Songs About Silent Cars & the Library

One of the more unique organizational traits of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the central role that songs have played in their community.

Since their first song contest in 1969, the NFB has used song for inspiration, to protest against people and organizations believed to be acting against the interests of blind people, and to support the NFB's purpose.

I particularly like the following songs. Links go to the mp3 audio recordings available on the NFB website.

The Hybrid Car Song
Tune: “Surry with the Fringe on Top”
Words by Mary Ellen Gabias
Copyright 2007, National Federation of the Blind

Kids and dogs won’t know when to scurry.
Silent death arrives in a hurry.
All who walk have reason to worry
‘Bout the hybrid car.

We all want to stop the polluting,
Save a lot of gas while commuting.
If they made sound, there’d be no disputing
With the hybrid car.

Saving the planet we all hold dear,
Nobody wants to destroy it.
Please make cars pedestrians can hear
‘Cause we want to be ’round to enjoy it.

We don’t need a noisy vrum-vrumming,
Just a simple audible humming,
So that we can know when you’re coming
In a hybrid car.
Then we all can walk with safety on the street
Without fear that we will accident’lly meet a hybrid car.

The Quiet Car Song
Tune: “Found a Peanut”
Words by Sandy Halverson

1. I was walking down the sidewalk
Thinking of what I would eat
When I got up to the restaurant
And the friends I was to meet.
 
2. I was so close I could smell it.
Didn’t have to go that far
When my life was quickly altered
By that sneaky quiet car.
 
3. I approached my destination
When my cane broke at my feet.
Never heard the car approaching–
I was lying in the street.
 
4. Heard the siren of the ambulance
As it carried me away.
Lost my hunger in the ER.
Guess we’ll meet another day.

The Library Song
Tune: “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching”
Words by Curtis Willoughby

1. At the mailbox I sit thinking of the book I need,
And the library so cold and far away.
And the tears they fill my eyes ‘spite of all that I can do
When I think of what the library will say.

(Refrain:) “Wait, wait, wait, your book’s not in yet.
We’ll try to have it next year without fail.
We are not your corner store. We cannot do any more.
After all, we know just one percent read Braille.”

2. ‘Cause they’re running out of space. “For your book there is no place.
The demand for it, you see, is far too low.
How about a light romance or a novel set in France,
For we mostly serve the elderly, you know.”
(Refrain)

3. So at home and on the job I am waiting for the day
When the mailman will come up to my door
With the book that I have sought and not the one they thought
That my profile showed I should be asking for.
(Refrain)

For more information on the history of NFB songs and the full text of the songs, read Barbara Pierce's article, "Singing Our Story: Federation History in Song", from the July 2013 issue of the Braille Monitor.

Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for February 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!

Promoting accessibility to developers

Sitepoint posted an article called "Enabling Accessibility in Flex applications". Some people in technical communication are also into development. Others are on development teams, but do not code that much themselves. However, when the tech comm #techcomm person dons their researcher cap, they do an excellent service to their teams by sharing articles like this. Yes, you have the power to tell your development team or product management team about the need for accessibility and to share information for meeting that need. This article is just one example. Talk to your teams – and may the force be with you!

In the same vein, we have the article about "Audio Track Accessibility for HTML5" by Silvia Pfeiffer. Across the Internet comes the message that technical communication is moving to more and more multimedia with lots of focus on video. Before the vision and hearing impaired are excluded from your customer base, get cracking on learning about the incorporation of audio description, dub tracks (for internationalization), and sign language tracks. One day, these features, or lack thereof, could be the difference between success and failure in your business. (P.S. here's another article about video in HTML5, "HTML5 video markup, compatibility and playback", but I don't sense the same focus on accessibility that Silvia has. )

By the way, preaching accessibility to developers is really important. For example, I know that STC community websites want to implement some sort of security filter on their sites to keep trolls and spammers out, but they are mostly left with CAPTCHA, which also keeps out legitimate visitors who are unable to pass the CAPTCHA tests. Somewhere, there are some smart and savvy developers who can whip up an accessible way to include all people and exclude only spammers. Let's find them.

Involving people with disabilities in your testing

The stories in the Clear Helper blog "Web Accessibility Insights from 6 Women with Intellectual Disabilities" are exciting insights for testing. There's a truckload of information here. Are you getting truckloads of information by including users with disabilities in your testing? This tale is not over. Follow @ClearHelper on Twitter to discover more lessons learned. By the way, this tale concerns people with intellectual disabilities, but testing can involve any disability.

Evangelizing about accessibility

Help raise awareness about accessibility. In just 2 minutes and 57 seconds, your friends and colleagues can learn what an accessibility lab is and why it exists at Yahoo!.

That video sent me a message that I had known for some time, but which hit home much better than ever before. Crisp, clear writing in your headings makes it so much easier for a screen-reader user to skim headlines. I know, I know. It's so obvious, and I know that good writing is important anyway. It was watching the words on the monitor in the video and matching them to the screen reader voice – shades of testing with users with disabilities! Wow. It makes you realize that really bad headlines must be a royal pain to skim in a screen reader. This can expose bad writing in a very painful litmus test! Would your writing pass?

Troubles kicking off those accessibility conversations? Try sharing these fresh articles with friends and colleagues, like those developers mentioned previously in this blog post.

Move it, move it!

Going mobile with your website? Here are "7 Tips To Make Your Web Site Mobile-friendly".

Other overall usability tips for the mobile phone can be found in this BBC Ouch! article on what blind and visually impaired mobile phone users need to consider when phone shopping by Emma Tracey, 6 February 2010. [Archived page of BBC Ouch!]

Watch your forms on those phones! Luke Wroblewski investigates "Web Form Innovations on Mobile Devices".

Disasters, Emergencies, and the Technical Communicator

How are people with disabilities coping in the aftermath of such a huge disaster like the January 12 earthquake? Via the Huffington Post article, "Don't Overlook People With Disabilities in Haiti" by Dale Buscher, we found an article called "Persons With Disabilities And The Humanitarian Response In Haiti". The versatile skills of the technical communicator can be used for many of these actions. In a previous log post, we have talked about the value of technical communication skills in disaster or emergency communication. After all, who writes the emergency preparedness documentation used before a disaster? Who writes the information used after the disaster – crisis communication, instructions for using life-saving equipment, and so on? There's even a conference on this type of topic: the "Inclusive Hurricane Preparedness Conference" scheduled for April 28-29 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Writing and editing skills may save lives.

The Last Word

Let's close this week's gazette with some music.

Here's an opportunity to experience "The HTML5 Song" (Parody of 7 Things – Miley Cyrus).

There's more bounce in this video. Do you know the song “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyoncé? Listen or watch this cover version where kids tell you what they think of education. The song is "All the Scholar Ladies (Get an A on It)". They get an A for the captioning (and for attitude)!

Link Contributors

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

@abrightman
@AccessForAll
@AndyAAPD
@AquinasWI
@ClearHelper
@cripchick
@DaveBanesAccess
@helenbaker
@hollylamarche
@iheni
@Jennison
@katharnavas
@mpaciello
@musingvirtual
@prettysimple
@racialjustice
@sprungmarkers
@steno
@webaxe
@whirlwindwc