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!
The Old Folks
Aging is a suitable topic in technical communications because it involves all of us at some point. Don't expect aging to go away! There are always articles about helping today's older generation with technology or preparing for a future with an older generation who grew up with technology. Whether you call them senior citizens, the elderly, the old folks, or gray panthers, they are your audience at some level and at some point. Don't ignore them. Grandma might get nasty!
- With our rush to go online, are we alienating older people who are not so comfortable online? This PDF points out how offline accessibility is essential for older people: "Older people, technology and community" the potential of technology to help older people renew or develop social contacts and to actively engage in their communities.
- "Helping Grandpa Get His Tech On"
- How do you design for senior citizens?
- SUS-IT Sustaining IT use by older people to promote autonomy and independence – Helping older people to use information technologies for a better and more independent future.
- Greying Gamers Will Require More Accessibility Options an article published in the now defunct GamePolitics.com – where politics and video games collide.
- An opinion piece in the LA Times wonders Can we be too healthy and live too long? This ponders the meaning and implications of aging. Perhaps a bit too pessimistically?
Academia, Education, and Online Learning
The IMS Global Learning Consortium is an excellent resource for those of you somewhere in academia. IMS GLC aims for "standards that enable the development and adoption of innovative technologies to improve and transform education worldwide." They held the Learning Impact 2010 conference in May, but I cannot find public slides or material from the conference. Go explore if it has aroused your curiosity.
What are the issues with online learning and accessibility? "Research and Practice in K-12 Online Learning: A Review of Open Access Literature" by Cathy S. Cavanaugh, Michael K. Barbour, and Tom Clark examines a report from the U.S. Department of Education and poses questions about "universal design of online learning environments and materials".
You can get the book from Amazon.com "What Works in K-12 Online Learning", edited by Cathy Cavanaugh and Robert Blomeyer.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Tutorial is about more than accessibility or the notion of making environments accessible for learners with disabilities. It gets at the heart of design – whether it's design of a building, design of learning materials, design of a classroom environment, or design of a system. UDL is about the decisions we make in the design and development of learning systems, materials, and environments and whether those decisions unnecessarily constrain learners. From the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities, University of Northern Colorado. See also:
- National Center on Universal Design for Learning information for advocacy, implementation, and community.
- NCLID Research Brief: "Perspectives of Effective Teachers of Students with Low-Incidence Disabilities" from the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities (NCLID), University of Colorado.
Tools That Change Lives
Analogy of web accessibility being like a ramp: Web accessibility is a well built building from the foundation up." I agree with this and want to include those technical communicators who are not in software @ezufelt once wrote, "I don't like the- accessibility is part of the foundation whether you are working with software or hardware. Some people seem to find this concept hard to digest. Stories that tell how accessible products have a positive effect in someone's life could be the tipping point. I've collected some links that tell stories – life-changing stories, in fact.
- The story of Proloquo2Go: "Graduate Student's iPhone Application gives Voice to People with Communication Disabilities" by Mary Helen Miller, January 15, 2010. The article includes examples of how Proloquo2Go influenced the life of some users. Product information about Proloquo2Go that provides a voice for those who cannot speak.
- The iPad grabbed everyone's attention when it came out. Most reviews discussed the fancy bells and whistles. Far more interesting were the articles that demonstrated its value as a kind of off-the-shelf assistive technology: a new world for a young boy with cerebral palsy, an affordable communicator for a busy entrepreneur, or iMean, an app to help an autistic teen communicate.
- Assistive technology called COGKNOW is helping dementia sufferers get through the day.
- (I was uncomfortable about recommending the following article. Why? There was an auto-play ad on the page that drove me crazy as I searched for the source of the sound! You are warned.) The article discusses how the web is improving the lives of disabled computer users
- iComm is an iPhone app (.pdf) created by a father to give a voice to his severely disabled daughter.
- A nurse with dyslexia studied for her nursing degree thanks to the help of mobile dyslexia tools. See also, The Best Online Tools and Technology for Your Nursing Career.
- In Peru, scientists have developed virtual environment for intelligent telerrehabilitation people as support for treatment and rehabilitation of persons with physical disabilities. In an advanced project, unique in the region, scientists created a motion simulator with telerrehabilitation visual environment for people with injuries in their lower limbs motor lesions.
- What assistive technology helps Juergen Manthey, a man with Locked-In Syndrome? In 2004, Jurgen suffered a brain stem infarct causing locked-in syndrome: complete paralysis of all muscles except his eyes. After four years, he is able to sit, talk quietly, and move his head, and that's it. Juergen uses assistive Apple Macintosh communication software and tools to communicate.
Use these stories as inspiration for involving people with disabilities in any kind of usability testing you are doing – or should be doing. No matter how clever you are, you will not be able to think up all possible scenarios on your own. Remember, users can always provide a new and surprising angle. If people with disabilities are involved as developers or designers of products, wow! Think of the potential for inclusion in that scenario!
The Last Word
I have a dream that one day we will not be judged by our abilities / bodies but by the content of our character.
This post was glued together with links or inspiration from many people. They are listed with their Twitter names.