Getting started with accessibility – one step at a time

Would you like to make the world around you more accessible and build your accessibility skills at the same time? Would you like to start today?

Some easy projects appeared on Twitter recently that I wanted to share. They are all different, so there should be something for everyone.

Help Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons by transcribing small pieces of text

This is an idea from @pigsonthewing. Help transcribe and caption images, audio, and video files on Wikipedia. Oh, you'd be contributing to Wikipedia, too, which is rather cool. (P.S. There's even a Wikipedia accessibility project that we recently mentioned on Twitter. They aim "to make Wikipedia accessible for users with disabilities". Check it out!) You may also contribute through Meta=Wiki, which is the global community site for the Wikimedia Foundation and the WikiProject Directory categories and related projects, from coordination and documentation to planning and analysis.

Other meta-focused wikis such as Wikimedia Outreach and Wikimedia Strategy are specialized projects that have their roots in Meta-Wiki.

Help internationalize the (WordPress) web

Contribute to WordPress core, themes, and plugins by translating them into your language.  The tweet from @JoeDolson has a great project for many of you who dabble with WordPress and know a second language or two: help translate Joe's great WordPress plug-ins. If you are not familiar with Joe's plug-ins, check these out. Joe Dolson's WP Accessibility plug-in alone might be the one that really accelerates the accessibility improvements on your blog!

By the way, did you see the post about trying to contribute to WordPress core one hour per week? Why not contribute to improving the accessibility of WordPress at least one hour per week? (There's an app, uh, site for that. Go see Make WordPress Accessible now or when you get warmed up.)

Make eLearning more accessible

Are you really into eLearning? Have you considered how accessible (or inaccessible) it is? The W3C recently held an online symposium on that subject. Grab some coffee or tea and dig into these symposium proceedings from Australia, China, Portugal, Spain, and the UK. Consider how you can apply these ideas in your own work. Start the discussion in your workplace. Start making a difference in the lives of everyone you are teaching. (Thanks to @catroy and @webaxe for sharing this tip.)

Learn sign language

Personally, I think sign language is so cool and beautiful. There are apps for that, but it's a bit tricky – there is no universal sign language, so you will want to learn the right one for your country. @IBMAccess tweeted 10 reasons ASL lessons make a great gift. Most of the reasons apply to any sign language, not just ASL (American Sign Language). So, start investigating the Auslan (Australian Sign Language), (British) BSL resources, or… what about StreetSigners who teach Danish sign language, Deutsche Gebardensprache at the Institute of German Sign Language and Communication of the Deaf, and German National Association of the Deaf, or langue des signes française at Websourd, a site for French Sign Language (LSF)? [Websourd was a cooperative society of collective interest based in Toulouse which provides services to deaf. The company was born from the meeting of the network of associations of the deaf and the network of cooperative enterprises but disappeared 30Juky2015.] See also:


Stay tuned to our Twitter account @accesstechcomm, or our Facebook account where you can find more obvious and not so obvious ideas for learning about accessibility one step at a time.

P.S.: Credit for the title goes to Derek Featherstone and his "one step at a time" article.

Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for June 13

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!

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".  Updated
You can get the book from "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:

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.

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.


Link Contributors

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