Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for April 25

Last updated: May 5, 2015

Note:  All links going to other websites will open in the same window. Use the Back button to return to our site.

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!

Sock it to 'em, John!

Technical communicators, please sit up and take notice of this section. It is important.

John Foliot has written an amazing letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. That Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing recently. The topic of that hearing was "Achieving the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the Digital Age – Current Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities". All fine and dandy. Transcripts are made because it's government by the people and for the people, as you know.

However, these documents were inaccessible, so it became "for some of the people". Ugh! What did John do? He made accessible versions of them. He demonstrated how the work should have been done in the first place! I'd lead a round of applause, but I am nursing my aching head from when I banged my head against the desk upon learning of this gaffe. Is there no one in the U.S. government offices who knows how to make accessible documents? I dare bet – unfortunately – that no government in the world can claim to be perfect. I will be very happy if someone can prove me wrong.

John, thank you for showing the folks in Washington how accessible documents are made. Maybe they need a workshop on that? There are skilled people in the Washington, D.C. area who can arrange that. The government staff can also attend the next unconference held by @AccessibilityDC, where they can learn a thing or two.

ADA Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

If you are finished laughing and crying hysterically about the gaffe with inaccessible documents in the previous section, go back and read the information from that hearing. All the details of who spoke and where the transcripts are can be found in John's letter. This is US-centric, but there is inspiration here for everyone. If you promise access for all in a digital age, you must constantly monitor what is happening in the world outside your office. The issues, challenges, and opportunities are dynamic, and governments should be in the frontlines, not sagging dreadfully behind everyone else.

So far, it looks like the website wranglers at whitehouse.gov are staying on their toes. Read this White House blog post about Whitehouse.gov releasing open source code. One of the three key features of that code is – you guessed it – accessibility. They're doing it right – working on accessibility, and not shoving it to the background for a rainy day.

If you can read French, you can explore these accessibility resources (SGQRI 008) from the government in Québec, Canada, to learn how they compare to the ADA material.

PS ADA, in case you forgot, stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act, and yes, that is a site designed by a graduate from the Jakob Nielsen school of design (that is, accessible sites are inherently ugly).

Cool Tech

The Speaks4me system is the brainchild of a father that was made for his young son who cannot speak due to severe autism and learning difficulties. As the article about Speaks4me explains, it has potential for stroke survivors, too. The price tag looks high, but that is because it is a software and hardware package. A software-only version is being worked on now, and a mobile version lies in the future. Aside from the benefits for the users of this system, it must be downright cool to help develop such a system. Think of all the challenges in working out a great user interface, and its usability and accessibility.

Some of you are familiar with eye-tracking as a way of testing the usability of your website. Well, there might be a powerful assistive technology solution in eye-tracking. Think Stephen Hawking.

"Free" is a popular price tag, especially when it comes to technology. That's why this list of free screen readers appears in this section of this post. Don't skip this tip just because you have no vision problems. These are great for testing the accessibility of your material. The price tag should impress your boss! No excuses left for not testing!

Quotable Quotes

This was a nice quote from@whitneyq worth repeating here:

Failing to make voting systems accessible has the same effect effect as generating one that maliciously destroys votes for one subpopulation.

The Last Word

This story is too sweet to pass up. (The broken wing makes me think of the butterfly with a broken wing in our own logo.)

Malena, the stork, is grounded by a broken wing and can no longer migrate south for the winter. She survives the cold winter in Croatia thanks to human care – and her true love coming back every Spring. The exactly chronology of events differs slightly in the English and Danish resources I read. Malena was shot in 1993, they say her mate, Rodan, has been returning to her for five years, yet they have managed to raise 32 chicks. Anyway, enjoy the story of true stork love.

Link Contributors

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

@DaveBanesAccess
@dboudreau
@ezufelt
@johnfoliot
@SandiWassmer
@webaxe

Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for March 21

Last updated: May 30, 2016

Note:  All links going to other websites will open in the same window. Use the Back button to return to our site.

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 Boomers and Technology. In the article, "Author and futurist Michael Rogers examines the attitudes of today's boomers regarding their use of technology, and what they expect in the future."

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 Computer 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.)

Travel

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, 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

Festival2011

SXSW

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 (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.

@AquinasWI
@campustweet
@dboudreau
@jared_w_smith
@jebswebs
@joemsie
@knowbility
@meera404
@mpaciello
@redcrew
@sprungmarkers
@subtitling
@thomlohman

Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for February 22

Last updated: May 27, 2016

Note:  All links going to other websites will open in the same window. Use the Back button to return to our site.

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!

Ada Lovelace Day

March 24 is approaching, and that means it's "Ada Lovelace Day" again. We blogged for it last year and aim to blog again this year. Our twist is finding women in technology or science whom we admire – and who are connected to the topic of accessibility. We encourage you to blog for Ada Lovelace Day, too. "Twitter lists of Women in Tech" is one place to find candidates.

Technology News

There are some fascinating uses of technology in the article about "The Future of User Interfaces". As these new technologies are explored and developed, what spin-offs will be discovered and will they contribute to universal design and universal accessibility? What new challenges will they give the future of technical communication?

More cool technology is mentioned in an article about "14 tech tools that enhance computing for the disabled". In the comments to the article, one reader provides some thoughtful criticism that is also worth reading. Many of these items require a big bank account!

Maybe the devices developed for NEDC will be affordable. NEDC, the "National Engineering Design Challenge", "asks students, in grades 9-12, to put their creativity and problem-solving skills to use and create an assistive technology device for a person with a disability." The competition is an excellent and inspiring idea. It will be exciting to read about the winners on February 25, 2010. Or rather, read about the results. All the participants are already winners.

"After Frustrations in Second Life, Colleges Look to New Virtual Worlds" What's happening in Second Life and do virtual worlds have any use? Second Life itself may have been overwhelming, but some colleges are rethinking the concept and taking a more sensible approach. They may have been dazzled by the technology, but kept the old mindset – an approach that is often doomed.

Green Accessibility

A recent post on the FWD (Feminists with Disabilities) blog titled "Accessibility & Sustainable Transportation" discusses sustainable transportation on a university campus and what accessibility challenges there might be. The author would love to hear other people's thoughts on the matter. Share your ideas on their blog.

Blindness

Tom Babinszki, from Even Grounds, finished a nice article series called "A Day Through the Eyes of a Blind Woman" getting ready for work. "A Day Through The Eyes of a Blind Woman: Part 2" at work, and "A Day Through The Eyes of a Blind Woman: Part 3" at home. This is a great combination of a persona and storytelling. I found some of the comments on the first article to be a bit shocking – when you are interested in accessibility issues, you forget that some people are not at all familiar with any of these issues. Read them for yourself to find out what you think.

Some contrast came from Sandi Wassmer in her recent blog post about breaking through stereotypes about disabilities "Impaired? Yes. Able? Definitely. Disabled? Occasionally.". Another thought-provoking post worth reading is "Blind Anxiety". As @ezufelt put it, the article shares "interesting thoughts on emotions related to blindness". In the comments, someone mentions that the feelings were similar to their experience as someone who is deaf.

Communities About Health Issues

The Sharing Mayo Clinic is a community blog for stories from patients, families, friends, and the staff of the clinic. The NPR "Our Cancer" community seemed to have the same purpose. @lisagualtieri comments that they are very different and I agree. The NPR page feels cluttered; I am unsure of what to do or where to begin. The Mayo clinic site is simple and rather standard, but its layout is familiar and makes me feel more comfortable. My comments are based on my immediate visual reaction. I don't know what a screen reader user would think of these two sites. Emotionally, I would think the target audience for these sites would appreciate a standard, perhaps conservative layout, as opposed to something elaborate or unfamiliar. [The NPR blog is no longer running as of May 15, 2014.]

Johns Hopkins Medicine has an Our Cancer blog. A community for people living and fighting every day.

The Last Word

We close with a quote and a cartoon.

This quote that surfaced on Twitter last week couldn't be retweeted; it was too long! It was worth saving for this blog post.

Enhancement is not about design. It is about process, teamwork, maintainability and about delivering working solutions. — codepo8

Others were laughing at a Dilbert cartoon that some claim came directly from W3C WCAG 2.0 meetings. Many technical communicators might claim it came from their meetings. Here's the content of the cartoon.

Dilbert is talking to his colleagues in a meeting: "The Marketing Department has asked us to make our products more robust.
None of us knows what that means.
So we can either cancel this meeting and go ask them…
Or we can pretend that arguing with each other about the true meaning of "robust" is just as good.
While that option is stupid, it would give us the illusion of doing something useful right now."
Dilbert's young colleague asks: "Would it be ethical to ignore the long-term interests of stockholders just to feel good about ourselves for a few minutes?"
Dilbert stares at his colleague for a moment.
Dilbert turns to Wally and says "I think robust means it has lots of features." And Wally shouts back, "It means sturdy!"

Link Contributors

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

@anthonypash
@ComputerWorld
@DaveBanesAccess
@ezufelt
@fredshead
@jared_w_smith
@kelsmith
@KoreenOlbrish
@kurren
@LeeAase
@lisagualtieri
@Meera404
@mpaciello
@ReeveFoundation
@SandiWassmer
@sarahebourne
@songvang
@stc_carolina