best in Class honors, development plans are announced
  6. June 11th, 2010 – New prototype released
  7. June 18th, 2010 – Usability study of new prototype released



Knowbility and several thousand others attended the annual South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWI) Festival recently. (Catch up on Wikipedia's SXSW article if you have never heard of it before.)

Knowbility, organizers of the famous John Slatin AccessU (10-12 May 2010), share their thoughts on the Knowbility's Know Wiki. Poke around the wiki for demos and material. [the wiki is no more]

@knowbility sent tweets from the Web Access Gone Wild session. (Search on Twitter for the #webaccessgonewild hash tag.) These tips or statements are perfect for pondering!

  • Accessible sites don't need to be ugly… but then, why are so many of them so hideous?
  • Your site can be fully compliant and technically accessible, yet functionally inaccessible.
  • The goal of web accessibility is to get users to content, not provide accessibility options.
  • Accessibility implemented partially or incorrectly can be worse than no accessibility at all.
  • Images that are the only thing within a link MUST have alt text.
  • Tabindex, focus() and aria are crucial to making rich internet applications accessible.
  • People with cognitive disabilities outnumber people with all other disabilities combined.

Knowbility (& @AustinGovOnline) sent a few good tweets from another session called Thoughtless Design Leaves Disabled Gamers Logged Out (hashtag #disabledgamersloggedout).

  • For disabled, video games can be a lifesaver. MSNBC first raised awareness for this in Apr 09
  • Accessible games create a sense of community for disabled that they may otherwise lack
  • 20.5% of the gamer market is disabled, which is worth more than $14 billion dollars.

The tech writer in me puzzled over that last remark. Is the entire gamer market worth $14 billion dollars, or is the 20.5% worth that amount. I've not found the correct answer yet, but either way, it is a large market share. @jared_w_smith sent a sad tweet letting us know that there were a "whopping 11 people in the audience for #disabledgamersloggedout". That is a shame. Let's read the panel description again: "With approximately 20% of the US having some sort of disability, potential gamers are being left out of game play due to most design being far too conservative. How different disabilities affect game play and how game design can be more innovative to achieve social justice will be discussed." 20% ? And only 11 people attended.

There was a session called "My 3-year-old is my usability tester". I loved the creativity of the titles. @jared_w_smith tweeted that the session could have been called "My 3-year-old is my cognitive web accessibility expert." Later on, he mentioned that there is "lots of insight/overlap with cognitive disabilities research. Need more of this. #3yroldexpert" I am now imagining hoards of testers starting to collaborate with the local kindergartens! Of course, the real geeks among us are always quietly monitoring all discussions at the dinner table at family get-togethers. Throw-away remarks by Auntie May or Grandpa or the crowd at the kiddie table might come in handy at the next design meeting!

You'll find many presentations from SXSW 2010 on SlideShare.

Have a think about the last SXSW tweet I read from @jared_w_smith: "One of my many SXSW takeaways: Accessibility technologists are awesome, but we need more passionate, vocal designers in this field." Who can you mentor or encourage to follow that path?

The Last Word

If you also find stories or use stories everywhere you go, you'll be excited to know that Rosenfeld Media is publishing a book for you right now. It's "Storytelling for User Experience" by Kevin Brooks and (our own) Whitney Quesenbery.

March 20th was World Storytelling Day. Childhood seems to be the ideal place to develop a mindset of inclusion. Signed Stories is a sweet site with captioned and signed (American – ASL and British – BSL) children's stories. The site told me a story. These captioned and signed tales could be enjoyed by everyone, including those with cognitive disabilities or hearing impairments. Take a moment to read one of these tales with a child you know (the one inside you?) and imagine a world of inclusion. That would be a very happy ending.

Link Contributors

This post was glued together with links or inspiration from many people. They are listed with their Twitter names.


Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for March 14

We present to you a menu of tidbits collected in recent days that are too short for blog posts and sometimes too long for a tweet (when we want to add clarifying comments). Headings provide a light grouping to help you skim the offerings. Bon appétit!

Techie Stuff

The Mono Accessibility project "enables many Windows applications to be fully accessible on Linux. " Oh, they're looking for people to help write code, documentation, or bug swatting. Consider joining their team.  Updated

Talking about the Mono Accessibility project brings us to "Moonlight". Moonlight was an open source implementation of Silverlight!! Intrigued? Read more in this article about Moonlight.

Game On

Here is a list of several European initiatives concerning gaming and people with disabilities.

  • The Game On Project – A European initiative on "using Game Based Learning to develop basic, personal and work sustainability skills in prisoners, those at risk of offending and ex-offenders, including those with disabilities."
  • The GOAL-Net project (paper is available in the Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on Games Based Learning, page 529) – "The project will support participants in training and further training activities, in the acquisition and the use of knowledge, skills and qualifications to facilitate personal development, employability and participation in the European Labour Market." This project is now completed; you can download the software and other resources at this site. [No longer available as of March 2015.]
  • "Design of Serious Games for Students with Intellectual Disability" (the GOET project) by Cecilia Sik Lanyi and David Joseph Brown, March 2010 is a paper given at the India HCI 2010/ Interaction Design & International Development 2010 (IHCI). "We have designed and developed around 10 serious games under the EU Leonardo Transfer of Innovation Project: Game On Extra Time (GOET) project. The project supports people with learning disabilities and additional sensory impairments in getting and keeping a job by helping them to learn, via games-based learning; skills that will help them in their working day."

Project RECALL in Europe is a slight variation on a gaming project. It "combines location based services with games based learning approaches." RECALL "has been developed to meet a need identified from years of research in working with user groups of people with learning disabilities and their teachers/trainers. This research has shown that on leaving compulsory education, people with learning disabilities, who have previously been provided with transport to allow them to access community activity, suddenly become excluded from lifelong learning and community activity because of their lack of independent travel skills." RECALL is still in its early stages, but it is definitely worth monitoring.

Reflections, Musings, and Ponderings

Sandi Wassmer shares her thoughts on "Inclusivity may be taking over, but it isn't leaving accessibility behind". Inclusivity versus accessibility–is there a difference? [Unfortunately, her website is no longer active as of January 2020.] The article includes a link to her presentation at the London Web Standards in February.

"Accessibility isn't just about disabilities, it's about varying degrees of ability to access content." That's a great quote from the article "Moving forward is holding us back". Computer monitors might be getting bigger, but what about those teeny tiny mobile devices?

@sarahebourne benefits from accessible websites when using her Kindle for the Web. She wrote an excellent review of using Accessible Twitter on her Kindle. [Unfortunately, her website is no longer available as of May 15, 2014.]

Help, I Need Somebody

Don't ever assume that the entire world using the emergency number that you use in your country. Wikipedia lists emergency telephone numbers from around the world; only Australia and New Zealand make reference to TTY phone numbers (devices used by deaf people). Apparently, emergency numbers for deaf people are often special numbers. The three-digit national emergency numbers are generally not usable by deaf people, which means they need to know and memorize a different number.

The page for the deaf and hard of hearing from the West Yorkshire Police (UK) site lists an 11-digit number where you can send a text message – but all messages must be prefixed with "999". That's a lot to remember in an emergency!

The Australian emergency call service uses Triple Zero (000) for their main emergency number if you need urgent help from police, fire, or ambulance services.

  • You can call 000 from any fixed or mobile phone and certain VoIP and satellite services. You can also call 000 from any quot;handheld" satellite phone. You can call 000 using the Emergency+ app on your smartphone. One advantage of using the Emergency+ app to call 000 is that if you don't know your exact location, the app will use the GPS on your smartphone to help you to give emergency services your location.
  • 106 can only be used with a teletypewriter (TTY) or a device for the deaf or who have a hearing or speech impairment – not for use from a mobile phone. You cannot access 106 by SMS. You can also ask the National Relay Service (NRS) for a captioned relay, internet relay, SMS relay, video relay, or voice relay call to be transferred to Triple Zero if you need emergency help from police, fire, or an ambulance service.
  • 112 can only be dialed on a mobile phone.
  • You cannot contact 000 or 112 by text message.

Now, New Zealand is making the headlines because they are the first country in the world where deaf people can send a text to the national emergency number, 111. When you think about it, it is rather amazing that we haven't gotten much farther in the year 2010.

Stereotypes Revisited

"Talk" is a video that "portrays a society in which non-disabled people are a pitied minority and disabled people lead full and active lives." The following links are subtitled and signed (BSL, I believe): Talk, Part 1 (5 min. 40 sec.) and Talk, Part 2 (5 min. 7 sec.)

"Talk" is a great video to watch, but if you are in a hurry, try this 35-second video showing "able-bodied people trying to live in a world made for those with disabilities".

Nicolas Steenhout (@vavroom) compared some advertising from the late 90s to current ads by the Canadian Paralympics Committee. His blog post about Awesome Ads Presenting "The Disabled" In A Different Light is a must-read. The captions for the ads means those who cannot see the pictures can still follow the story – an example for others to follow (hint, hint). See presentation Slides for Accessibility Presentation at LCA2010 Business Miniconf: "Accessibility and FOSS" (.pdf unfortunately no longer available as of 28 March 2020. See the abstract of the presentation.  Updated

Merinda Epstein uses cartoons to present issues around mental health services in a "humorous, satirical, or ironical manner". These are not captioned, but I am sure a volunteer would be welcome to offer their captioning services.

Quotes for the Week

@sarahebourne wrote a tweet recently that is definitely worth repeating here:

Accessibility is not about "being nice to the blind." It's about avoiding restrictions that arbitrarily exclude people.

@mattmay sent a great comment from the current South-by-Southwest gathering in Austin, Texas. It was too long to re-tweet, but I had to share it.

Touch-centric apps are a HUGE trend at #sxswi. In case you were wondering what accessibility experts will be fixing in 5yrs. #TouchHolyGrail

Link Contributors

This post was glued together with links or inspiration from many people. They are listed with their Twitter names.