Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for March 21

Last updated: May 30, 2016

Note:  All links going to other websites will open in the same window. Use the Back button to return to our site.

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!

Happy Birthday, Twitter

Twitter turns 4 today. Could we have imagined the social Web of 2010 back in 2000? Social media is even "invading" the world of technical communication – read Anne Gentle's "Community and Conversation" if you don't believe me. Even though the concepts are changing the way we work, the technology is still dragging its feet in the area of accessibility. In my opinion, Twitter.com is a rather wonky Web application, and some of the desktop Twitter applications leave much to be desired. Thank goodness we can celebrate Twitter's birthday with an accessible Twitter application on the Web called Easy Chirp! Hurrah for @EasyChirp! What?! You haven't tried Accessible Twitter? I don't use assistive technology at all, and I love it! The interface is cleaner (easy on the eyes), and no weird AJAX-y things appear just because your cursor rests momentarily over a link of some kind. It works for me.

The Old Folks at Home

Speaking of growing older… @jebswebs shared a not-so-new, but still interesting article about Boomers and Technology. In the article, "Author and futurist Michael Rogers examines the attitudes of today's boomers regarding their use of technology, and what they expect in the future."

I am always slightly amused by the discussion of age and technology. My gut feeling is that some of it is just a stereotype. I think availability and motivation is a huge factor that is not always discussed. A love of genealogy or connecting with grandchildren on the other side of the globe are motivating factors to learn about computers. Even with motivation, helping hands are always appreciated. Those of you who are are the IT department for older relatives might enjoy the Computer Guide for Boomers.

Alzheimer's and dementia are some of the nasty surprises that await the aging population. Temporary relief or support is possible with assistive technology. What does that have to do with technical communication? Technical communicators can help with the documentation, user interface design, user testing, and all sort of tasks to make these cool tools available to the public. Like the SenseCam, a "A Little Black Box to Jog Failing Memory" (a device to nudge the memory of a mind succumbing to Alzheimer's disease.)

Travel

Did you know that people with disabilities can travel? Yup. They take planes, trains, automobiles – you name it. That means they want hotels now and then. Like anyone else, they want to book their hotel online. So? That means that hotel websites need to make it clear what facilities they offer. What is it like navigating the hotel in a wheelchair or with a white cane? Do they have equipment for the deaf, such as a vibrating alarm clock? Is there a roll-in shower or bath stool? Are there enough electrical outlets for recharging scooters or CPAP equipment?

The Expedia press release Expedia.com Launches New Accessibility Search Tools for Disabled Travelers dated February 16, 2010 announced the launch of new accessibility search tools for disabled travelers from the giant in the travel industry: "Travelers in the U.S. can now visit Expedia.com to search for lodgings in the U.S. that offer accommodations including accessibility equipment for the deaf, accessible bathrooms, accessible paths of travel, Braille or raised signage, in-room accessibility, a roll-in shower and more."

Expedia and Hotels.com's Accessible Room Gimmick Abledbody.com was not impressed with Expedia's move for (at least) five reasons.

  1. Customers can search for, but not book, accessible rooms.
  2. There's no guarantee you'll get an accessible room.
  3. Yes, there was a lawsuit against Expedia. – In other words, this wasn't done out of human kindness.
  4. The ADA already covers most of these accessibility features.
  5. The accessibility box is hard to find.

I have tried booking an accessible room twice (not through Expedia). I was sharing a room with someone who needed the room to be accessible. Both times, I was forced to finish the transaction over the phone – the form was not sufficient. In one case, I got a hotel call center who botched the booking, but fortunately, the hotel involved was able to resolve the issue. With the possibility of speedy online booking today, additional effort and steps for booking are, well, they are a slap in the face. @AquinasWI takes a positive view of Expedia’s accessibility efforts. Maybe we should stop being so grumpy and join him. (Crossing our fingers, too, won't hurt!)

Usability Doesn't Mean Ugly

Some people think that a usable site is an ugly site – that you cannot have good design and usability together. In Top 11 Best Designed University Websites, the author looks at the top 100 university websites from a given list and names the top 11 best-designed of those websites. I saw no mention of accessibility. Curious, I did a quick check with WebAIM's WAVE. Three of the top five had an accessibility error or two. Of the top five on this list, number 1 (Johns Hopkins) had two accessibility errors (forms lacked labels) and number 4 (Rutgers) had 19 accessibility errors (alt text). WAVE reported one error for University of Chicago, but I couldn't find it. You might think these specific errors are minor. Hello. These errors are so banal – so Accessibility 101 – that they should not be there. These sites might be pretty, but it's pretty silly to have these simple oversights.

Color My World

When technical communicators discuss colors for hyperlinks or graphics, the topic of colorblind is often forgotten. I recall (but have lost) one amazing thread where someone who was colorblind jumped into the discussion. That was an eye-opener for everyone participating. We have colorblind resources on Accessible Techomm, but the harried, one-stop shopper might prefer the Colblindor website. The site is all about color blindness – by someone who knows what he is talking about!

Collaborative Subtitling

Mozilla is behind the Collaborative subtitling design challenge. The full title is "Collaborative subtitling — How can users quickly create a timed transcript of any video on the web?"

As the site says, "Participatory Culture Foundation and Mozilla are working to build a universal system for creating and collaboratively improving subtitles for any video on the web. We believe that many users would be willing to contribute and translate subtitles if there was an easy way to do so. And that we can use this energy to knock down language barriers for popular online video."

Important dates for the exciting challenge are

  1. March 2010 – Launch of the Collaborative Subtitling Design Challenge
  2. April 26th, 2010 – Submission Deadline
  3. April 29th, 2010 – People's Choice Voting starts
  4. May 11th, 2010 – People's Choice Voting ends
  5. May 17th, 2010 – Best in Class honors, development plans are announced
  6. June 11th, 2010 – New prototype released
  7. June 18th, 2010 – Usability study of new prototype released

Festival2011

SXSW

Knowbility and several thousand others attended the annual South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWI) Festival recently. (Catch up on Wikipedia's SXSW article if you have never heard of it before.)

Knowbility, organizers of the famous John Slatin AccessU (10-12 May 2010), share their thoughts on the Knowbility's Know Wiki. Poke around the wiki for demos and material. [the wiki is no more]

@knowbility sent tweets from the Web Access Gone Wild session. (Search on Twitter for the #webaccessgonewild hash tag.) These tips or statements are perfect for pondering!

  • Accessible sites don't need to be ugly… but then, why are so many of them so hideous?
  • Your site can be fully compliant and technically accessible, yet functionally inaccessible.
  • The goal of web accessibility is to get users to content, not provide accessibility options.
  • Accessibility implemented partially or incorrectly can be worse than no accessibility at all.
  • Images that are the only thing within a link MUST have alt text.
  • Tabindex, focus() and aria are crucial to making rich internet applications accessible.
  • People with cognitive disabilities outnumber people with all other disabilities combined.

Knowbility (& @AustinGovOnline) sent a few good tweets from another session called Thoughtless Design Leaves Disabled Gamers Logged Out (hashtag #disabledgamersloggedout).

  • For disabled, video games can be a lifesaver. MSNBC first raised awareness for this in Apr 09
  • Accessible games create a sense of community for disabled that they may otherwise lack
  • 20.5% of the gamer market is disabled, which is worth more than $14 billion dollars.

The tech writer in me puzzled over that last remark. Is the entire gamer market worth $14 billion dollars, or is the 20.5% worth that amount. I've not found the correct answer yet, but either way, it is a large market share. @jared_w_smith sent a sad tweet letting us know that there were a "whopping 11 people in the audience for #disabledgamersloggedout". That is a shame. Let's read the panel description again: "With approximately 20% of the US having some sort of disability, potential gamers are being left out of game play due to most design being far too conservative. How different disabilities affect game play and how game design can be more innovative to achieve social justice will be discussed." 20% ? And only 11 people attended.

There was a session called "My 3-year-old is my usability tester". I loved the creativity of the titles. @jared_w_smith tweeted that the session could have been called "My 3-year-old is my cognitive web accessibility expert." Later on, he mentioned that there is "lots of insight/overlap with cognitive disabilities research. Need more of this. #3yroldexpert" I am now imagining hoards of testers starting to collaborate with the local kindergartens! Of course, the real geeks among us are always quietly monitoring all discussions at the dinner table at family get-togethers. Throw-away remarks by Auntie May or Grandpa or the crowd at the kiddie table might come in handy at the next design meeting!

You'll find many presentations from SXSW 2010 on SlideShare.

Have a think about the last SXSW tweet I read from @jared_w_smith: "One of my many SXSW takeaways: Accessibility technologists are awesome, but we need more passionate, vocal designers in this field." Who can you mentor or encourage to follow that path?

The Last Word

If you also find stories or use stories everywhere you go, you'll be excited to know that Rosenfeld Media is publishing a book for you right now. It's "Storytelling for User Experience" by Kevin Brooks and (our own) Whitney Quesenbery.

March 20th was World Storytelling Day. Childhood seems to be the ideal place to develop a mindset of inclusion. Signed Stories is a sweet site with captioned and signed (British – BSL) children's stories. The site told me a story. These captioned and signed tales could be enjoyed by everyone, including those with cognitive disabilities or hearing impairments. Take a moment to read one of these tales with a child you know (the one inside you?) and imagine a world of inclusion. That would be a very happy ending.

Link Contributors

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

@AquinasWI
@campustweet
@dboudreau
@jared_w_smith
@jebswebs
@joemsie
@knowbility
@meera404
@mpaciello
@redcrew
@sprungmarkers
@subtitling
@thomlohman

Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for January 23

Last updated: May 18, 2016

Note:  All links going to other websites will open in the same window. Use the Back button to return to our site.

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!

Accessibility Statements

@mgifford started a page about the need for Drupal accessibility statements on the Drupal wiki. Recently, this good article about the how and why accessibility statements was made available. Who wants to try writing a draft or two for a Drupal accessibility statement?

Conferences

After the success of AccessibilityCamp in Washington, D.C., the idea is spreading to other cities. London, Boston, Seattle. Go to Twitter and search for the hashtags #a11yldn (for London), #a11ybos (for Boston), and #a11ysea (for Seattle) to learn more about those events. May 15 is already earmarked for Boston. What about hosting an accessibility unconference in your town?

Two Second Life conferences are coming soon.

  • SL Pro! runs from 23-25 February. It is billed as a conference that will bring together "serious content creators to expand their professional capabilities via two days of high-level seminars, creativity, and critique within the virtual world of Second Life."
  • The focus of Virtual World Best Practices, 12-13 March, is "Imagination Around the World". "From the North, East, West and South corners of the physical world what is evident is the collaborate nature of virtual world participants to share knowledge and experience. This 48 hour conference will indeed provide opportunities for sharing and further understanding virtual world technology."

Security

No one likes spammers and trolls on their websites, so once upon a time someone invented CAPTCHA as a barrier to such critters. CAPTCHA became very popular because it seemed to work quite well. However, it also became a barrier to people with disabilities, who find it hard or impossibile to crack the CAPTCHA code. Some people have started thinking about alternatives to CAPTCHA. Evengrounds put together a list of CAPTCHA alternatives. Please share this list with your friends. CAPTCHA is like nails on a blackboard to some people!

Education

Becoming an eTeacher is an intriguing site made by several post-graduate students taking a Master's course in Applied eLearning. It looks useful to any technical communicator preparing any type of instructional design or learning material. Of course, it's good to see an entire module dedicated to "making your website accessible".

Byron Reeves, Communication professor at Stanford, discusses avatars in the workplace – "why avatars are likely to be as much of a hit on the job as they are at the box office." Is this an adaption of Second Life concepts or is this a direct application of Second Life to work activities?

Another example of virtual worlds melding collaboration and learning comes from ISN Virtual Worlds. They are rolling out their Oasis Foundation Virtual World Project. "The Oasis Foundation is an Italian nonprofit providing medical care and assistance to the elderly and disabled. The hope is that a virtual world, in this case one built on top of the Second Life Grid, will provide them an outlet for community interaction as well as some employment."

Storytelling

Articles and videos get their message across quickly when they tell stories. One such article is called I'm blind, but there's no need to talk to my dog.

BBC's Ouch! has a well-done series of videos made by and for people with learning disabilities. Sit back and enjoy these videos. They are audio described and subtitled, too!

Forms

Forms haunt many technical communicators. That's why it's important to do them well. Especially when they involve democracy! The Usability Professionals' Association has developed LEO Usability Testing Kit for local election officials.

Manipulation with forms is rather scary. UX Magazine asks How Deceptive Is Your Persuasive Design?.

Policies and Procedures

Many technical communicators write policies and procedures full-time. University of Dundee has a Disability Equality Scheme as a part of the strategy on equality and diversity. (See Equality Act 2010.) That sounds like a task for writers of policies and procedures, especially in academic or government workplaces. Why not get inspired by reviewing what the University of Dundee has prepared? This might even be a new career move.

Reading is FUNdamental

That was a slogan when I was learning to read. Reading might be fun, but there are still barriers to reading for all.

In Canada, the National Reading Campaign is a nationwide advocacy initiative to urge Canada's governments to provide immediate and fair public funding for nationwide accessible library services and protect the right to read of more than 800,000 blind and partially sighted Canadians.

Other problem areas are ebooks or "electronic book readers", such as the Kindle. Here is an article about using the Kindle in the classroom – "Justice Department Reaches Three Settlements Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Regarding the Use of Electronic Book Readers". These agreements follow the Jan. 11, 2010 agreement between the Justice Department, Arizona State University, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind concerning the use of electronic book readers. Another headline reads "COAT Affiliate ICDRI Calls For Ending E-Book Famine For People with Disabilities." In her speech in Geneva, Switzerland, ICDRI's Cynthia Waddell cited to the Kindle E-book controversy where the text-to-speech (TTS) feature has been turned off. She described this as a growing problem creating 'a book famine' for users with disabilities that must be ended now.

Thom Lohman, from DCMP, recently wrote "Read Across America – a new twist!" about the benefits of captioning for literacy. A technical communication example of this would be captioning the video used as documentation for a product being delivered to many different countries. That way, users who are not fluent in the language spoken in the video could use the captions as a supplement to listening to the intructions.

Social Media and Accessibility

I strongly encourage everyone to listen to Jennison Asuncion talk about social media and accessibility with Dr. Norm Coombs in "EASI: Equal Access To Software & Information". Social media in his talk refers to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. (Unfortunately, this is no longer available as of 12 May 2014.)

  • Social Media and Accessibility MP3 file. (Unfortunately, this is no longer available as of 12 May 2014.)
  • Social Media and Accessibility transcript. (Unfortunately, this is no longer available as of 12 May 2014.)

There are many good issues brought up during this 30-minute talk. One example is government agencies using Facebook to make themselves more easily available to the general public, yet not providing services to all due to lack of accessibility. Schedule a listen or a read for your next break. It is worth it!

After you listen to or read that talk, it's time to go read Joe Dolson's article about Tips for Accessibility in your Social Media efforts.

Miscellaneous

The Color Theory Quick Reference Poster is a very useful reference with the basic color wheel, passive versus active colors, color types, color relationships, and much more. There are files you can download to hang on your wall, or use as wallpaper on your computer.

Wheelchair dancing fans in the UK can look forward to a new TV competition on the BBC – for wheelchair dancing. They'll call it "Dancing on Wheels". The article includes a brief video clip of wheelchair dancing. All I can say is Wow!

Sad Goodbye

The passing of Jack Pickard (598 Kb .pdf) at way too young an age last week sent a huge shock through the accessibility community. Many, like myself, only knew Jack through his blog and his tweets, yet we felt as though we lost a friend.

All the tributes across the web speak of a kind, funny, witty, and caring man. His post called Accessibility Allies Against A11y brings a special smile to my lips. It reminds me of a discussion with Jack and several other people on Twitter last autumn about the use of "a11y" as a short-hand version of "accessibility". I have followed his blog for several years, and now I plan to go back and read or re-read his many posts about accessibility. Do read and share those articles, too. Let's make the Web accessible and inclusive. It's a lovely tribute. (Fortunately all archived on the WaybackMachine.)

Memorial Tributes

Link Contributors

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

@AccessForAll
@anikto
@ClearHelper
@cynthiawaddell
@dcmp_tweets
@Disaboom
@ePaul_M
@ezufelt
@Jennison
@joedolson
@kelsmith
@mgifford
@mpaciello
@musingvirtual
@nileshsingit
@RehaDesign
@RhiannonSL
@slewth
@sloandr
@sriniworld
@tbabinszki
@waspinteract
@whitneyq