Wendy Chisholm

Stairs make the building inaccessible, not the wheelchair. Co-author of Universal Design for Web Applications. Strategist for Microsoft. @wendyabc at twitter.

Archive for the ‘accessibility’ tag

Wizard of Oz Screen Reader

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This last year, I’ve been happy that engineering teams are asking me to talk about accessibility earlier and earlier in their development process. A few months ago, one team asked me to look at a prototype that was a bunch of images with a few hot spots. I’m used to getting code and running my typical test pass. But, in this case, I couldn’t.

At first, I thought about what it would take to make the prototype accessible, about the HTML that they would need to write. But, this was an MVP (minimum viable product) to get quick feedback on their design. It didn’t seem worth the investment and it didn’t feel agile enough. So, how was I going to get feedback about the usability of the non-visual user experience at the same time they were getting feedback about the visual user experience?

I took the prototype to a friend who is blind and I pretended to be a screen reader. Instead of him interacting with the computer, he told me what keys he would press and I responded as I understood a screen reader would respond.

“To start,” he said, “I would press the down arrow 4 times.”

I responded by reading the first 4 lines of text on the page.

He said, “Hmm. This page doesn’t have any headings or landmarks?”

I broke character for a second, “Yes, it does. It has 10 headings and 4 landmarks.”

“Oh, well the screen reader would have told me that when the page loads and then I would have used that information to get a sense of the layout of this page.” He said.

“Ahhh-ha! Right. Yes, I forgot that part. Let’s start again.” And I returned to my role as screen reader.

For the next 30 minutes we “played” with the site. I learned where I had holes in my understanding of some of the strategies that people use when navigating a new site with a screen reader. I evolved my knowledge about how a screen reader announces certain aspects of a web page.

I went into the session with a list of recommendations I was planning to make to the engineering team. I left with a new list of recommendations and set of strategies to use the next time I play the role of a Screen Reader.

Many thanks to Kelly Ford for collaborating with me on this experiment.

[Note: This is based on the idea of a Wizard of Oz experiment, common UX research mechanism.]

 

 

Written by wendy

October 22nd, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Posted in experiments

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MinneWebCon

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On 12 April 2010 I had the pleasure of presenting the afternoon keynote at MinneWebCon. I was impressed with the community–so vibrant and aware of standards! It was a fun day full of wonderful presentations and conversations. It’s a very special conference, well-organized with high caliber presentations. I highly recommend attending next year!

Here are the artifacts:

Enjoy! I’ve provided the slides in several formats hoping that everyone will be able to use at least one of these. If you run into any issues please let me know.

FYI: the Slides via Easy Slideshare only pull the text from the slides and not all of the alt-text associated with each image.

Written by wendy

May 20th, 2010 at 12:56 am

An Ode to Twitter

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(I performed this 24 March 2010 at the CSUN tweetup. Captioned video should be available in the future.)

An Ode to Twitter

A non-structured, non-lyrical ode to twitter…

140 characters

Listen!

Hear.

See.

Feel.

PERCEIVE.

Connection.

1,000s of people (or more?) talking about #accessibility.

# a 1 1 y

Do you say, “ally?”

We’re talking about access.

We’re building inclusion.

We’re connecting.

Able

To express our views.

Able

To change the world.

Able

To connect with others who are

Able

To connect with others who are

Able

To connect with us who are

Able

To be here tonight who are

Able

To hear, see, feel…

PERCEIVE a world where we are all

Able

To be.

To express.

To connect.

What of those who are not on twitter?

Don’t have internet access?

Don’t have access to a computer?

Some are given a voice on twitter, e.g. @invisiblepeople

…but many are not.

So many voices…

How do we harness the power of these 1,000s (more?) of voices into one large trumpet call for change?

Hashtags?

Where’s our Ashton Kutcher with millions of followers?

What’s the loudest way for us to challenge assumptions?

The most effective?

Should we stage twitter protests?

How do we become cohesive?

Can we reclaim or repurpose “disability” into an empowering word?

Can we think of twitter like a parade of thoughts that we inject with inclusion?

I want to recruit you.

What if we were “out” about our abilities?

Would it convince designers that people are more able, more varied than they assume?

Would they realize that they have more connections to a variety of abilities?

Our tribe created the innovations that iPhones and Androids rely on:

Onscreen keyboards,

Word prediction,

Screen magnification,

Speech recognition.

What our tribe does today will make tomorrow’s tools more flexible.

Make tomorrow’s tools…possible?

We rock!

Are we moving towards inclusion, one tweet at a time??

Will tweeting make more restaurants accessible to people who use wheelchairs?

Will tweeting encourage more people to add alt-text to images?

Will tweeting cause future technologies to include accessibility features in the alpha release?

Does tweeting raise awareness of accessibility issues with non-aware twitterers?

If not, why not?

This is my ode to twitter.

My ode to the tribe.

My ode to our connections and our innovations.

<3

Written by wendy

March 25th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

HTML 5–What I’m Watching

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I have recently become glued to my computer monitor as the latest reality show “HTML 5” unfolds. Since I was a participant in previous W3C reality shows (both seasons of WCAG), I understand some of the history and sympathize with many of the participants/actors. Here’s my take on where things are and where I hope they are going.

HTML 5 is the first time where people with disabilities are at the language development table at the same time as everyone else and I think the reason things have gone a little wonky is that we aren’t used to being at the table at all or we show up to the table a decade after everyone has left (Windows and AJAX are both good examples). There are two very different cultures learning how to work together. It’s exciting and frustrating to watch.

For example, Ian suggesting that aria could be incorporated after Last Call stirs up a lot of history and emotion. We’ve seen it happen far too many times where accessibility is thrown out for the sake of progress and it’s nearly impossible to catch up if we miss that initial window. (While some people seem to be assuming a Second Last Call is a given, there is no guarantee.)

In terms of the canvas element, we’ve already missed the window. canvas is implemented in Firefox, Opera, and Safari and several applications exist that are not accessible such as bespin. I’m heartened by the quick pace of the work to remedy the situation, but it’s hard to tell how it will play out.

Here are the things I’ll be watching and hoping for with the spec in general:

  1. As of last Friday’s Canvas Accessibility Task Force meeting, folks at Apple (Doug and James) are working on a prototype that creates a limited object model with aria attributes. I’ll be interested to see what information will be available to access technologies, how that information is provided, and how someone will interact with it.
  2. One of my biggest concerns with canvas is that current implementations use JavaScript to draw pixels and there are no objects or nodes to which you can attach aria semantics. I’m hoping that object-oriented JavaScript libraries (like Objective-J) build in aria and that people will use these instead of just drawing pixels. Folks are talking about creating “shadow DOMs” (or shadow trees) that sit behind or beside a canvas. While I’m happy for a solution that will work, that one doesn’t seem to be directly accessible. There’s a lot to watch in this area to ensure we don’t end up with something that looks like Flash circa 1998.
  3. I like the direction that the HTML WG and the PF WG are taking in integrating ARIA into HTML5. I’ll be watching for the HTML WG response to Steven’s proposal.
  4. The discussion about text alternatives is puzzling. I’ll definitely keep tabs on that, although I have a lot to catch up on to understand the issues.
  5. Dare I even touch the summary attribute? [grin] It seems that it was used as a sacrificial lamb to make a process point. While it was intense, the energy and space that were created as a result look promising and I hope are sustainable.

Overall, I think things are heading in a good direction. Having been an editor on two specifications that were fairly contentious, I know it is hard work to find the “right” words that a disparate set of people will be willing to build consensus around. And, consensus is really, really hard. It isn’t unanimous; it’s “what can we all live with.” And since we all have to live with compromise, it isn’t perfect in anyone’s eyes–that’s the most disappointing aspect of specification writing. But, that same compromise is also the beauty because it shows commitment and connection for the future.

So, I’ll keep watching the “HTML5 Reality Show” and hope that accessibility doesn’t get voted off of the island. On the surface the discussion is about elements, attributes and apis, but at its heart it is about everyone’s ability to participate in the future society that will be based on these technologies.

A big shout out to all of you in the HTML 5 trenches. This is really hard work and keep at it. I’m watching, cheering, and jeering from safely behind my monitor. [grin]

Written by wendy

August 25th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Is web accessibility a human rights issue?

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A post from David Baron questions if web accessibility is a human rights issue.  Here’s a quick summary of some of his major points: He acknowledges that laws exist that give people with disabilities basic human rights and that on-line government services should be made accessible. He disagrees that Flickr should require all photos to have alt-text and he believes that requiring all web services and applications be accessible would stymie innovation. He calls people such as John Foliot and Matt May extremists and worries that “this community is in significant danger of being taken over by, or at least best known by, those within it who espouse such extreme positions that they risk causing the entire community to be ignored.”

David says, “It’s far better for accessibility to be the automatic result of writing HTML in the normal way rather than something that has to be done as an extra development step” Yes! That’s part of the goal of the W3C Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG). If the tools just produced accessible content, then voila. The web would be more accessible.

David wants us to explain why access to the web is a human rights issue.

Human rights refer to the “basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.”[1] Examples of rights and freedoms which have come to be commonly thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.

Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights. Fetched 12 March 2009

Web services and applications are becoming the way that people participate in culture, buy food, work, and learn. Therefore, ensuring that they are accessible to all people is a human right. This is supported in the United Nations  Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that has been signed by 139 countries. Article 9 – Accessibility and Article 21 – Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information specifically mention services provided via the internet.

It’s important for us to recognize each other’s concerns. On the one hand we have technologists who want to create things to help make the world better–help people communicate more richly and quickly, to create technologies for self-expression and commerce. Rock on. We want you to innovate because you’re changing the world.  On the other hand we have people who want to use the technologies and to participate in society. When the technologists say, “Don’t make me think about accessibility, I want to be innovative.” The response from people with disabilities can be hostile because the message from the technologists is, “I do not value you enough to include you in my innovation.”

The funny thing about David’s post is that he mentions the invention of the telephone. Thomas Edison was hard of hearing and part of the reason he spent so much time experimenting was that he wanted a device to help him hear. For Edison’s invention to be complete, it took the help of another person involved in the Deaf community, Alexander Graham Bell, who in his experiments to understand speech,  invented the microphone. In both instances, inspired by friends and family who had hearing loss, they changed the world.

The irony is that these technologies changed the way we communicate so much, that people who are deaf were unable to participate and it was later that the modem (for the TDD) and other devices were developed. But, those tools were in response to the earlier inventions and have further changed the way we communicate.

Therefore, the exact worry that David has–lack of innovation–is exactly what we’ll avoid if people with disabilities *are* considered in the design and experimentation of new ideas!  So, see, we really *all* can get along and no one gets hurt. Come on folks, let’s go play and have some fun.

Written by wendy

March 12th, 2009 at 3:52 pm

WCAG 2.0 is a W3C Recommendation

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W3C Web Standard Defines Accessibility for Next Generation Web. Congratulations to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, the Web Accessibility Initiative, and the W3C!!

Written by wendy

December 11th, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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cheap and easy?

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At barcampSeattle, Bryan, Dylan, Matt, I, and several others started a dialog about helping people adopt accessible design practices. The summary of our discussion was, “make it cheap and easy.” Last week, inspired by a comment from tantek, the dialog continued on twitter. We compared accessible design to green/environmentally-friendly design….and doughnuts. :)

I’ve been working on a mental stew with the following ingredients:

  • “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” about one family’s year-long localvore experiement – eating foods raised by themselves or neighbors and minimizing the cost of fuel used to produce and consume the foods they eat.
  • “Vegetable Gardening West of the Cascades” about the benefits of gardening in the Seattle area and how we could eat fresh veggies from our gardens year-round…assuming climate change doesn’t shift our winter temperatures too many degrees.
  • We’re preparing to paint the outside of our house and I’ve been researching the greenest option – paint or stain. Which lasts longer? What are the effects on the environment? Where are the materials produced and how much fuel will it take to ship to our painter? The costs and products are not quite there yet, which is frustrating for me as a consumer.
  • My son is toilet training which means many more flushes of our toilets. We received the water bill yesterday and are consuming noticebly more gallons of water *per day.* What if we only had so much water in a cistern or a well and couldn’t just pull more from the city? When will I be able to view our water supply like I do our bank account? When we overdraw, it has to come from somewhere.
  • I’m co-writing a book on Universal Design of web applications and I’ve been tearing apart, challenging, and reconstructing my knowledge about accessibility, disability studies, culture, and web technologies.

<stream-of-consciousness>
As a consumer, I *want* to do the green thing. I want to buy efficient toilets and use the least toxic paint. I am driven by making the world a better place, not only for myself, but for my son. What holds me back are costs and fears. The fears are: How long will the water-based paints last? Will they protect my house as well as paints with pest/herbicides? In Seattle, where there is so much water on wood, this is a big question. The costs are: Water-based paints costs almost twice per gallon than latex paints. Stains need to be reapplied more often. Then, there’s what I prefer. I like the way paint looks.

I am trying to understand the point of view of designers and developers who have not whole-heartedly adopted web standards and accessibility. I think they have similar struggles with fears and costs. I believe that most people want to do the right thing but they aren’t sure they know how, don’t have the time to find out, and fear the costs.

If I were to put in more efficient toilets, the city of Seattle would give me a rebate. I assume the reasoning by The City of Seattle goes something like: We’re all in this together, so if more people save water there will be more water for all of us. I guess I get my own tax dollars back when I contribute to the greater good.

While I think there are plenty of reasons to make your sites accessible, perhaps monetary incentives would help. I don’t know where we’d get the funding, but imagine if you added appropriate alt-text to all of the images on your site, you could get a rebate. What do you think? Would it work? If we could raise the money, is there a better way to spend it (like buying technology for people with disabilities)? do you have other ideas to make accessible design “cheap and easy?” Is that the right target? Other thoughts?
</stream-of-consciousness>

Written by wendy

July 2nd, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Posted in musings

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