Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for January 30

Last updated: May 30, 2016

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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!

That Thing Everyone Buzzed About Last Week

The long-awaited new gadget from Apple arrived last week – the iPad. All of geekdom knows that. (As an aside, I wonder how many non-geeks are blissfully unaware of the iPad.) As gadgets go, the iPad seems far more accessible than many other new products on their first day. An article from abledbody about the iPad "Hey Apple, What About iPad’s Accessibility?" indicated that not everything was accessible. There was no captioning on the launch for various key videos about the product. Why are things done half-way? It's wonderful that the product has accessibility features, but the presentation should have had accessibility features, too. Can we have holistic approach to accessibility please? Unless you like people giggling behind your back…

Cognition and Literacy

An excellent blog post by Virginia Moore surfaced last week asking whether duct tape can mend this hole. There are many good points about literacy and inclusion throughout; it also refers to Jakob Nielsen's recent Alertbox article about the "Digital Divide: The 3 Stages". Both articles are healthy reading for the technical communicator – and many, many others. I think there is a bow to plain language here, too.

There are several tools available that may help you evaluate literacy issues on your site.

  • Flesh is an intriguing tool that can calculate the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of a document.
  • Style and Diction are GNU software tools that can be used to identify wordy and commonly misused phrases, sentence length, and other readability measures. Diction and style are two old standard Unix commands. Both commands support English and German documents.
  • PHP Text Statistics is a PHP class that provides information about content, including readability scores. Homepage and Live Version: Readability-Score.com.

What is cognitive disability? This blog Define "Cognitive Disability" post ponders the difficulties of defining cognitive disability.

Clear Helper wrote "Rix Centre: Accessible Web Sites by & for People with Intellectual Disabilities" is an introductory article about the Rix Centre in London. The center "specializes in developing new media technology and its use by people with intellectual disabilities to improve their lives." They seem to merge two excellent ideas – the use of clear text or plain language and the direct involvement of those using the services. This speaks to the whole idea about involving people with disabilities with the development of the products that affect them. The article has a link to the Rix Centre portal.

Assistive Technology

James Bailey blogs about managing assistive technology in a college setting. He discusses the move "from a medical model definition of disability to a social model disability" in this blog post "AT and the Evolving DS Service Model". You might want to follow him on Twitter or grab the RSS feed for his blog to stay up-to-date with his thoughts on this topic and share your own.

It's great to see the amazing assistive technology products made for kids these days. Recently, several people tweeted about a K-12 for children with disabilities / special education needs assistive technology products list of the top nine AT products for special needs kids that was listed on the Disaboom website (no longer active as of 12 May 2014). This is all very nice, but putting on the technical communication cap reveals something else to this writer: job opportunities. The technical communicator with a skill set full of content strategy, usability, accessibility, and more, would be an excellent employee or consultant for these companies. New career perhaps? Never hurts to try…

Mobility Perceptions

Liz Henry wants to hack a wheelchair. Surprised? Read Jonathan Corbet's "LCA: HackAbility" review of Liz' talk at linux.conf.au 2010 LCA2010, the recent Linux gathering in Australia. We talk about user-generated content in the software world. User-generated assistive technology, anyone? Liz is a user of a wheelchair. Why shouldn't she be able to "hack" it? I would never have dreamt of the ideas Liz has – because I don't use a wheelchair. Proves once more how we need to involve people with disabilities in testing products and services. Without an inclusive approach, so many valuable insights and opportunities are overlooked.

On a similar note, another LCA2010 attendee shared some conference discussions about wheels in "A Rather Healthy Attitude Towards Wheelchairs" that brought users of bikes, skates, and wheelchairs together. The "dis" in "disability" disappeared.

Cultural Accessibility Assumptions

There are keyboard shortcuts for navigating a Google search. This is an accessibility experiment from Google, which should be a relief to those with tender wrists. It's a great idea, but the cultural assumptions get me. Tricks like these are often based on a U.S. keyboard, which I don't use. I am always left to figure out the necessary adjustments for use on my keyboard. Being stuck like this has led me to spell out instructions when I share any tips. The slash symbol trips me up here. I need to use the shift key because that is the only way I can activate the slash key on a Danish keyboard (it's on the key for the number 7.) These tips for one-key-only shortcuts fail for me here. The moral of the story is – just when you think you have everything figured out, another issue reveals itself.

Web Notes

Your local government has an obligation to provide you with certain services in exchange for all those taxes you pay, right? Well, perhaps, but it doesn't seem like that's true when it comes to websites. It seems local authorities / government are the ones with the most difficult-to-use websites! Read a summary of a generalized survey done by Webcredible; the article includes links to a report of the full results.

Checklists for improving your website are always handy. Here's one by Mark Aplet inJanuary 2010
that highlights "Common Accessibility Mistakes". (PDF version 195 Kb .pdf) Read it and evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses. The checklist's author says you'll improve the overall accessibility of your site. Universal accessibility. We like!

Raising Awareness

The New York Times reported on a new campaign that uses humor to support disabled people. The campaign, Think Beyond the Label, is "committed to making the business case for employing people with disabilities." (Side note: They have a message on their About page stating that the site is "Section 508-compliant, and is accessible to people with disabilities." Great news, I thought, and threw the link into the W3C validator. The result was 34 Errors, 12 warning(s). Oh dear.)

Last, But Not Least

We value inclusion, so don't forget to help the sighted. A post, "When The Blind Meet The Sighted…" by Ujjvala Ballal, humorously explains what a blind person should do when they meet a sighted person.

When it comes to the visual side of presentations, some use the "Presentation Zen" book for inspiration. Others turn to Cornify to shop for great images of unicorns and rainbows!

Link Contributors

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

@AccessForAll
@ClearHelper
@IBMAccess
@inclusiveplanet
@mgifford
@mpaciello
@musingvirtual
@SHRMLI
@sprungmarkers
@vavroom
@visual28
@webcredible

Accessible Computer Hardware & Software

Last updated: March 3, 2015

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  • Access Technology Blog from the National Federation of the Blind
  • Adaptive Technology, Accessible Techcomm list of resources
  • American Printing House for the Blind The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is the world's largest nonprofit organization creating educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are visually impaired.
  • Apple® Accessibility Features Vision built into all Macintosh computers provides adjustable keyboard, an ergonomic mouse, CloseView screen magnification software, Easy Access system software (StickyKeys, SlowKeys, MouseKeys), electronic documentation, key-repeat disable, text-to-speech synthesis and voice recognition (PlainTalk), sticky mouse, and visual alert cues. The VoiceOver spoken English interface for Mac OS X is a fully integrated, built-in screen reader technology providing access to the Macintosh through speech, audible cues, and keyboard navigation.
  • "A Few Notes on Buying a Computer" by Curtis Chong, Director of Technology, National Federation of the Blind, 2001
  • GW Micro provides computer-based speech products. GW Micro is the maker of Window-Eyes, Vocal-Eyes, speech recognition and speech synthesizer software, and braille printers
  • Humanware – see things differently computer tools that empower people to compete effectively in a sighted world
  • Kurzweil optical recognition products for Macintosh and Windows platforms
  • Low vision software Ai Squared maker of ZoomText magnification, and magnification with speech
  • MAGic Screen Magnification Software with Speech MAGic opens up a whole new world of computing to low vision users. Whether you are surfing the Web, creating a document, e-mailing, or engaging in social networking, MAGic provides you the tools you need to work more efficiently.
  • "Making Your Web Site Accessible to the Blind" by Curtis Chong, Director of Technology, National Federation of the Blind, 2008
  • Mayer-Johnson Hand Held Voice®, a dynamic screen voice recorder from Ability Research
  • RC Systems makers of Doubletalk speech synthesizers. RC Systems has been a market leader of low cost, high quality text-to-speech and voice synthesis products since 1983. You’ll find our voice synthesizers in a wide range of products, from talking ATMs to vending machines, and homeland security to space satellite telemetry systems.
  • Talking Clocks products from Assistech Special Needs

Speech Resources

Last updated: May 18, 2016

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  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
  • Apple® Accessibility Features Vision built into all Macintosh computers provides adjustable keyboard, an ergonomic mouse, CloseView screen magnification software, Easy Access system software (StickyKeys, SlowKeys, MouseKeys), electronic documentation, key-repeat disable, text-to-speech synthesis and voice recognition (PlainTalk), sticky mouse, and visual alert cues. The VoiceOver spoken English interface for Mac OS X is a fully integrated, built-in screen reader technology providing access to the Macintosh through speech, audible cues, and keyboard navigation.
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
  • Center for Speech and Language Disorders is a non-profit organization with offices in Lombard and Chicago. Our mission is to help children with communication disorders reach their full potential through family centered services. CSLD's service delivery is set apart from its counterparts because each client benefits from an individualized relationship with their therapist. We recognize that one type of treatment does not fit all children, or all disorders. Each therapy plan is created based on the personal needs of the child and all therapeutic methods are research based and thus decisive and sound.
  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Windows platform only)
  • Dragon for MacUses the Legendary Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition engine, works with other applications you have on your Mac. Offers Dragon Dictate for Mac, MacSpeech Scribe, and Dragon Dictate Medical for Mac
  • Job Access With Speech (JAWS) for Windows® screen reading software
  • Mayer-Johnson Hand Held Voice®, a dynamic screen voice recorder from Ability Research
  • Microsoft® Accessibility Resource Guide for People with Language & Speech Impairments tutorials for keyboard filters, speech recognition systems, screen review utilities, touch screens, and speech synthesizers.
  • Speech Technology: News, an article in Speech Technology (06/05) Vol. 10, No. 3, P. 10; by Nancy Jamison "Speech technologies are being mainstreamed often to the exclusion of users of assistive technology (AT), which include the dexterity, sight, hearing, cognitive, and speech impaired—and this is ironic, given that handicapped users frequently drive technology development. Market drivers for speech technologies include the government, which has set up legislation designed to make the provision of accessible products or services both a requirement as well as an incentive for companies, and the development of accessible mainstream products. Mainstream vendors must play a key role in boosting product accessibility, partly through the incorporation of speech technologies into product design. AT types for people with certain impairments may not be suitable for people with other disabilities: Speech technologies for sight-impaired individuals are useful as tools for conveying information, while the hearing-impaired often use them for command and control. Examples of speech technologies well suited to the vision-disabled include text-to-speech, voice-activated dialing, and note taker products that incorporate Braille. People suffering from hearing loss can take advantage of interactive communication solutions that use software to convert speech to text and video sign language in real time. Dexterity or mobility-challenged people often use automated speech recognition (ASR) to command and control both keyboard and software functions; ASR eliminates the need to use the keyboard or mouse by enabling users to supply data to business and productivity applications and dictate text into others. People with cognitive, language, or speech impairments can use technologies that convert spoken input into graphical images and are helpful for people undergoing speech therapy."
  • Telephone Access for People with Speech Disabilities
  • TTS: Synthesis of audible speech from text How does it work?
  • AT&T Labs' Natural Voices® Text-to-Speech Demo
  • ActiVocal voice-activated dialers and light bulb sockets
  • Voice Activated Telephone Dialer