Tag Archives: a11y

On Plastic, Straws, Food, Climate, and Culture — Impacts of Technology Change on Individuals and Communities

Seeking a Middle Ground Between #WarOnWaste and Accessibility (#a11y / #SpoonieLife)

This is not a new topic. We know plastic is bad. Bad for us, bad for animals. Bad for the environment. And then there is the whole deal with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, comprised primarily of plastic waste. So, bad. However, we’ve spent a couple generations now creating a culture that revolves around bad things like plastic and gasoline, and more. You can’t turn it over in a heartbeat. Because we know it’s bad, we want to fix it RIGHT NOW, but if we try to do that we really need to ask who is going to be impacted and how. This is part of how we need to be thinking about bringing in new technologies, and about replacing old technologies, and the whole spectrum of what are we doing with tech.

If we get rid of plastic straws (as some cities and even countries are doing, along with other single use plastics), who does it help, how does it help them, does anyone get hurt, again how, what are the alternatives, … we need to ask all these questions. We also need to ask what arrangements or substitutions are being put in place BEFORE the change is made, and what are the low hanging fruit with the biggest impact that we should be targeting first. I’m not sure these questions are being asked. It turns out that getting rid of plastic straws has a really big impact on the quality of life and the safety of people with a variety of disabilities. Here’s a wonderful infographic that is getting a lot praise on Twitter.

There are a lot of people who tweet about plastic waste, and the hot new hashtag for this is #WarOnWaste. Several people I know, including several with disabilities, have been responding to these. One in particular has been getting attention lately, a tweet by Elysse Morgan, an Australian news anchor.

I did not read through all the replies to her tweet, which has kind of gone viral in a bad way, but I read a lot of them. They bring up so many issues about how pre-cut foods help to prevent food waste and empower people with disabilities broadly, people in food deserts, amputees, single parents, the elderly, those with fine motor control, reduced upper limb strength, and on and on. A great many issues were brought up, a great many personal stories were told. I collected several of these in a Wakelet collection (Wakelet is the best replacement I’ve found for Storify, but that’s a different blogpost). Here they are if you’d like to scan through them.

Endorsement/Response

Seeking a Middle Ground Between #WarOnWaste and Accessibility (#a11y / #SpoonieLife)

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Social Media For Exclusion

First posted (with a few small editorial changes) at the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Blog: http://socialmedia.mayoclinic.org/discussion/social-media-for-exclusion/


Pic of the day - Sweetness

We praise the power of social media to bring people together, to engage people around topics and events of shared interest, to include. Too often we don’t stop to think that every new tool with new ways to include people is probably excluding someone else in a new way.

The accessibility of social media is rarely discussed outside of communities of persons with disabilities. When it is discussed, the people who most need to hear it (us?) may not be in the audience. When we aren’t, the work we do to try to include and engage may actually serve to accomplish the opposite.

VIDEO

The obvious example, one you probably already know about, is when you share video or use streaming tools, but lack captions. It isn’t always possible to pay for live captioning, as much as we might want to, but there are tips and tricks to get around that with low-cost options. In Second Life, the Virtual Ability community has, as a standard of practice, a roster of volunteers who offer to type into live chat a synopsis of what the speaker is saying, and who describe images on the slides for the blind. Because some conversations there are held in typed chat, they also have someone sighted volunteer to read aloud the typed chat, identifying the speakers. Why couldn’t we working in healthcare media implement something like this for streamed events?

TWITTER

Did you know about Easy Chirp? It’s a Twitter browser designed for people who are blind or visually impaired, but it can be useful for others as well. Just as with curb cuts, tools to make social media more accessible for marginalized and excluded audiences can make life easier for people who are nominally able-bodied. Accessible browsers can require less bandwidth and be more robust when you are in that crowded meeting room with a hundred people sharing wireless, just as an example.

Do you tweet using one of those marvelous fancy tools for the pros that allow you to track multiple channels at the same time? Often those will place the relevant hashtag for the channel at the beginning of each tweet. I wager you weren’t aware that this makes life harder for those with visual or cognitive challenges, because it makes it harder for them to sort out the important part of the message. Recommended practice is to place hashtags at the END of your tweets.

Also, for those hashtags which smoosh together parts of different words? Screenreaders struggle to figure out how to read those when they are all lower case or all upper case. I have a bad habit of not mixing the capitalization because it is faster when I am typing, but for screenreader, there is a world of difference between #mayoclinic and #MayoClinic. Now that I know, I am trying to be better about it, because I was excluding people when I meant to include them.

MORE

These are just a few examples, low-hanging fruit. There is a lot more to know. Luckily, there is an upcoming free webinar on social media accessibility from the ADA National Network, if you are interested in learning more. If you are here on campus, we are meeting in the Hatcher Gallery Lab to watch this together.

October 20, 2015
2:00-3:30 p.m.
Social Media and Accessibility

#ADA25! Tech + Touch + Targets: Part Three, “Are We Done?”

SL15: VAI: ADA25

The first post in this series focused on the White House’s #ADA25 celebration and how high tech can sometimes lead to high touch, improvement of quality of life and connections. In the second post, the focus shifted from the national to the hyper-local, with the new Amtrak technology innovation in Ann Arbor that we hope will impact on rail accessibility nationwide. In this third post, I’d like to introduce you to Virtual Ability, a virtual world space that is home to a global community of persons with all kinds of disabilities

VIRTUAL ABILITY IN SECOND LIFE

Virtual Ability, Inc. (VAI) has, throughout their existence, facilitated access to resources and training for persons with disabilities around the world. This includes personal one-on-one support as well as informational, educational, advocacy and awareness events for their audience. These events engage an international community around disability advocacy. Naturally, the 25th anniversary of the signing of the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act was not overlooked, with related activities planned for the weeks before and after the actual date. Because of the international nature of their community, events are often scheduled twice, to enable access from different hemispheres.

SL15: VAI: ADA25

Because of the complex range of disabilities supported within their community, information and presentations for their events are offered in text and audio, to support those with or without hearing as well as those with or without sight. This is standard practice for them, and a model that clearly should be adopted for webinars and livestreams and other multimedia online events. What can I say? VAI is ahead of the curve, and committed to doing it right if at all possible. FYI, they used to offer a consulting and testing service to advise organizations providing online content, and providing access to a group of engaged testers with a wide range of access challenges. Very, very valuable.

The VAI events and conversations were hosted and moderated by Gentle Heron, who also provided the voiceover for presentations provided in text.

SL15: VAI: ADA25

For the actual day of the anniversary, VAI offered four events. Two were showings of videos about the ADA then(1) and now(2), with community conversations about them; the other two were formal presentations, one about strategies and resources for personal disaster and crisis preparations (which I hope to blog about as a separate post), and another about the bare bones basics of what persons with disabilities can and should expect (and REQUEST) for accessibility for online content from organizations in the United States, how this varies globally, and why there aren’t any such guidelines for virtual world online content. This last was basically a user’s guide to WCAG, the first presentation I’ve seen like this. Most WCAG presentations are for web developers, instructing them on what to do. It is rare to see a presentation for persons with disabilities explicitly on what WCAG means for them.

SL15: VAI: ADA25SL15: VAI: ADA25
SL15: VAI: ADA25SL15: VAI: ADA25

The question that came up over and over through the day’s events was, “Are we done yet? What’s left?” It’s been 25 years, we’ve come a long ways, but there is still a lot left that needs to happen for true equality and access. Me, in real life, I was listening to these conversations sitting on my couch wearing a t-shirt that said, “Disability Rights ARE Civil Rights.”

#ADA25 TshirtDisability Rights ARE Civil Rights

The conversation was urgent, engaged, informed, and educational. People talked about the need for more accessible modes of transit; new technologies that may help the homebound get out into public life (especially exoskeletons and the Rewalk System, examples of persons with disabilities in leadership roles that influence policy for others; how the United States leadership in disability rights has influenced access and expectations in other countries; the looming cuts to social security income (SSDI) for persons with disability, and the potential impacts (“Many of us are foregoing meds already”). Ironically, the topic of foregoing meds appeared the next day in one of my Twitter chats.

This post focused on #ADA25 in virtual worlds in part because this powerful way of using technology to build community remains drastically undervalued and overlooked. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways in which online social spaces are being used to create community, support, and opportunity around these issues. Just take a look at #spoonies, #SpoonieChat, #a11y, #AXSchat, and the #ADA25 hashtag itself. Many of the same issues and concepts brought up in the VAI conversations and events were echoed in the Easter Seals #ADA25 Twitter chat, #ADAtoday.

If any of this intrigues you about the potential for how virtual worlds, online environments, and related technologies can support individuals and communities with disabilities, you might want to also take a look at this recent video describing the VAI community.

Introduction to Usability & Accessibility for Medical Librarians

Last week’s Twitter chat for medical librarians (#medlibs) was on topics near and dear to my heart: accessibility and usability. I (a) was impressed by the caliber of the conversation, and (b) wanted to collect the good links and ideas in a place that would make it easy to find for other medical librarians. So, here is a Storify. I particularly recommend the links.

GPII Gives me GOOSEBUMPS!

GPII Introductory Video

We all use technology every day. Well, people reading this blog, anyway. We use it, and everywhere we go, we either carry our own devices or spend time fiddling and fussing to make it work right. Or both. So, … have you heard about GPII?

GPII
Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII): http://www.gpii.net/

It gives me goosebumps, it really does. I’ve been hearing about this via Jane Vincent, author of “Making the Library Accessible to All” and a colleague here at the University of Michigan. Jane has been working on this project for a long time, before she came here. We are so very lucky to have her here and be informed literally at the ground level as this evolves. So what is it? What does “Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure” actually MEAN? It is the ultimate (for now) in portable technology personalization. Basically, how do you prefer to set up your computer? Now, code that into a little snippet, kind of like a credit card, and you take that with you wherever you go. Want to use a computer? Wave your magic card, and voilà! It’s set up just the way you like it.

I am, of course, oversimplifying, so here is a video introduction, and a video demo. Watch them both, and see if they don’t give you goosebumps, too!

Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) w/captions and description:

Human Rights Museum Demo Instructions:

A big part of what I like about it is the community behind the idea and the process. Here’s a grateful nod to the following engaged and supporting organizations.

Cloud 4 All
FLOE Project
FLUID Project (which is worth an entire blogpost on their own!)
Prosperity 4 All
Raising the Floor
TRACE Center, University of Wisconsin

Wordpress Accessibility: Plugins & Themes

Accessibility-Ready WordPress Themes 2014-02-18

With the announcement of new WordPress themes supporting accessibility, there is a lot of buzz going around my various online communities. I’m afraid I’ll lose track of it, and will obviously need to implement this at some point, so I an just going to collect a few of the most recommended links as a placeholder for me to come back to later.

ACCESSIBILITY INFO FROM WORDPRESS

WordPress Guidelines: Accessibility: http://make.wordpress.org/themes/guidelines/guidelines-accessibility/

WordPress Codex: Accessibility: http://codex.wordpress.org/Accessibility

WordPress Updates: Accessibility: https://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/

HOW TO FIND THE ACCESSIBLE THEMES

Finding accessible themes in the WordPress Gallery

Basically, go to the WordPress Themes Gallery, click on search, or go to the advanced search options and click on the tag “accessibility-ready.”

What you can find today with this search:

* 2014 (Twenty Fourteen): http://wordpress.org/themes/twentyfourteen
* Anjiral (based on 2014): http://wordpress.org/themes/anjirai
* Accessible Zen: http://wordpress.org/themes/accessible-zen
* JBST: http://wordpress.org/themes/jbst
* Ward: http://wordpress.org/themes/ward
* WP Start: http://wordpress.org/themes/wpstart

Others in WordPress Directory:

* 2013 (Twenty Thirteen): http://wordpress.org/themes/twentythirteen
* Accessible One Two: http://wordpress.org/themes/accessible-onetwo
* Blaskan: http://wordpress.org/themes/blaskan
* Redline: http://wordpress.org/themes/redline
* Scrapbook: http://wordpress.org/themes/scrapbook

More:

Joseph Karr O’Connor: A List of Accessible WordPress Themes http://accessiblejoe.com/accessibility/accessible-wordpress-themes/

And MORE:

Here’s how to find others that claim to be accessible (but which have not been tested or approved as accessible by WordPress or either of the folk named Joe who are known for this topic.

Google Search: (accessible OR accessibility) site:http://wordpress.org/themes/

Found with this strategy, and not already listed above:

* Ambrosia (Feb 2014): http://wordpress.org/themes/ambrosia
* Dodo (outdated): http://wordpress.org/themes/dodo
* Precious (outdated): http://wordpress.org/themes/precious
* Themage (June 2013): http://wordpress.org/themes/themage

PEOPLE

The WordPress Accessibility Guy: Joe Dolson
Joe Dolson: https://www.joedolson.com/

I’m told this man is THE guru of all things accessible in WordPress. Here are some recent slides from him on this topic.


Joe Dolson. Accessibility & WordPress, Developing for the whole world. (WordCamp 2013) http://www.slideshare.net/joedolson/wordpress-accessibility-wordcamp-chicago

Especially, read this.

Joe Dolson. Accessible WordPress Plug-ins: what does it mean? November 15, 2011. http://www.joedolson.com/articles/2011/11/accessible-wordpress-plug-ins-what-does-it-mean/

Joe Dolson. New plug-in: WP Accessibility. October 22, 2012. http://www.joedolson.com/articles/2012/10/new-plug-in-wp-accessibility/

MORE

George Williams. ‘Accessibility Ready’ WordPress Themes. Chronicle of Higher Education, February 17, 2014. http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/accessibility-ready-wordpress-themes/55683

George Williams. Make Your WordPress Site More Accessible. Chronicle of Higher Education, January 22, 2014. http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/make-your-wordpress-site-more-accessible/54631


Special thanks to Scott Williams, Colin Fulton, and especially Irene Knokh who got the conversation rolling.