What is your A11y Resolution for 2016?

Léonie Watson coined a great hashtag on Twitter right before Christmas. It's "A11yResolution". "A11y" is the abbreviation used a lot on Twitter to represent the word "accessibility". Accessibility is considered a long word on Twitter so some abbreviate it by replacing the middle 11 letter with, well, 11. "A" plus "11" plus "y" becomes "A11y". Add on the word "resolution" with a capital "R" and you have "A11yResolution".

Background for this post

This all started with the last 2015 episode of the Viking and Lumberjack show where Billy "Lumberjack" Gregory and Karl "Viking" Groves reviewed accessibility news for 2015 and made predictions for accessibility in 2016.

The show inspired @LeonieWatson to tweet:

Inspired by @VandLshow… my 2016 #A11yResolution is to understand more about what's broken in #SVG accessibility & help get it fixed.

(@LeonieWatson's tweet)

I followed that with the question (or challenge):

So… What is *your* 2016 #A11yResolution (resolution re: accessibility)? HT @LeonieWatson and @VandLShow

@AccessTechcomm's tweet

The question or challenge

Will you take this as a question or a challenge? In case you need some inspiration, I thought I'd point out some opportunities for your personal A11yResolution for 2016.

1. The OpenAIR challenge

OpenAIR 2015 was the 18th edition of Knowbility's OpenAir rally projects.

Third place went to team "Down Under" from Australia for their website for TALA: Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts. TALA's mission statement reads: "Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (TALA) provides Texas artists and arts organizations with legal and accounting assistance to enable them to maximize their potential, shape our cultural landscape, and contribute to the creative economy."

Second place went to team "All Access Design" from Texas for their website for COMTO Austin, a local affiliate of the national Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). COMTO Austin's mission statement reads: "To assist members in professional development, create training opportunities, and facilitate opportunities for minority business owners to strengthen the position of minorities in the transportation industry within the Central Texas region."

Last, but not least, first place went to team "Maximus" from India for their website for Geno's Place, the site of Gene Rogers, TV producer. The stories on his site should inspire you to pimp your wheelchair and start your travels!

You would be welcome for the 19th edition in 2016 as a developer, a mentor, a non-profit, or a sponsor. (Maybe your company would be interested in being a sponsor? Ask about that now before they lock in other plans for 2016!)

Stay tuned by bookmarking the OpenAIR site and following @knowbility on Twitter. OpenAir starts in October, but planning begins before that. You can write to Knowbility (contact information on the website) and ask for more details now. They'd love to hear from you.

2. Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Feeling shy about OpenAIR? Try Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 19, 2016.

As the site declares:

Join us on Thursday, May 19 2016 and mark the fifth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) accessibility and users with different disabilities.

Your participation can be as simple as unplugging your mouse for one hour and then surfing the web. Learn what it's like navigating your company websites or any of your favorite websites without a mouse. You might be in for a shock!

You can find other virtual activities or local activities on the GAAD website.

Follow GAAD activities on the GAAD Facebook page and on the GAAD Twitter account where you can use the #GAAD hashtag. The GAAD website also has links to pages about GAAD in Spanish, French, and Japanese, so spread the news in your global networks and put some oomph into the word “global”!

For future reference, note that GAAD is always the third Thursday in May.

3. Slatin AccessU with Knowbility and/or the Accessibility Summit

Would you like to go back to school for some accessibility lessons? Try three days of learning, sharing, exploring, and fun in Austin, Texas from the 9th to 11th of May with AccessU in Austin, Texas. Most years, they have a virtual classroom, too, in case you can't stop by Austin. This is suitable for technical communicators, UX practitioners, developers, and, well, everyone who is into accessibility!

For virtual accessibility lessons, you can't go wrong with the Accessibility Summit that has been run by Environments for Humans every September since 2010. 2016 will be the 7th year for this excellent online conference. There is no information about the 2016 conference yet, but you can follow Environment for Humans (@e4h) on Twitter. They'll announce details and the date later in the year.

4. BADD: Blogging Against Disabilism Day

For the accessibility evangelist or activist who loves to write, Blogging Against Disabilism Day on May 1st was made for you.

Read the 2015 BADD entries on the website, and you will get a clear idea of what this is all about. For more information, stay tuned to the BADD page on Facebook. These blog posts give voice to many people who might be users of your organization's or company's products or services. Reading the posts might be uncomfortable, but it's probably time to listen and learn.

Photo of the New Year's Eve Fireworks at the Sydney Opera House and Harbour 2006So… With these examples in mind, what will your A11yResolution be for 2016? Add your thoughts in the comments.

Photo credit: Sydney Opera House NYE 2006 by Rob Chandler and licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Blogging Against Disablism Day 2010

This blog post is written for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2010 celebrated on May 1.

Our community's name — AccessAbility — is a play on the word accessibility. The first "i" in the correct word is replaced by an "a" to emphasize ability. Our name puts focus on the ability to access… whatever. Our community focuses on accessibility as it applies to technical communicators and the field of technical communication; how to prepare material that is accessible by everyone or how can we make the preparation of material accessible by any technical communicator. An example of the last point could be a blind person being able to prepare documentation without the authoring tool creating a barrier. In the year 2010, a focus like this ought to be a given.

Is it?

One person recently asked whether we need a new game plan to make the Web accessible. Last year, the term "Web adaptability" was coined in the paper "From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability".

You see, there is a core of people who work on the topic of accessibility on a daily basis in their professional lives. There are also those who need "things" to be accessible on a daily basis in their lives. Aside from these two cases, is anyone even aware of accessibility issues? A blank stare seems to be the standard reaction when you ask "what about accessibility"? Are those of us who think about accessibility all the time a minority? How do we spread an awareness of inclusion and equality in a way that sticks?

To me, this is a matter of a mindset. Personally, I have to go outside the contraints of the technical communication category. I look at everything in life, but I can always bring the lesson learned back to technical communication.

  • When I take the Metro and see a sign declaring the elevator out of order, I immediately think of people in wheelchairs or with canes or baby strollers who cannot take the stairs like I can. I don't ignore the sign because it really doesn't apply to me. I think, "how could this be fixed so no one has a problem?"
  • When I listen to the bus driver make an unclear announcement about the next busstop, I think about the blind person who is dependent on a clear and ungarbled message to get off at the right stop. I think that the bus companies should do an overhaul of their loudspeaker system and train their drivers in the importance of clear speech. (This is actually happening in my corner of the world as GPS systems are being put in place and professionally made taped announcements are being used, which let the driver focus on driving.)

(I think my interest in technical communication and accessibility is what now makes me aware of accessibility issues all the time. In fact, now I can't stop noticing accessibility issues everywhere!)

The examples I list here are outside an office workplace, but a technical communicator can use her skills to evaluate the situation and communicate the issue and possible solutions in writing to the authorities. I like to think that we can do a better job than many people simply because of the skills we have from our work. One of those skills is responsibility. If we discover a bug in the product while preparing documentation, we report it to the developers. I call my examples bugs, so I'd treat them the same way.

Let's go back to the workplace.

  • How do you deal with a colleague with a broken leg? Do you have to make a lot of adjustments for that person and how do you feel about it?
  • What if a job candidate came in — in a wheelchair? Would you focus on their skills with FrameMaker or their wheelchair? (And could the person even get into the building in a wheelchair?
  • What if you had a colleague or employee with stress, bipolar disorder, or some other "invisible" disability? How would you deal with that? Would you care about them or the "bottom line"?

Could you think beyond the label of "disability"?

Ableism (or disablism as it is known in some countries) is sneaky, and invades even those with the best intentions. Pity is probably a typical reaction. "Poor thing." "I'd hate to be born like that." "How can they cope?" Those pity remarks are not well received! How do I know? Because I have read blog posts by people on the receiving end of those remarks. I've seen advertisements in old magazines soliciting support for a children's home — general children in poor health and with one or no parents. A photo of a child with a leg brace and crutches would be sure to bring in some money. Did anyone look at that child and think "that is a young person who can become a neuroscientist or an inventor"? Generally, the reaction is "poor thing". This is not a constructive attitude for anyone ever.

Making products that pose barriers to some users is also a form of this slap-in-the-face pity. "Sorry you can't use the mouse to access our wonderful offerings." "Oh, you can't hear the audio in this instructional video? Can't you find a friend to explain it to you?" "What do you mean by assistive technology?" "We don't have blind customers."

I have posed a lot of questions in this post. Sorry, but you have to do some work. We all do. We all have to look inside ourselves and think about our mindset when it comes to matters of inclusion and accessibility. I talked a lot about accessibility here and not directly about disablism. Accessibility is an area where technical communicators (of all abilities) can shine. There are subtopics of accessibility in so many other areas, too, such as management, so it should be easy to find an area where we can all take action right away. Taking action and looking forward is what I want to do.

P.S. Next time you hear someone say "we don't have blind customers" or basically write off the need to consider people with disabilities, tell them the UN Enable website's Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities states there are 650 million people with disabilities in the world, and in the U.S. alone, the U.S. Department of Labor says "people with disabilities are the third largest market segment".  Updated
A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities, APRIL 2018 (1 MB .pdf).

For more articles written for "BADD2010", visit the home of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2010.