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" (.pdf). 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.

See our information for preparing for emergencies and disasters at News Feeds: Current Health Warnings, Disaster Notices, and Health and Emergency Preparedness Resources page.

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


Blogs as Disaster or Emergency Communication Tool

Some attendees at the June 2008 STC conference may recall the session about "Communicating and Creating Training for Disasters and Emergencies" presented by members of the Environmental, Safety, and Health SIG. "How do you write emergency training that will engage people to become prepared when they are apprehensive about their safety?"

At the other end of the spectrum is communicating during disasters or emergencies. The popular blog, Lorelle on WordPress, discusses that in a recent post called "Blogs Offer Communication, Information, and Connections During Disasters".

This post provides an interesting discussion of how blogs are one way of getting news to the world about an unfolding disaster. Obviously, the infrastructure necessary for this type of communication can be threatened: no electrical or telephone lines, for example. Lorelle shares many tips about coping with that type of situation. She also reports the abuse that, sadly enough, follows in the wake of these disasters.

All in all, this post echoes some of the ESH presentation. Could emergency preparedness be communicated through blogs, and could those same blogs act as a lifeline during an emergency, helping to coordinate relief efforts and connecting people and resources? To me, the answer is an obvious yes, but you wouldn't necessarily be able to start doing all these things the very day disaster struck. Planning, as discussed by the ESH SIG, is in order.

I'll close this entry with Lorelle's closing thoughts, which sum up the lessons to be learned. I hope you'll add your thoughts in the comments.

For the bloggers living, working, and surviving in disaster areas, they have a lot to teach us about how blogs can help and serve our online community. Those who want to help from outside the impacted areas are learning more about how to integrate multiple media and blog sources into a single aggregator without impinging upon copyrights, creating central clearing houses for news and information. The more we learn about how useful blogs are in a disaster, the more our blogs will improve overall.