Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for January 30

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 by Suzanne Robitaille 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. "Why are Government Websites so Bad? Unveiling the Truth Behind Poor Quality Government Websites"

Checklists for improving your website are always handy. Here's one by Mark Aplet in January 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. (Download the PDF version (.pdf).) The campaign, Think Beyond the Label, is an employment site "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.