Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for February 22

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!

Ada Lovelace Day

March 24 is approaching, and that means it's "Ada Lovelace Day" again. We blogged for it last year and aim to blog again this year. Our twist is finding women in technology or science whom we admire – and who are connected to the topic of accessibility. We encourage you to blog for Ada Lovelace Day, too. "Twitter lists of Women in Tech" is one place to find candidates.

Technology News

There are some fascinating uses of technology in the article about "The Future of User Interfaces". As these new technologies are explored and developed, what spin-offs will be discovered and will they contribute to universal design and universal accessibility? What new challenges will they give the future of technical communication?

More cool technology is mentioned in an article about "14 tech tools that enhance computing for the disabled". In the comments to the article, one reader provides some thoughtful criticism that is also worth reading. Many of these items require a big bank account!

Maybe the devices developed for NEDC will be affordable. NEDC, the "National Engineering Design Challenge", "asks students, in grades 9-12, to put their creativity and problem-solving skills to use and create an assistive technology device for a person with a disability." The competition is an excellent and inspiring idea. It will be exciting to read about the winners on February 25, 2010. Or rather, read about the results. All the participants are already winners.

"After Frustrations in Second Life, Colleges Look to New Virtual Worlds" What's happening in Second Life and do virtual worlds have any use? Second Life itself may have been overwhelming, but some colleges are rethinking the concept and taking a more sensible approach. They may have been dazzled by the technology, but kept the old mindset – an approach that is often doomed.

Green Accessibility

A recent post on the FWD (Feminists with Disabilities) blog titled "Accessibility & Sustainable Transportation" discusses sustainable transportation on a university campus and what accessibility challenges there might be. The author would love to hear other people's thoughts on the matter. Share your ideas on their blog.


Tom Babinszki, from Even Grounds, finished a nice article series called "A Day Through the Eyes of a Blind Woman" getting ready for work. "A Day Through The Eyes of a Blind Woman: Part 2" at work, and "A Day Through The Eyes of a Blind Woman: Part 3" at home. This is a great combination of a persona and storytelling. I found some of the comments on the first article to be a bit shocking – when you are interested in accessibility issues, you forget that some people are not at all familiar with any of these issues. Read them for yourself to find out what you think.

Some contrast came from Sandi Wassmer in her recent blog post about breaking through stereotypes about disabilities "Impaired? Yes. Able? Definitely. Disabled? Occasionally.". Another thought-provoking post worth reading is "Blind Anxiety". As @ezufelt put it, the article shares "interesting thoughts on emotions related to blindness". In the comments, someone mentions that the feelings were similar to their experience as someone who is deaf.

Also read about Tips about Air Travel if you are Blind on our Accessible Travel page.  New

Communities About Health Issues

The Sharing Mayo Clinic is a community blog for stories from patients, families, friends, and the staff of the clinic. The NPR "Our Cancer" community seemed to have the same purpose. @lisagualtieri comments that they are very different and I agree. The NPR page feels cluttered; I am unsure of what to do or where to begin. The Mayo clinic site is simple and rather standard, but its layout is familiar and makes me feel more comfortable. My comments are based on my immediate visual reaction. I don't know what a screen reader user would think of these two sites. Emotionally, I would think the target audience for these sites would appreciate a standard, perhaps conservative layout, as opposed to something elaborate or unfamiliar. [The NPR blog is no longer running as of May 15, 2014.]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, has a blog: "The Topic is Cancer". Posts are made by a community of patients, survivors, and health care professionals that empower people to improve their knowledge, inspire confidence, strengthen their relationships, and make informed medical decisions.  Revised

The Last Word

We close with a quote and a cartoon.

This quote that surfaced on Twitter last week couldn't be retweeted; it was too long! It was worth saving for this blog post.

Enhancement is not about design. It is about process, teamwork, maintainability and about delivering working solutions. — codepo8

Others were laughing at a Dilbert cartoon that some claim came directly from W3C WCAG 2.0 meetings. Many technical communicators might claim it came from their meetings. Here's the content of the cartoon.

Dilbert is talking to his colleagues in a meeting: "The Marketing Department has asked us to make our products more robust.
None of us knows what that means.
So we can either cancel this meeting and go ask them…
Or we can pretend that arguing with each other about the true meaning of "robust" is just as good.
While that option is stupid, it would give us the illusion of doing something useful right now."
Dilbert's young colleague asks: "Would it be ethical to ignore the long-term interests of stockholders just to feel good about ourselves for a few minutes?"
Dilbert stares at his colleague for a moment.
Dilbert turns to Wally and says "I think robust means it has lots of features." And Wally shouts back, "It means sturdy!"

Link Contributors

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


World Usability Day 2009: Sustainability and Accessibility

Today marks another World Usability Day with the theme of "Sustainability".

What is World Usability Day?

World Usability Day was founded to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. Each year, it has a specific focus and is honored around the world on the second Thursday of the month of November.

The sustainability theme is divided into four "pillars":

  • Environmental
  • Social
  • Economical
  • Technology, Tools & Resources

So where is accessibility? Ask 10% of our planet.

The United Nations Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities states that around "10 per cent of the world's population, or 650 million people, live with a disability. They are the world's largest minority." Can we ignore the world's largest minority while designing for a more sustainable world?

How do we get from "sustainability" to "accessibility"?

Some of the thoughts that popped into my head when thinking about this:

  • Light bulbs. The humble incandescent light bulb is being accused of harming our environment. Many countries have started to phase it out. However, many people feel that it is the only artificial light source that provides a good source of light in which to work or read. Who wins? The environment or the people who have vision issues? Will a quality replacement that does not burden the environment be made commercially available in time?
  • Wheelchairs. This is just one of many devices that some people need, but cannot get – if it wasn't for the existence of organizations like Wheelchair Foundation. Many assistive devices exist to let people get on with their lives. After all, even people with disabilities want to dance [Wheelchair Dancers Organization (WDO)] or play basketball [International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF)]
  • The World Wide Web. OK. This is a biggie for such a short article. There are so many people connecting to other people around the world thanks the World Wide Web. (Thanks, Sir Tim!) I can connect with people around the world and exchange all sorts of ideas, and no, I'm not talking about what we ate for breakfast. I am talking about sharing resources, collaborating on projects, inspiring to greatness, and leaving a trail of knowledge for others to play with and reshape, etc., etc. I categorize that as sustaining life!
  • People. "Make better use of our resources" is one phrase I saw on the World Usability Day site. People are resources. We can all contribute to the design of a more sustainable world, including that 10% where the need for such a world may be strongest.
  • Heating and cooling. Have you ever tried to work in an office that was too hot or too cold? You could not think straight or your fingers froze to the keyboard. Many of us live and work in climates that require some sort of climate control so we can function. Some of us could even fall ill or die if there was no climate control. Sustainable energy resources are necessary for decent home and office environments. (The topic of those who don't have an office or home, well …)
  • Energy-saving hardware and appliances. Did you ever hear of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine? It requires electricity. You may know people who don't have a visible disability, yet people you know could be sleeping with this device at night to save their lives. They need electricity. There are many, many smart gadgets and devices that exist to save lives or improve life quality, and which require electricity or batteries. It would be wonderful if we could make low-tech versions of some devices and spread the energy burden in that manner.

I'll stop here. This is meant to set your thoughts in motion.

Continue thinking along these lines or try to map my thoughts here to the pillars mentioned earlier. Go back to the UN factsheet. Try to map those items to the pillars, too.

I like the two pillar descriptions in the following quote from the World Usability Day site.

Human-centered design directly supports the first two pillars of sustainability:

Economic – matching a design to user's needs and abilities enhance its utilization, quality, and efficiency, thus providing cost effective solutions and reducing the likelihood that systems products and services will be rejected by their users

Social – taking a human-centered approach results in systems, products and services which are better for the health and wellbeing of their users, including users with disabilities

Those are great mindsets for continuing this train of thought on sustainability and accessibility.

Where's the techcomm angle?

Ah, but again, technical communication is where people are. Communicating the concepts of sustainability – through product descriptions, how-to documents, regulations, and so on – requires the skills of people working in some way with technical communication. I think readers know by now that the toolkit of a technical communicator contains "accessibility". Our readers are also aware that a technical communicator can depend on accessibility in authoring tools, or the workplace, or the home.

Sustainability and accessibility are topics for every day, not just World Usability Day. I don't go into great detail here because I have merely started a conversation. I don't have all the answers! Let's all continue this thread in the comments, on Twitter, on your blog. Today, and every day.